Serial No. 106-100


Printed for the use of the Committee on Education

and the Workforce

Table of Contents


















Monday, March 27, 2000

U. S. House of Representatives

Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations

Committee on Education and the Workforce

Washington, D.C.

The Subcommittee met, pursuant to call, at 10:45 a.m., at the Terrace Community School, 6720 East Fowler Avenue, Temple Terrace, Florida, Hon. Pete Hoekstra Chairman of the Subcommittee, presiding.

Present: Representatives Hoekstra, Schaffer and Davis.

Staff Present: Christie Wolfe, Professional Staff Member; Michael Reynard, Media Assistant; and Cheryl Johnson, Minority Counsel/Education and Oversight.

Chairman Hoekstra. Good morning. Somebody asked me what the difference was between a hearing and a fact-gathering mission. It's fairly simple. When we have a hearing, they give us a gavel, and we get to use that, and we also have to go through some formal procedures.

My name is Pete Hoekstra. I'm a Congressman from the State of Michigan. I'm joined by Congressman Bob Schaffer from Colorado, and your Congressman, Mr. Davis, who is not a Member of the Full Committee or our Subcommittee, but has expressed an interest in being here for the day. So Mr. Davis will be on the panel, and we're glad you're here, and thanks for having us here in Tampa.

Mr. Davis. Thanks for adopting me for the day.

Chairman Hoekstra. That's all right. We have a quorum for the day and this Subcommittee hearing will come to order. Without objection, I also ask that the record be held open 14 days to allow for Members' statements, written testimony and other material to be submitted for the record. That's the formal part of the process, and after that, it gets to be a whole lot more informal.



Let me give you just a little bit of background as to what the Subcommittee has been doing for the past 3-1/2 to 4 years. Four years ago, we began a project called Education at the Crossroads, and the effort was really two-pronged.

Number one, we recognized that education was one of the most important programs and some of the most important dollars that we spend in Washington. So we committed ourselves to going around the country and taking a look at what was going on in the States, taking a look at what the States told us was working and what the States told us was not working in the education process. This is our 22nd hearing.

I believe that we have been in the neighborhood of 19 to 21 different States, getting an understanding as to how different States and different local communities are approaching the issue of education excellence. We've complemented that by taking a look at what's going on in the Department of Education or what is the Washington response to the need for educational reform for improving educational excellence in this country.

We did a survey a couple of years ago, and we went to the executive branch, and asked, "How many education programs are there?" The executive branch responded that there were about 760 educational programs, run by 39 different agencies and not all were K through 12. We've found that perhaps for every dollar sent from a local community to Washington earmarked for education, that through the bureaucratic process of applying for the money, approving the money, sending it back and auditing how local school districts spend it and those types of things, only about 60 cents of it ever makes it back to a local classroom.

Today, we're in Florida. We're here to take a look at Governor Bush and Lieutenant Governor Brogan's efforts to put performance first in Florida. One of the things that we've found as we've gone through the country is that at a local level, when you're talking to students, to parents and to the people that are actually running the schools, they are focused on performance. They want their kids to learn. When they talk to us about what the Washington impact is on their local school districts it sometimes appears that Washington is more interested in process. States have told us that they get about 6 to 8 percent of their money from Washington, but they get up to 50 percent of their paperwork requirements as a result of their Federal funds.

We, I think, in Washington really are trying to put together a reform agenda that will free up States, and free up local school districts to focus on performance and to spend less time on process. This is about kids learning. This is about kids excelling in the area of education. And so, we want to move away from process, and we want to move to a model of learning.

We're glad to be here. We're excited to hear what this State is doing in regard to a whole range of areas, whether it's charter schools, whether it's the voucher proposal, or whether it's the changes that are going on in traditional public education. We are interested in learning what's going on here in Florida. And with that, I will turn it over to Mr. Davis.








Mr. Davis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I agree with much of what you've said, and I think this is a terrific opportunity for us to get out of Washington and learn some things from my home State and my home community. And I agree, too, that I think what the public is focused on, not just here but around the country, is what works and what produces results. And one of the things I'm going to highlight and I know we're going to hear about today is smaller class size, which is a very crowning detail of this particular school we're visiting here today, the Terrace Charter School.

I also think that the public expects all of us who are elected and entrusted to preside over this system to push for needed changes and not just to accept the status quo. The way we learn today as adults, and the way we work as adults is changing, and the school system should be no exception to that change. As a matter of fact, it ought to be at the forefront of change. And I think this very fine charter school is another positive example of how we can push change, and how parents can create a positive learning environment for their children and provide a powerful example that other schools can use.

You mentioned the voucher, and let me talk about that briefly. I think it's fair to say today that the voucher plan has failed in Florida because of a court decision that held under our State constitution that only the public schools were obligated to provide public education.

Of course, that's on appeal, as I'm sure you know. We in Washington, you all may be interested to know, have rejected the House of Representatives imposition of the voucher on H.R.2 in at least two separate votes last year, but we certainly will be debating that again. And I have to tell you, and I know there's disagreement in my community and in my State on this, Mr. Chairman, that I do not support the voucher.

I think, at best, it is a diversion or a distraction, and I think at worse, it is a significant drain on very limited resources available for our public school system that we ought to be using more wisely.

But I have to say that what I have tried to do during my career as a State legislator and now as a Member of Congress is to listen very carefully and respectfully to those who do advocate the voucher, to try to understand what they're trying to accomplish and try to figure out how we can accomplish those very worthy goals by still maintaining public education. And I think, Mr. Chairman, one of our most important witnesses here today will be Mr. Jim May, the Superintendent of the Escambia County School System, because he can provide facts and reality about what is working and what is not working in the only county in our State which has the voucher, which is Escambia.

Let me just briefly touch on what is working. I mentioned the class size reduction. You may recall Governor Bush came to our House Budget Committee hearing that you and I served on and testified. I think it's fair to say that one of the things he talked about was that smaller class size was something that we ought to aggressively be pursuing in our most challenging schools, and that in fact is happening here in Hillsborough County. Through the class size reduction money the Federal Government provides to my School Superintendent, Dr. Earl Lennard, we have received about $3.6 million last year, and our School Board and Superintendent used that to hire 69 new teachers in 40 schools, and reduced class size in early grades. And I visited those schools, and it's having a very positive impact. I know the same thing is happening in the Pensacola area.

One of the schools I'd like to talk about a little bit today is Cleveland Elementary, which is a school that essentially had gotten a D that has now moved up to a C. That school did so without the threat of vouchers, through reducing class size and similar measures.

It's interesting to note that, not just at the Terrace School, but around Hillsborough County, which has many State charter schools, in Florida many of our charter schools have smaller class size. They have less administration, they're taking on some of our most challenging kids, and on a very preliminary basis, they're succeeding. That, to me, is positive choice. That's public school choice.

Last year, the Federal Government provided over $7.2 million to the State of Florida to help start charter schools like the Terrace School. And I think one of the changes we ought to consider in Washington, Mr. Chairman, is extending the eligibility for Federal startup dollars from 3 years to 5 years so that more schools like Terrace can get started and get up and running because it is hard to get these buildings.

Finally, Mr. Chairman, let me just cite the magnet school program as another excellent program that empowers parents and provides public school choice. We have 14 fine magnet school programs here in Hillsborough County, including two very highly acclaimed, international baccalaureate programs at both King and Hillsborough High School. And here we're talking about more public school choice as well, that's taking place in Sarasota County. So, I think there are a lot of positive examples in Florida about public school choice, and I hope we get to hear more from the witnesses about that.


Thanks again, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to participate in this discussion.


Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you.

A couple of more formalities: We have gotten a series of letters and other correspondence that people would like to include in the official record. Without objection, so ordered. These are thank you letters from the children and students who are benefiting from the Children's Scholarship Fund. Thank you. They will be part of the record.


For those of you wondering what we have the stoplights up here for, we ask each of the witnesses to keep their testimony to around 5 minutes. The green light means they've got plenty of time. The yellow light means that they're running out of time. The red light means that their time is up. We've got enough time so as long as you don't run too long, we'll let you keep going. And if you decide to shorten your testimony to fit within the lights, then your entire written testimony will be submitted for the record.

We'd like to welcome the students from Terrace Community who are here with us this morning. I told them that in some cases, this would be about exciting as watching paint dry, and it wouldn't match some of the video that some of the classes watched earlier, but we're glad you're here, and we hope you enjoy your half-hour.

The other thing is I lost a contact last night, so I now have one eye to read my notes in the introduction, so if I miss every other word, you'll know why, but let me introduce the panel.

We begin with Dr. David Bennett, who is the Superintendent of Sarasota County Public Schools in Sarasota, Florida. Sarasota County has just submitted its application to become a charter school district, and we'll hear more about that this morning; an extensive background, and it looks like another northerner who's decided to move down south from Minnesota to Florida. After experiencing the weather here this weekend, I can't blame you.

Our second witness is Dr. Earl Lennard, who is the Superintendent of Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa. He's been the Superintendent since July of 1996. I didn't see the article, but I guess you've pledged to return 5 percent of your salary if any of your schools receive a failing grade in the upcoming statewide evaluation. Welcome to you, and thank you for being here.

Our third witness is Tracy Richardson, who is the parent of a voucher student in Pensacola, Florida. Tracy's daughter is one of the State's 53 voucher students and attends the Montessori Early School. Ms. Richardson is involved in the court battle to preserve this program, and flew down here, and she hates flying. And last night was not the best night for flying, so thank you very much for coming down here, Tracy.

Our fourth witness is Mr. David Lourie, who is our host today. He is the Head of School for the Terrace Community School. Thank you very much for being here, and we're looking forward to hearing from you.

We have Ms. Joanne Nelson, who is the current President of the Florida Association of Charter Schools and the Director of Education for the Charter School of Tampa Bay Academy in Riverview, Florida. Thank you for being here.

And then we have Mr. Jim May, who is the Superintendent of Escambia. Is that right?

Mr. May. Escambia. That's close enough.

Chairman Hoekstra. Escambia, thank you, County Public Schools in Pensacola, Florida. Thank you for being here.

And later on, we'll be joined by the Honorable Tom Gallagher, who is the Commissioner of Education for the State of Florida.

And with that, we will begin with you, Dr. Bennett.




Dr. Bennett. Chairman Hoekstra, Representative Davis, Representative Schaffer, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to be here this morning. Coming with me to Tampa is one of our school board members; and I'd like to introduce her now, Janice Mead. Janice. And I saw at least one representative from our community, Laura Benson. Laura?

Mr. Chairman, we begin our written statement with a metaphor, arguing that public education is a bit like a train with two engines, one on each side. One pulls in the direction of more regulatory control from the State, and another engine pulls in the direction of creating greater freedoms in terms of public school opportunity. I would cite charter schools and vouchers as examples in those areas.

What we see in Florida's charter district legislation is potential reconciliation of these two opposite forces; that is the opportunity to create in some circumstances greater accountability and control over public schools but done so by local school districts, while at the same time offering greater opportunities and flexibility.

Florida is one of the four States that offers the opportunity for school districts to apply to become charter school districts. We will, if we're granted charter district status, along with Volusia and Hillsborough County, become the largest school districts in the Nation that have achieved charter district status.

Our application that was drawn up with considerable community involvement is one that attempts to take full advantage of the law. It will establish our school district as one in which we literally not only free ourselves from 832 pages of detailed statute controlling public schools in our county but also at the same time willing to literally give up all of the traditional school board rule and regulation. In turn, we want individual schools to become much more accountable in terms of their outcome and performance.

Now, it's true that the charter district requires us to establish goals and objectives in terms of our entire school district, vis-à-vis the State, but we've done exactly the same thing in our plan with respect to our schools in two respects. First of all, under a charter district status, we will establish a performance contract with each one of our public schools. This is a very detailed contract covering a wide range of outcomes and performance, of course, student outcomes in terms of achievement but also equity principles and principles of diversity, as well.

At the same time, we are going to reestablish our entire school board meeting format so that the performance of schools are regularly the subject of school board meetings, which if you know anything about school board meetings, you know what a rarity that circumstance is.

We will bring forward on a quarterly basis what we call accountability reports on each one of our schools, not done in a show-and-tell fashion by the schools themselves but by an auditing unit within the school district. So, we will have performance, good, bad and neutral before the public on a regular basis. We believe by approaching accountability in this fashion, we will increase the amount and should have more local determination but greater accountability.

Finally, with respect to Federal law and Federal assistance, we would be aided greatly if the current charter school legislation were opened up and available to charter districts, like our district, Hillsborough. We would in our district be able to fund additional programs incurred by the charter district plan such as those having to do with increased training of staff, increased amount of policy, and reconciliation on the part of the school board. We've even suggested an ethnographer for the school district to pick up the valuable lessons and pass them on.

We would appreciate this level of flexibility, and we appreciate the opportunity to testify here today.






Chairman Hoekstra. Thanks.

You know, we've done two hearings in Chicago. We did one right at the beginning. Chicago had been characterized by Dr. Valice, and Bill Bennett had earlier in the late 1980s characterized it as one of the worst if not the worst school district in America. I don't think what they have qualifies as a charter district, but Dr. Valice has a tremendous amount of flexibility, because basically the State has demandated the City of Chicago and given them two checks, as I understand it; a check for general education and a check for special education. And I'm assuming that's close to what you would call a charter district. Is that right?

Dr. Bennett. As a matter of fact, it's very close. Paul and I were in Los Angeles last week and had an opportunity to talk together, and it was amazing the parallels between what we've included here in this plan and will be able to do with this plan and what they've accomplished in Chicago. I think in his seven-year tenure, that school district has made enormous strides. And it was those kinds of improvements, when freed finally from the outside State regulatory control that made it all possible.

Chairman Hoekstra. I think what you've talked about as being the opening up of charters, this is the first time I've actually heard of charter districts. This is why we do these things to learn and find out what's going on with the States, because I don't think that anybody in Washington has proposed or even thought about changing the charter school language to include charter districts. We're in the middle of authorizing that part of the legislation this year, actually maybe Wednesday and Thursday we're going to be doing that.

Is there anybody from Florida on the Committee?

Ms. Wolfe. No.

Mr. Schaffer. No.

Chairman Hoekstra. Well, you're going to have to have a Spartan carry your water for you.

Mr. Davis. Congressman Roemer, I know, has been a leader in Congress, and I've worked closely with him on some changes, so perhaps we can look into this one, as well.

Chairman Hoekstra. We may take a look at changing that language. And if we want to do it, this week would be a perfect chance to do it. What are the other States that are doing that?

Dr. Bennett. Off the top of my head, California. By the way, most of the school districts that are charter districts are school districts of fewer than a thousand students. Colorado, I believe, also has a charter district law again with very small schools participating. And I think the fourth one might be Georgia. But again, if Hillsborough and Volusia and Sarasota were granted charter status, we would be the largest, by far, school districts in the Nation that have achieved charter district status.

Chairman Hoekstra. Okay, great. Thank you. Dr. Lennard.





Dr. Lennard. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, and distinguished guests. First of all, I want to thank you for allowing me to have this opportunity to address you.

I think it's very appropriate that Superintendent Bennett started off with a metaphor concerning the railroad because running a school district and doing what you're doing is pretty much like running a railroad. You've got to lay track out in front of you in order to set the direction and course of the railroad. At the same time, you've got to keep shoveling coal to make sure you have enough steam to get there. So, I appreciate very much this opportunity to talk about school accountability and choice particularly as it relates to Hillsborough County, Florida.

Greater academic accountability is something that in Florida is not new. It's something that started some time ago. In fact, it started with former Governor Lawton Chiles and has continued under then Commissioner Brogan, and now Lieutenant Governor Brogan and Governor Bush, pushing for various ways of accountability and for expanding. As you've heard already in testimony and as you may already know, our charter bill allows for continuation of that accountability and expansion of options for people in our State. And there's, of course, no difference here in Hillsborough County.

Let me mention some of those accountability measures such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test that so much of our accountability is based upon, and I'm sure you'll hear much more about that later. But the FCAT, as it is called, is quite important because it sets the tone for grades in Florida, and that sets the tone for accountability, and as I mentioned, that started quite a number of years ago. But until last year, which is of course the planning for the current school year, those grades have been in a 1-through-5 format, and when a letter grade was attached, a great deal more importance has been placed upon that.

Here in Hillsborough County, we have met the challenge of accountability. We have looked at ways that we can move our students in those schools who did not receive the grades that we think were appropriate, and we don't think any grade is appropriate except an A. We've looked at ways we could move those youngsters forward. We've looked at different means of responding to them and utilizing the resources that we have available to us, including some of the dollars that you and the members of Congress have provided under Title I. And you heard Congressman Davis mention a few moments ago some examples of the way we've utilized those Federal funds in Hillsborough County to very specifically target the needs of some of our youngsters that are not achieving at the level that we would like for them to achieve at or that is appropriate for their ability level.

We've used those dollars to provide for additional tutoring, Saturday scholar types of services. We've looked at expanding and have, in fact, expanded the number of hours that our youngsters attend school, and we've looked beyond that. We've also looked at different ways, and as you heard, we've applied to become a charter district. In fact, we were the district that took that challenge to the Governor and said, "If we could remove some of the strings that are attached to the dollars that you send us to make this happen, we could do things differently," and I bring that challenge to you, as well.

I just heard you say that you think it may be a novel idea to take back to Congress, but I would just like to say that if we were able to remove some of the paperwork and some of the issues that continue to plague school districts, then we all together could look for further ways that we could provide additional performance for our youngsters, including charter schools. We in Hillsborough County have 11 charter schools now and are looking at another three next year.

We feel as though we have had a very successful charter school program in Hillsborough County. Our district staff works with the charter schools, and we work it because these are all Hillsborough County students.

I know the red light is on, but if I could offer one other comment. I would just like to mention that as you ponder additional laws and regulations and rules on how we're going to do things, I'd like to ask you to also consider that we abandon the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in revising the draft Medicaid School Base Administrative Claiming Guide that was issued on February 15th. That's a guide that would help continue to restrict ways in which districts such as Hillsborough can claim Medicaid dollars for services that they're rendering. Timely approval of applications for Medicaid reimbursements to pay for federally mandated federally required medical services is very important. The proper reimbursement for medical services would help free local education dollars to improve the student performance and that's what I believe we are all about in education.

Thank you.






Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you.

I think you'll find that in the budget resolution that passed the House late Thursday night, there's language in the budget resolution that addresses that Medicaid issue. It was language that Mr. Bentsen and Mr. Davis brought up in the Budget Committee. We were able to support it and get it in. Now, I don't think he ended up voting for the final resolution, but he took a good budget proposal and made it better, but not quite up to his standards yet. Is that correct?

Mr. Davis. Well, we also got the Chairman of the Budget Committee's attention, John Kasich. This is a problem around the country that we're going to have to work on together to keep HCFA from killing a good program.

Chairman Hoekstra. Yes, right. We appreciate that very much.

Dr. Lennard. It does mean a whole lot, and it does make a difference in counties like Hillsborough.

Chairman Hoekstra. All right, great. Thank you.

Also, the format is that all the witnesses will testify, and we may have a little chatting back and forth after each witness testifies. Then there will be a formal time of dialogue where each of us will have a period of questions and have an opportunity to follow up on some of this testimony.

Okay, Ms. Richardson.




Ms. Richardson. Good morning.

First of all, I would like to thank the Chairman and the Committee for having the opportunity to tell my personal story about how the opportunity scholarship program has affected my family's life.

My name is Tracy Richardson. I'm a single mother from Pensacola, and my nine-year-old daughter attends The Montessori Early School in Pensacola, Florida. I felt like I won the lottery when my daughter was chosen to participate in Florida's opportunity scholarship program. Before she was selected for this program, my child was assigned to a public school that received a grade of F from the Department of Education. This failing school was unable to give my nine-year-old the special attention that she needed, and I grew frustrated as I watched her fall farther and farther behind her classmates and lose interest in learning.

While I wanted to send her to a better school, I was not able to afford a private one on my modest salary. Thanks to the opportunity scholarship program, however, I was finally able to do this and match up my daughter's individual needs with a private school's specialized curriculum, methods and activities.

My daughter now attends The Montessori Early School of Pensacola. Just in the 6 to 8 months that she's been there, the greatest single improvement in my daughter's education has been her spirit. Instead of her waking up and not wanting to get up in the morning, she actually gets me up.

In the classroom, Khaliah receives one-on-one attention. The school accomplishes this even though it has similar class sizes to those found in Pensacola's failing public schools. Instead of rushing the children through the curriculum, each student stays within an assignment until he or she knows and understands the material. If some students finish an assignment, they move on to the next one while teachers help the other students until they all comprehend the material. This has been so good for my daughter that she now looks forward to school in the mornings. This is a complete change from her attitude when she went to a public school.

Another improvement in Khaliah's new school is the style of discipline. The public school's method was not effective or respected by the students. While my daughter's public school relied upon scolding the children and sending them to in-school suspension, students at The Montessori Early School are given time at the "peace table" where they discuss their behavior. Not only are the students required to take more responsibility for their behavior, but they are also given greater independence in their capacity as students, which encourage them to behave more maturely.

The school takes its successful classroom strategies and applies them to after-school activities. In programs that are real brain builders, the students can choose to learn a foreign language, play sports or be involved with a range of clubs. Khaliah, for example, recently joined the chess club and the Girl Scouts. She attends a knitting class, and she is pretty fluent in sign language. Now instead of having to deal with a failing school, I'm faced with a new problem: Khaliah wants to be involved with every program.

My daughter used to be a hostage of the public school system. Denied the personal attention she needed to succeed, Khaliah was sentenced to failure. But I fought for her ability to get a better education and my right to choose where she goes to school. This, however, is not only a right that should be allowed for myself but to all parents.

Countless families are currently forced to send their children to failing schools, but this doesn't have to be the case. Many people and organizations around the country are fighting for a parent's right to have more control over his or her child's education. For example, the Institute for Justice, a libertarian Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm, is defending my right to choose where my daughter attends school in Florida.

But even though many people are fighting for education reform and school choice, many others, such as teachers' unions, are fighting to maintain the existing system; a system that I have seen firsthand and is a failure. In Florida, for example, they have gone to court to end the same opportunity scholarship program that has been such a blessing for Khaliah. It is impossible for me to understand why anyone would want to send children who are finally learning, becoming better students and developing a sense of self-respect back to failing schools. Do these people have children of their own?

Well, while I felt like I won the lottery when Khaliah was given the chance at a better education through Florida's Opportunity Scholarship Program, too many other students are still waiting for their lucky day. I therefore urge you to do what you can to give every parent in America the same right to choose that I now have. And I thank you for your attention.






Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you very much. Mr. Lourie?






Mr. Lourie. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. It's great to have you here in our school. This room has never looked so clean, so it's great that you're able to be here.

Drs. Bennett and Lennard spoke to you about the hope for opportunities that they have, that we are living-out here in our school every day. I know you had the opportunity to walk around and take a look at our classrooms. I think it really comes down to two words that we survive with: number one, freedom, and number two, accountability. The first part is the freedom, that we enjoy so much and we treasure so much, to do what is best for those students that are sitting there right now. Every decision that we make here at this school is for them and what is best for their education. And we are fortunate through charter school law to have the freedom to put them first. We don't have to deal with many of the rules and regulations and bureaucratic procedures that somehow impede or slow down the process of education for the students.

I want to talk a little bit about some things that we've done here and how we have used this freedom. First and foremost, of course, is our curriculum. We have a back-to-basics core curriculum, high academic standards. Every parent and student who is brave enough to sit down and talk to me knows exactly what we are all about here at our school. We have the freedom to say, "These are our standards, would you like to come here and join us?" Of course, many families choose to do that.

Beyond our curriculum, however, is what we do in addition to our back-to-basics core classes. This freedom that we have has allowed us to design a program that caters towards those students. Last year, for example, we thought it would be a neat idea to have Spanish and Latin in the mornings for those students who were interested. The demand was so great that we changed our schedule this year. So, now, we have Spanish classes every day required of our eighth graders, Latin classes required every day of our seventh graders.

There was some demand last year for an improvement in our reading program. We changed our schedule. We added a reading lab class for our sixth graders. They read 15 novels over the course of our school year.

We also found out from our first year that sometimes the transition to our standards and our expectations was a little bit rigorous. Our fifth graders now have a class called "Academic Enrichment," where every day they work on study skills, organizational skills, peer relations. Settling matters between friends can sometimes be difficult. And these are things that we have had the opportunity to add without having to go through a long process, so to speak.

Our tutoring and remediation program, we think, is a model for other schools. We have two classes in the afternoon called "Extra Dose." Those are either one-on-one, or maximum one-on-four situations with the teacher. The students do not leave their regular classes. They come here during the arts period or the sports period, and they sit down with the teacher and they work on basic core skills. It has had a tremendous effect. As a matter of fact, last year, of those students who came to us testing below grade level, 86 percent showed improvement in reading, writing and math, which is a great number to see.

Furthermore, we have fine arts in the afternoon, journalism, chess club, math league, forensics, interscholastic sports, and visual arts. We have had the opportunity to add these things with very minimal, if any, interference whatsoever.

In addition to the programmatic freedom, we have a lot of fiscal freedom, which means that we can spend on the students, and we don't spend on the process of spending on the students. It is efficient. We find the best prices on the things that we need and just the things that we need for them. We buy textbooks and supplies, used and refurbished if we have to. The chairs that we're sitting on were donated to us through kind donations.

I know the red light is on. I could speak forever, but we appreciate your coming and joining us here. Thank you.






Chairman Hoekstra. That's why we have the red light, because we know that a lot of the people that we have a lot more to share than what you can get into that time, but thank you, and thanks again for hosting us.

Ms. Nelson.






Ms. Nelson. Good morning, Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee. I want to thank you for inviting me down to share some experiences about charter schools in general and my charter school specifically with you.

Actually, my route here today has been a very circuitous one in that probably a little more than 3 years ago, I couldn't have told you what a charter school was, and yet today, I'm a Director of one and Chair of the State organization.

As a matter of fact, when I came down here from New York, I had just relocated from where I had been a Principal for the public school sector. When I was interviewed for my present position, my employer told me that we would soon be opening as a charter school and asked me what I thought of that, and I told him I thought it was just wonderful. And then, I ran home and I looked it up on the Internet to make sure I knew what a charter school was. Well, since that time, there has been a lot of growth.

When I started in 1997, there really wasn't all that much to know in Florida about charter schools. Only six had been up and running. The year that my academy opened, 27 more joined, bringing that to 33. Last year, there were 76. This year, there are 112, and next year in the State of Florida, there should be well over 200 charter schools up and running.

People want to know what makes charter schools a good idea. Well, you just heard a lot that Dave shared with you, and he has certainly told you about one of the finer schools that we have down here in Florida. People seem to be catching on to the charter school idea. All of the 112 charter schools have students on waiting lists because parents are anxious to get children in here.

We serve children from all socioeconomic levels and ethnic groups, and large numbers of our schools serve at-risk and special-needs students, and we work with these students in our charter schools because we choose to. This is the population that we want to engage, to nurture and to teach. This is really what charter schools are all about. It's the choice for people to reach those children who they really want to center on and the choice for parents to be able to send their children to those kinds of schools.

Now that I've kind of segued into the needs of special-needs students, I'd like to tell you a little bit about my school. I'm the Director of Educational Services at the Charter School of Tampa Bay Academy, which is an exceptional student center, which is located about 15 minutes from here. And we really are a very unusual school. We're a public charter school on the grounds of a private treatment center. The treatment center is a residential center that serves youngsters from 5 through 18. During the day, their patients are our students, and we have about 100 of those students.

In addition to the residential patients who are with us during the day, we have 60 youngsters from Hillsborough County who have already been determined either emotionally handicapped or severely emotionally disturbed. They have not been successful within their programs, and our program offers a more intensive program for their special needs. Of my 160 youngsters, approximately 10 are profoundly deaf as well, but their main problem is being severely emotionally disturbed, so we have people there who are fluent in signing. We have a teacher of the deaf, and we work with these youngsters, as well.

We are able to offer a lot more than what is typically offered to youngsters in the mainstream of schools. We have a staff that is trained for 2 weeks prior to stepping into a classroom. We are able to have an extended year calendar, an extended summer program, and an extended school day to accommodate individual student needs, and freedom from curriculum restrictions. Like Dave, freedom from restricted funding categories, and we are able to implement a therapeutic program that is infused throughout the school days.

The Federal start-up grants that we received during the first two years enabled us to start up a state-of-the-art media center, so we now have computer-literate youngsters. And the second year, the start-up grants enabled us to furnish a library, so that these youngsters for the first time were able to read high-interest, low-level books. And I was very pleased to hear Mr. Davis talk about the possibility of extending the Federal start-up grants because so many of our schools can really use that additional assist.

There are so many wonderful things that charter schools are doing for our children across this State. They are reaching every level of youngster, and we appreciate the support that we're getting. Many people ask, are charter schools really changing the world? Well, in fact, they are, one child at a time. And I'm asking you, Members of this Committee, not to give up the good fight for school reform. Keep supporting the legislation and charter funding that help our schools to survive, because you too are making a difference. By helping one child at a time, one school at a time, we have started a movement that I know will surely educate us all. Thank you for your time and attention.






Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you very much.

Mr. May.





Mr. May. Good morning. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak before this diverse group this morning.

As my other two predecessors, I'm a superintendent in the Escambia school system. We, unfortunately, have the not-so-distinctive nature of being the only two failing schools as judged by the Florida Comprehensive Test in the State of Florida. I would like to talk about that briefly because I think high-stakes testing is an issue that should be discussed at your level and at the State level.

You heard Dr. Lennard as he discussed some of the problems that he believes exist with FCAT. One of the problems that I foresee in any high-stakes venture is that we get away from teaching the whole child and we get into only teaching, in the State of Florida. We're teaching math, reading and writing. There is very little time, especially in those two schools in my district that were designated failing schools, spent on anything other than those three subjects. Students are not going to art, they're not going to PE, they're not going to music, and they're getting very little instructional time in science and history because we're focusing on improving that child's ability to perform on the FCAT test.

You can take a look at some other kinds of tests and ask yourself, "Well, which one is the better judge or which one is the most validated in terms of designating a district or a school successful or unsuccessful?" I'll share with you just a couple of other issues about my county in particular. First of all, on the CAT testing, the California Achievement Test, our district was at or above the national 50th percentile in every grade level. As a matter of fact, we were only at the 50th percentile at the sixth grade. Every other grade level was above.

On the SAT, which is the accepted college entrance exam, our scores were 42 points above the Nation's average in my district, and we're 60 points above the State's average, and yet we're the failing district. So, I ask you, which is the better judge of what our students are actually doing.

I want to share with you some myths, because as you might guess, like Congressman Davis, I am opposed to vouchers, and I want to share with you some reasons why I'm opposed to vouchers. By the way, I am not opposed to charters nor is my district. We have three charter schools that are running currently. We have a fourth that is approved to begin this year.

We think that charter schools can really help enhance our students' opportunities to learn. And I want to say this to this Committee and to everyone who is listening to everything we say this morning: That the bottom line of what we discuss ought to be about what is best for students. And every one of our aims, of course, I hope would be highest student achievement. And I don't believe you would get much argument in this room on that issue.

Moving to some of the myths about vouchers, the one that I really love is that children are trapped in failing schools. Well, currently, there are 52 students who have accepted the voucher program for the State of Florida, and I want to explain to you something about those 52 people. Over 50 percent never attended a public school in the State of Florida. They did not go to Spencer Bibbs or to A.A. Dixon. They moved in from other districts; they made the decisions that they wanted their child to go to a private school.

And by the way, I have no problems with children going to private schools. I just have problems with them doing so at taxpayer expense. We had 860 students at those two schools. After hundreds of schools from Floridians for School Choice and other organizations which you've heard alluded to, even after hundreds of calls, only 60 people originally applied for the voucher program out of 860 who were eligible. Of the 60 who applied, only 52 remain. I think that tells you something about being trapped in failing schools.

I will also tell you that in my district that we had choice for those parents at those two schools to begin with. They could have made the decision to transfer their children to another program.

I think that it's important that you understand that of those two particular schools designated as failing, one of the schools made NCE gains, which are national percentile equivalents, of two. And by the way, an NCE gain of zero indicates 1 year of progress for 1 year of education.

The other school made NCE gains of four, yet they're labeled as the only two failing schools in the State of Florida. Students come to those schools at around the 10th percentile as measured on an introductory exam that we give, the KSI, to all students entering. When they leave that school, they have been averaging in the mid-30s in terms of percentiles. So, I will submit to you that they're making more than a year's worth of progress for a year's worth of education.

All students do not begin the same. I can take the results of Florida's FCAT test and share with you that no school in the State of Florida that had poverty levels of over 90 percent made a grade above a C. Conversely, no school with less than 10 percent poverty made a grade below a C. So, I just wish to make the point that poverty is synonymous with a child's ability to begin learning, not with their ability to learn but their ability to begin learning. And I know I'm out of time, I had a lot more that I wanted to say, but in fairness to the other members of the panel, I will stop with that.

Chairman Hoekstra. Great. Thank you. We're still waiting for Mr. Gallagher.

Dr. Lennard. I see he's just arrived.

Mr. Martin. While you're waiting, can I speak a couple of words?

It bothers me that, as I understand it, you're bad-mouthing teachers and schools. You don't have failing schools and failing teachers, you have a failing system. If you tested the students from six to the eighth grade, so they know why they're going to school, you wouldn't have a problem.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. You can send him to school, but you cannot make him learn. If he wants to learn, he will, and you'll have no problem. You have a letter from me, and I think you have a copy there.

Chairman Hoekstra. Yes, are you Mr. Martin?

Mr. Martin. Yes, that's right.

Chairman Hoekstra. Good, thank you. That's out of the ordinary, but okay. Mr. Gallagher will be here in a minute and then, rather than starting and going through the questions and the dialogue, we'll just wait for Commissioner Gallagher.

Good morning.

Mr. Gallagher. Good morning.

Chairman Hoekstra. Welcome.

Mr. Gallagher. Thank you.

Chairman Hoekstra. You're up to bat. We've gone through the rest of the panel, and perfect timing.

Mr. Gallagher. Well, thank you.

Chairman Hoekstra. You're welcome. Thank you for being here.





Mr. Gallagher. I appreciate being here, Mr. Chairman. I thank you very much for allowing me to be here today to talk about an issue that is receiving an enormous amount of attention virtually in every State across the country, and that is accountability in education. As we have in many areas of public policy, Florida serves as a laboratory for developing cutting-edge solutions for what has become a controversial, and I might add, a highly political issue.

Let me begin with a brief history of Florida's accountability system. While there have been reforms and reform efforts each decade, the foundation of our current system was laid in 1991 when the original law was passed. It set a framework, goals, standards, assessments and an advisory council at every school to put it all together in a school improvement program. Subsequent statutory refinements added three important components: reporting, rewards and specific actions.

The outgrowth of the State's work was the creation and development in the mid-1990s of the highly challenging standards used today called the Sunshine State Standards. Rather than emphasizing minimum competencies, we are now focusing on more demanding standards that identify what students are expected to know and to do at each grade.

In 1995, the State used achievement groups to determine school performance on national norm reference tests. Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan, who was then Education Commissioner, released for the first time a list of critically low schools based on these groups. The first year, 158 schools were on that list; the second year, that number was cut in half; the third year, there were 30; and finally, only four schools remain on the critically low list.

Shortly thereafter, development began on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, commonly referred to in Florida as the FCAT. The test was designed to measure reading and math as defined by the Sunshine State Standards. Individual test questions were written to measure skills from those standards. The test questions include multiple choice, short answer and written responses.

The development of the FCAT was a three-phase process. Groups of Florida educators reviewed, critiqued and approved the questions and tasks developed for the grades tested; initially fourth, fifth, eighth and tenth. Students' writing ability is measured by requiring students to produce an essay, not just bubble in answers. The FCAT was given to students twice over a 2-year period to verify the quality of questions on the test, and it determined the baseline data as essentially a beginning point for measuring performance.

In 1998, five school performance levels were established to reflect performance on the FCAT. School performance leveled from one through five. There was no hue and cry from educators because the public at large had no idea which was a better level, one or five.

The FCAT was given for the third year, just as Governor Jeb Bush's A-Plus Plan went into effect. It was at this juncture that events became controversial. In large part, because of the shroud of mystery surrounding school achievement levels would soon be lifted due to an important component of the A-Plus Plan. It called for replacing the school levels with letter grades, A through F.

Now, each of us here knows which letter grade is the best and which is the worst, and more importantly, every parent, business owner, community leader would know which schools were performing and which were not. The A-Plus Plan includes everything from accountability to teacher training requirements to school improvement plans to public reporting.

However, the portion that brought vehement protest from the education community was the school-grading portion. We've heard over and over, "Don't stigmatize our schools, teacher morale is low, you will ruin education." Frankly, our major concern lies with student achievement and what is best for our kids, not maintaining the status quo for grownups.

After the 1999 FCAT results were received, letter grades were given to the schools for the first time in June of that same year. Here's the breakdown: 203 A schools, 314 B schools, 1,246 C schools, 613 Ds, and 78 Fs. Two of the 78 F schools were among the four critically low schools from the previous year.

That brings us to the second-most-controversial element of the A-Plus Plan. Some might consider it the first. It would kick in for those two schools, both of which were elementary schools in northwest Florida. The students and parents at A.A. Dixon and Bibbs elementary schools had a decision to make, whether to exercise their option to receive an opportunity scholarship to a private school or transfer to a higher-performing public school or stay in the schools they were in.

Ultimately, out of nearly 900 students, the parents of 52 students would vie for vacancies in private schools, and the parents of 85 students would choose to send their children to a C or better public school of their choice. Both schools have a free- or reduced-lunch population in the mid to upper 90 percent range and are located in inner city areas. Ironically, these schools operate under a Federal desegregation order, but more than 90 percent of the students are African American. The schools happen to be half a mile apart, I might add, and are surrounded by projects.

The choice is not something that is available to many of the parents of these children. That's because in Florida, your zip code pretty much determines the school you attend.

Simply put, it's a supply-driven service. I think you'll agree with me that a supply-driven system of any kind over a period of time becomes mediocre at best. Middle-class and above parents turn a supply-driven system into a demand-driven system. If they don't like the school in an area, they find out which schools are best and go house hunting in that area. If they don't believe a teacher is doing a good job, they go to the principal and have their child moved. In the worst cases, they would get the teacher moved. They get involved in activities at their child's school and make sure homework is completed every night.

But the parents in inner city areas are limited when it comes to choice. Most of them may be unable to afford to move, some are single parents or even grandparents trying to hold down two or more jobs. Some are unable or unwilling to get involved in school activities because they have had a bad experience in school or struggled with the course work themselves. Choice is something that is unavailable to them for a variety of reasons.

Many live in projects. Although that might not be their first choice, it may be their only choice for housing; choice that others have and exercise on a routine basis. One small part of the A-Plus Plan is about giving choice to those who don't have it. Shouldn't everyone be afforded the same opportunities to attend a high-performing school?

The teachers unions and other groups brought suit over the scholarship portion of the law, and earlier this month, a circuit court judge ruled in favor of the unions. The State filed its appeal in what is expected to be a long, drawn-out fight over the choice component of the A-Plus Plan. I should mention that both Governor Bush and I have vowed to raise the funds necessary to ensure the continuance of opportunity scholarship and that program.

Already, one man has committed to taking care of the 52 children in private schools in Escambia County, and we have commitments from others to provide for several thousand children who may choose private schools next year if in fact they will have been in an F school for 2 years out of any 4.

Like California and Texas, Florida serves a widely diverse population of students. It's no surprise that the D and F schools are located in inner city and rural areas, not the suburbs. But if we have different expectations because of socioeconomic factors, we will have a widening gap in opportunities for our youngsters. Our desire is to see to it that every child has the key to the American dream, and that is a quality education.

That leads me to the additional resources being provided from both the districts and the State to D and F schools. Some would argue that A and B schools are receiving more money. That is not the case. The districts have been and are redirecting resources to those struggling schools, with as much as $780 more per pupil going to D and F schools. That is including the $100 that A schools get per student when in fact they are an A school or when a school does improve a grade.

The State gave every F school $25,000 for reading enhancement programs in addition to top priority for all other Federal and State grants distributed through the State. When opportunity scholarships went into effect, opponents said that the schools that were F 2 out of 4 years would be abandoned.

Let me quickly tell you what's happening in the two schools. They have instituted after-school programs, Saturday remedial courses with parents, where parents are encouraged to participate, and the school years went from a 180-day school year to 210, a 30-day extension in the school year. With this assistance, along with the outpouring of assistance in the communities, I believe we'll see many of the struggling schools improve greatly. As you can see, the challenges for our struggling schools abound. One-size-fits-all and cookie-cutter solutions are not the answer for schools confronted by the challenges that are sometimes unimaginable.

Districts must redirect resources they receive to better serve these schools. The State must provide resources both human and monetary to assist the districts. Congress can and should do its part too. Funding from the Federal Government must come with as few restrictions as possible. Send the States money and hold them accountable, which is the same philosophy we're applying to the districts from the State level.

Working together, I believe we'll see significant improvements in education over the coming years, and I thank you very much for allowing me to appear.







Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you for being here. You can tell he didn't come in and get an introduction to our lights.

You know, you touched on a couple of the issues that I think we're really struggling with in Washington, as well. One is freedom, and how far do we take freedom, and you're seeing it at both ends of the spectrum. Ms. Richardson appreciates the freedom that she now has to choose a school for her child.

We seem to be working well in the middle with the development of charter schools. I'm not sure exactly how many States have charter schools, but it's well over 30 States that have charter school laws, different formats and those types of things. The charter school is freeing a school up from State regulations and different variations from State to State, such as the concept of what's going on in Chicago. The charter districts appear to be taking hold here in Florida, and then the next question is going to be what I think Dr. Lennard, Dr. Bennett and Commissioner Gallagher are talking about, which is the commitment that you're going to get from Federal regulations, which is a hot debate in Washington. So, it seems like we're working well in the middle.

We have to figure out what we're going to do for individual choice. We have to figure out what we're going to do on State flexibility and those types of things. My guess is, Dr. Lennard and Dr. Bennett, you may get your State district choice, but you will still have your Federal mandates. The State will be limited in what it can do with you in terms of charter districts, because there are going to be certain mandates that the State receives from Washington that they can't free you from. Have you taken a look at that and what that means to you?

Mr. Gallagher. We have an interesting law here in Florida, and maybe it should be something that you might think about. The Commissioner of Education has the ability to waive any law or rule in the State of Florida as long as it doesn't have to do with the health or the welfare of students. It might be very good for the Congress to look at doing that same thing with Federal rules and laws from the Department of Education. It works well here.

When I make a decision to waive a rule or law, I expect to hear from the school board as well as the Superintendent that they both feel that it hinders them in some way, and I am very lenient in regards to those waivers. I think if the Federal Government would do the same type thing, "Yes, pass all the rules and laws you want and everything else," but if in fact we in the State along with the district say, "Look, we believe that these are hindering the education of our children" and let the Commissioner waive those laws, I think that would be something that you should look at.

Chairman Hoekstra. Oh, I thought that you were talking about us giving the Secretary of Education the right to waive.

Mr. Gallagher. The closer to the students, the better.

Chairman Hoekstra. Sure, sure, but have you taken a look at passing a charter district law, which I guess you have?

Mr. Gallagher. We have a law, yes.

Chairman Hoekstra. What Federal regulations are still going to be in place which may limit what the charter districts will be able to do in terms of reporting and that type of thing that you can't waive?

Mr. Gallagher. Well, I think that would be best addressed by Dr. Lennard because they have been the ones that have done the things to make their district work.

Dr. Lennard. Well, if I may, there are a number of things that would still be regulations coming from the Federal Government that we would still have to maintain. Obviously, we would not want to remove any of those that would relate to health, safety or civil rights. We would certainly continue to maintain those, and we put that right up front on the table, that we would not in any way whatsoever ask to be removed from that. However some of those particularly in the processes of delivery of services that are still there, we would ask that you carry back the message that we would feel much more proficient if we were able to remove some of those. These are some of the things we've asked for from the Commissioner's office.

Many of the waivers have been long standing, and others have been simply the reporting back and forth that makes it a process. If we could be relieved from the process and then be held accountable for the results, this is the area that we here in Hillsborough feel would benefit us tremendously. I have talked with Dr. Bennett, back and forth on this issue. It would help direct some of the services that we've talked about back to the classroom.

We don't add all of these administrative things because we like to. We add them because somewhere or another, when there's someone doing the reporting on something, it's because someone has asked for that report. And generally it's come out in the form of: "If you wish to continue receiving these dollars, then you must have, of course, accountability to receive those dollars." We're asking that the accountability not be in the process, but in the results of that process.

Chairman Hoekstra. I don't think you’ll typically find what we're asking for. You're telling us you want the money. We call it mandating.

Dr. Lennard. We do, too, and many times, it's unfunded mandating.

Chairman Hoekstra. Dr. Bennett?

Dr. Bennett. While only 5 percent of our total expenditures are represented by Federal funding, the extent of the influence on that Federal funding is felt across the school district. One of the ways the State visualized their charter district legislation helping participating school districts was to relieve them of so much paperwork. If in reality, we have to send in reports to the State not because the State is demanding those reports, but because they're part of the Federal report, much of the State's desire and our desire to come out from the paperwork burden may be vitiated in that whole process.

Our governor has gone to Washington and suggested something that I think deserves some consideration. I'm from Minnesota, and in Minnesota, they "sunsetted" all of the State code all at once for all school districts, and you know what? It resulted in no change whatsoever. The districts operated as if all that code were still in place. I think in a very intelligent manner, Florida has said, "We're just going to do it in a handful of places, and we're going to develop accountability plans from these districts." There were six districts that would be eligible, and three actually participated and applied.

Were you to do that at the Federal level, in other words, not try to make a sweeping diminishing of effects for all States, but take a handful of States that would compete for it and allow them the opportunity to be freed from Federal regulation, at the same time making these States accountable on an outcomes basis, it seems to me that that might be an appropriate measure that you could adopt that might be an interim step toward freedom for all students.

Chairman Hoekstra. I'm going to come back to Tampa. I kind of like it here. You know, that's exactly what we've done with a proposal called Straight A's. You're creating charter schools here; you're creating charter districts. We're trying to create charter States. The bill that has passed the House allows for 10 charter States, where the State would submit a plan approved by the Department of Education, indicate which programs, whatever they wanted to consolidate, and then put in their accountability and their achievement measures based on that. It would be renewable on a 5-year basis.

Mr. Gallagher. Let me mention, Mr. Chairman, that the Council of Chief State School Officers took a stand against that particular bill, and I happen to sit on a legislative committee and voted against their stand. My chief of staff had to write a letter to them to remind them not to go around to the Congressmen saying that we all agreed. There were those of us that did not agree with the stand they took.

Chairman Hoekstra. I see Mr. Davis is chomping at the bit to go as well, but we're going to go to Mr. Schaffer as a Member of the Committee, and then we'll go to you as a guest of the Committee. We'll have a couple of rounds, as well.

Mr. Schaffer. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Dr. Lennard, the effort towards charter schools is an important one. You know, as a Member of Congress, I'm the only Member that sends his kids to charter schools and helped start two of them in my State. The struggle that all charter schools have I think throughout the country comes down to the unique expenditures that charter schools have, capital costs being the most challenging one. I just want to ask questions about this school district and the school that we're in today.

How are charter schools treated financially by the district? Is the per pupil operating revenue similar? How do you determine the funding levels for charter schools versus a neighborhood school?

Dr. Lennard. Charter schools in the State of Florida operate by a statute, which has provided enabling legislation, and pursuant to that, enabling policy, which has allowed districts to develop a contractual agreement and contractual relationship with a group that wishes to start a charter school. Along with that, of course, the policy that drives that is statutorily driven, as well. In the State of Florida, 95 percent of the funds that are obtained through the regular FTE or the Florida Educational Finance Program, which is geared to FTE, which is the full-time equivalent of students, are passed on to the charter school, the other 5 percent being routine in order to provide services to the charter school that the district provides.

You can see some of the examples of that service around here today. We continue to operate with this particular charter school in some areas of provision of school food service. We provide mail, our own mail courier, administrative oversight in the case of fiscal operations and act as a buffer between the State and the school in many of the operations. And it may be significant to you that we're looking at that cost now, because in Hillsborough County, of course, we provide services that go beyond the 5 percent.

Mr. Schaffer. Do you charge for that?

Dr. Lennard. No, we do not. We absorb that within the school district, because we look at the school districts as being cooperative ventures. These are still students of Hillsborough County that are utilizing an instructional methodology that is a little bit different from that in a regular Hillsborough County school.

As far as capital outlay, there are also some provisions for that, and it is my understanding that the legislature has provided a way for charter schools to access additional capital outlay funds. Here, the district does not provide capital outlay funds except for flow-through dollars from the State, and that's where we receive our capital outlay dollars, as well. However, the effort index moneys or additional capital outlay dollars that were incentive dollars, a percentage has been passed on to our charter schools.

Mr. Schaffer. What percentage is that?

Dr. Lennard. At this point in time, it's around 50 percent.

Mr. Schaffer. And that's a State incentive grant?

Dr. Lennard. No, those are dollars that the district has been awarded because of finding different ways, including charter schools, of meeting growth in the county and in the State, and charter schools being one of those that earns dollars. Another one is building frugal schools that are coming in below a certain threshold on the construction of schools. Those are incentives of adding additional dollars in capital outlay from the State.

Mr. Schaffer. So, the incentive funds, do they go just to charter schools? Or where does the other 50 percent go is what I'm asking.

Dr. Lennard. It goes into the school district to build additional student stations or schools within the school district, capital outlay dollars.

Mr. Gallagher. We originally had a program that tried to get money to go to the charter schools for capital outlay. One of the problems was that the PECO bonds, Public Educational Capital Outlay, are funded through a certain constitutional ability to allow those funds to go to private ownership of a school or of a building. This is in a strip mall for example, this is a private owner, and this is rented, I'm sure, from that owner.

To spend money on the school, which would come from the bond issue would be a real problem, and we would be outside the rules. So, we had to come up with other funded dollars that could be used for the district and for charter schools that would not be in that PECO package. We actually lost an entire year's worth of funding because the first year the dollars were designed to come out of PECO, and we finally told the legislature that we weren't able to do that.

Dr. Lennard. If I could, maybe just one quick comment further as far as capital outlay and what have you.

Chairman Hoekstra. Sure.

Dr. Lennard. As a part of the charter agreement with the school district, the capital infrastructure of that school has to be outlined and a plan presented. For instance, in the case of some of our charter schools, they have a very modern facility that is already in existence, or is being planned. Others do not and start off in meager ways and move forward from there. So, there are different ways that the district and State are providing dollars for the capital investment for charter schools.

Mr. Schaffer. Mr. Lourie, I know we're way over time, but what portion of your operating budget is devoted to capital costs?

Mr. Lourie. I'm not sure that I could give you a percentage, but we receive about $3,700 or probably a little bit more than that per student, which is the FTE. We pay about $100,000 out of that to lease this building. And I'm certainly glad that you asked these questions. This capital funding is a very important issue for charter schools, and you will find that in national surveys as people search for solutions to where they can be.

This is a fine facility, but in the long term, this is not the solution to where we want to be. I know that the SIT funds which Dr. Lennard referred to, through no fault of his own or anyone else's, have been a sore spot just because they have not been as well defined as we would like to see it. We are looking for some solutions as to how we can get some capital funding to charter schools so they can build the facilities and not take money out of the educational funds that we get.

Ms. Nelson. If I may add a few words, as well, the SIT funds can be a very effective way for schools to initially get some money, but the distribution of those funds are up to the discretion of the school boards within Florida and how they work with their charter schools. The typical arrangement is the charter school getting 50 to 95 percent of the SIT funds, and that you see worked out very differently from district to district. So, there is no one set fee, and it can be negotiated up or down. And in some cases, it has proved to be a difficult situation for some of the districts.

The other problem with SIT funds is you get paid per pupil station. So, once you reach your total centers of enrollment, if your school never goes past 200 youngsters, and you get SIT funds for those 200, the next year you're not receiving anything, because those student stations are used up. For charter schools that are expanding, and may open up with 40 and the next year go to 80 and the next year go to maybe 100, the SIT funds can be a very profitable way for them to get additional funds. Once you reach your maximum enrollment, the SIT funds are not going to do anything for your school.

Then, fortunately, we now have capital outlay, but that has a top number, as well. And depending, as Dr. Lennard said, on what type of charter school you are, a small school may be getting $35,000 worth of capital funding every year, and that's not going to take them very far. We do have some charter schools within the State that have very, very beautiful facilities and capital outlay is not as much of a problem, but certainly, we all know how much it takes to keep our facilities going, and we want to continue to provide safe environments for children.

But for those smaller schools that are perhaps in portables or have worked very creative situations, as you see here in the Terrace Community School, it is imperative that if we are going to make charter schools continue to work that we provide them with some suitable capital outlay moneys. And as Mr. Lourie just commented, this is a problem that you see stated as the number one problem across the country in all of the surveys that we've taken with charter schools.

Dr. Lennard. Mr. Chairman, this is not unlike the same problems that the public schools are facing, particularly in growth areas as we continue to try and balance those new schools that we have to build or new seat stations to accommodate new students, while at the same time maintain the older structures.

For instance, here in Hillsborough County, we have some buildings that have reached the Social Security age. That's why I was glad to hear from time to time that there has been some interest in Congress for providing growth cities with some help in capital outlay, as well. That's so important in public schools, as well as public charter schools. Once again, I mentioned that here in Hillsborough County, the public charter is a cooperative effort. It's not one or the other; it is a cooperative effort.

Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you. Mr. Davis?

Mr. Davis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman; I want to start with a comment. One is, I take a lot of pride in writing this original law, and I think it's a model for the country. Your relationship described today reflects that. I think the 90 percent is written into the statute.

The problem that Dr. Lennard referred to, I wanted to make sure you knew that you are one of the most stressed-out school districts in the State and probably among the top in the country in terms of being behind in fixing up some of our older schools and building new schools. We have new schools opening up here that have a lot of portables the second year they're in operation, and so that's why Dr. Lennard is expressing some difficulty in allocating a larger share of capital dollars to these schools.

The other point I wanted to make, Mr. Chairman, is that I'm a very strong supporter of charter schools, but one of the things I worry about is the economics of this, particularly when you have to carry the interest expense or your lease expense on your facilities. Only time will tell if you can survive. I hope you can. One of the ways we can help out is by extending some of the Federal startup dollars, from 3 years to 5 years as you mentioned, Ms. Nelson, and also just increasing the size of the pot as more and more charter schools develop.

Dr. Bennett, what I wanted to ask you is two questions, and I'll go ahead and ask both of them. In your written statement, you referred to how you would use the freedom that you would get as a charter district, and you specifically mentioned giving your principals and the people that work in your schools a lot more authority. I am very interested in what your principals are telling you they will do with that authority.

The second thing I wanted to ask you about sort of sums up the issue we've been mentioning that the Chairman described about excessive paperwork. We talk about accountability, we have to show results just as you all do in terms of how money is spent, and we've been doing a lot of testing. We have been doing a lot of testing. I mean, we have been spending more time testing than perhaps in the history of our school system, and I want to ask you the question: How are you going to measure success of the children in your system, how are you going to show accountability without perhaps having to go through a barrage of paperwork and testing?

Dr. Bennett. Representative, first, with respect to your initial question: The authority that we see at the local school level is a shared authority involving the principal with what's call the SAC, the School Advisory Council. There's no question that in the future, it's going to be more fun to be a principal, and more fun to be on the SAC because so much more discretion will be available at the local level.

Let me just cite a couple of examples of statute as it operates presently in schools in Florida and what would happen under the charter district arrangement. Presently in Florida, 50 percent of the instructional materials are required to be bought from a State-approved list. Twenty years ago, it was 5 when publishing companies were turning out a handful of documents a year that needed review. You know that hundreds of potentially new curricula are available every day and created every day on the Internet. And so, we would look forward then to the opportunity of having complete discretion with regard to curriculum choices and curriculum materials.

A curious feature of Florida law is that presently if a classroom teacher refers more than 25 percent of his or her students to the principal's office, that teacher comes under a close-scrutiny disciplinary review process. We think those kinds of decisions as to who deserves to be under a close-scrutiny disciplinary process ought to be made at the local school level, not by a Tallahassee 25 percent cutoff.

In all these matters, we believe that while schools need to have more flexibility with regard to means, we at the district level have to become even more assiduous with regard to results and ends; that is, we're going to be monitoring the performance of schools much more and publicly reporting that performance. Part of that is what we visualize in terms of working cooperatively with the State in establishing future measures of outcomes. Rather than trying to divorce ourselves from the State testing program, we're going to fully cooperate in that testing program, but we're going to look at some other measures, as well. And we think in cooperation with the Testing and Measurement Department of the State, we can begin pioneering some new looks at outcomes and accountability so that for schools we have an evaluation that is value added, that looks at where students come in and what kind of progress students gain over that time period. Their school performance is the sum total, then, of the gains of students.

I appreciated Superintendent May's comments with regard to aspects of gain as a basis of future performance. By the way, the State of Florida, in its revision of its present plan, is looking at exactly that kind of system, a value-added or "gain" system.

Mr. Gallagher. I might mention that, as Dr. Bennett said, we are very interested in gains. We also are very interested in measuring where a school is in regards to their students at levels that aren't expected levels. And one of the concerns that we had in our grading system, is a concern that the districts have and we actually came a little bit apart from quite a few of the districts in this area. It's one that we're going to stay very firm on, although gains are extremely important. One of the things that can happen if you move to strictly gains and you start grading schools based on gains only, is you can end up with fifth graders reading at first grade level, or this year they are at third grade level, and they had a great gain. Unfortunately, if you move them on to the sixth grade, you didn't do them any favors.

One of the biggest problems we have, I think, in this State and quite possibly in the country, but certainly in this State is the continuation of promoting students to the next grade level when in fact they have not completed the work and are not ready for the next grade level. We would not have a 60 percent graduation rate in the State of Florida, which is what we have with those ninth graders that enter high school; 60 percent are getting a diploma. We would not have those kinds of problems if we would have seen to it that at the early ages, and this means that you have very strong pre-K programs to have this work, not to promote students from kindergarten to first grade unless they're ready; first grade to second grade unless they're ready. If it means having second graders as 16-year-olds, then so be it, but the bottom line is you're not doing the students or the public a favor by continuing to social-promote.

Now, this year, fourth graders, in order to move to fifth grade, must have approval by the school board according to State law. And we expect anywhere from 15 to 25 percent, depending upon the district, not to have met the criteria of that district to move to the next grade. Hopefully, we would see that expand so that we don't continue promoting students. If those are your problem students, there's no doubt about it, when you have a student that's four or five grades behind in a class, they're going to be a problem for the teacher and the other students.

Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you. I think in Washington, we're going to move somewhere along the lines of providing States and local school districts with more flexibility. Exactly how far and how fast, I can't tell you, but I think that train has left the station, and that's the direction that we're going in.

You know, I want to just speculate, Mr. May and Mr. Gallagher that you're both right in parts of what you're talking about with regard to these opportunity scholarships. We went into the Bronx, 3 or 4 years ago when New York was going to open up their schools, and they didn't have enough desks for 5- to 10,000 students. We went there because at that point in time, Cardinal O'Connor said "I've got room in my schools."

I know that we've been talking about vouchers and tuition tax credits and all of those types of things, and you know, what you're afraid of is we're going to cream your students or take your best students through the voucher program. Cardinal O’Connor said, "I've got room for the 10,000 students that you don't have desks for. I'll make a deal with you, and you send whatever 10,000 students you want, and we'll make room for them in the Catholic schools." I don't know if 10,000 was the right number, but it was a significant number.

We went to New York City, and we had a hearing similar to this. In New York City and in New York, they didn't have the kind of opportunity scholarships that they have in Florida now, and it was tied up in the courts. We had a parent much like Ms. Richardson who came in, but this father came in and said, "You know, a few years ago, I had to put my son into the schools. We knew they were bad schools. Every indication was that they were bad schools and that the kids weren't learning, but at that point in time, the New York public schools had a 5-year improvement plan, and at that point in time, I didn't have an opportunity to send them somewhere else, and I hoped for the best. But my son has now been in this school for 5 years, and the schools are worse than what they were 5 years ago. But the schools have good news: They have another 5-year improvement plan."

Mr. Gallagher. That happened to be 20 years ago, too.

Chairman Hoekstra. Yes, they've got a long track record of 5-year plans. And he said, "You know, the end result is my child is going to lose the opportunity to have a good education because I have nowhere else to go. Isn't there room somewhere?"

I remember the debate in Michigan that talked about charter schools dealing a severe blow to public education, and it didn't turn out that way. As a matter of fact, in many places, the process of going through the chartering and that whole debate has resulted in a lot of good people working together to improve education in the community.

You cited the statistics in your district that only 52 kids took advantage of it, meaning that people are not going to flee the public school system. As a matter of fact, I think in Mr. Gallagher's testimony, as a result of the opportunity scholarships that are made in the school district, who knows that charters would have happened with or without the opportunity scholarship.

But isn't there a possibility that, other than your statement that I'm opposed to with regard to using public money for funding kids going to other schools, you're both right? It is and can be a force for change and for improvement, and at the same time, it's not going to be the severe blow to public education that some have maybe said it would be.

Mr. May. I think you're probably right in that. First of all, the idea here, I believe, is about parental choice, and I support parental choice 100 percent. And I think well before the voucher ever came along, we had parental choice. We were allowing parents to make decisions to move their children well ahead of parental vouchers, and we are now coming up with a plan well within a year that would give us school wide choice in our district that would give us 50,000 students.

But, Honorable Chairman, what concerns me is the discourse that I'm hearing, that there's this abandonment of public education. Now, I don't know what public education is like in New York City. I can only tell you what public education is like in Pensacola, Florida. And I can only tell you that if you look at the test scores, there has been a 3 to 5 percent increase every year in every school. That's not failure. That's continuous improvement.

But I think what we ought to be about is continuous improvement for all students in all schools. And if you look at national trends, there are fewer dropouts today than there ever has been in this nation. Scores are going up on SATs and other college placement scores. The number of students taking advanced-placement classes, college trig, analytical geometry, calculus and space-time physics, all of those things are going up. The point I'm making is that it's not as doomsday as what I'm hearing. Public education is making major gains, and I think abandonment is not the way to go.

Chairman Hoekstra. Well, I don't think anybody is talking about abandonment. And you know on the flip side we also see, I think in some of the first hearings we had we were in California, some pockets of excellence and also some pockets of real learning. What we're concerned about is what happens in those areas where learning isn't happening.

I'm glad to hear these things about advanced placement, but I think one of the fastest-growing programs in college education today is remediation. One of the first hearings we had involved the college presidents coming in and saying, "Make sure you don't cover remediation," and he kind of looked at me, and I said, "What do you mean, remediation?" And he said, "Well, you know, 25 percent of the kids accepted into college, need to be remediated in English, reading and math."

Mr. Gallagher. I'll be glad to give you some Florida statistics. Sixty percent of

students who enter our community colleges have to have remediation for math and reading.

Chairman Hoekstra. That's community college.

Mr. Gallagher. Yes.

Dr. Lennard. Open-door policy, right off the street, GED, whatever?

Mr. Gallagher. Well, I'll get to more basics. We have a free and public education system in the State of Florida, and we have 25 to 30 percent of our population illiterate, and it was the same 20 years ago. Although we have done a wonderful job with more AP courses and higher SAT scores and all that, that's from the same generation after generation that believe in an education and know the importance of it. But yet, our society cannot continue with 25 to 30 percent of it being illiterate.

Seventy-four percent of our prisoners are illiterate. Ninety-six percent of illiterate mothers end up with illiterate children. These aren't foreigners that moved here. This is our people in our society that are not going to have a chance at the American dream because, in fact, we in the public education system have not pulled them up and gotten them an education.

Now, we can blame it on parents, and we can blame it on their socioeconomic background, we can blame it on everybody, but the bottom line is we as a society suffer, and so the blame is on us. We have got to figure out whatever it takes, if it means going out to the houses and bringing the kids to school because they don't come, or if it means arresting the parents because the kids don't come. We have a law to do that now, and I know a lot of the superintendents are going so far, including Superintendent May, to do just that. But the bottom line is that we as a society will have a tremendous gap of the haves and have-nots if this free and public education system does see to it that every child gets an education.

Ms. Nelson. I would just like to frankly complement the State of Florida for their support of charter schools, which may well be part of the answer in providing choice to parents and showing some alternative ways of educating youngsters. The growth that we've seen of charter schools in Florida has really been astounding, and I believe in just a few short years, we're either third or fourth in the Nation in terms of how many charter schools we do have.

I would also like to thank Dr. Lennard, because in my travels across the State and in fact across the country, in talking with various charter leaders, I think Dr. Lennard does really try to make it his business to touch base with a lot of charter schools right here in Hillsborough County. And Hillsborough itself has gone from 3 to 13 charter schools next year. And I think that, again, is a very positive step for education, and I believe that educational leaders who are reinforcing this are looking to make some very positive change happen for children.

Chairman Hoekstra. The only schools that we have responsibility for are in Washington, D.C. They can't tell us how many kids go there, but it's somewhere between 60- and 80,000 kids. The buildings are falling apart.

And when Mr. Lourie and I were talking this morning, I heard that in Florida, you're paying $3,700 to $4,000 per student. I think the last time I checked a couple of years ago, it was $10,000 per student in Washington, and the buildings are falling apart, and their test scores are some of the lowest in the country. And so, from the other hearings that we've had, we know it's not an issue of money. You know, some of the schools are doing tremendously, spending even less than you are. And some of the schools that are spending the most are getting some of the lowest test scores.

But there is a passion, I think, in Congress and in State legislatures, and I applaud the work that you're doing. How do you go after that chronic population that we just can't seem to reach, because we as a society do pay a tremendous price for leaving any kid behind? Mr. Davis?

Mr. Davis. Mr. Chairman, one of the things that we've talked about today, I think, is tremendously important and is engaging and empowering parents. Ms. Richardson said it better than anybody, because one of my fears is that the system we're talking about is so large that we really need to galvanize some agents for change. I think that parents are some of the best agents. I mean, if you don't advocate for your children, who will?

And I would like to ask everybody on the panel who would like to respond: How much success can we get through the charter school, through the public school choice, or through the magnet school program to really get parents invested in their children's education and their children's school?

Mr. Gallagher. I'll start. I think those are all wonderful programs, and the people that take advantage of them are those that already have choices to start with. They could send their children to private schools if they chose. They choose to move into a good school system and send their children there. They take advantage of educational opportunities, and there are wonderful ones that exist in the public school system. I think they're all wonderful.

But what I'm most concerned about is the parents that have no choice where their kids go to school in many cases because they live in projects. They don't have a choice in regards to what output comes from that school, and that's where all our D and F schools come from. And you know, I mentioned that 25 to 30 percent of our population is illiterate. I don't know that there's a direct correlation, but I will tell if you total up the D and F schools, it's 28 percent in the State of Florida.

And so, what our program basically says is very similar to what you said, Mr. Davis, and that is we give all parents choices, not just the ones that can afford to go to a private school or can afford to buy a house in a nice school district, but give every child's parent, first of all, that choice. And then when you have parents that aren't involved, we have a lot smaller group that we have to go work toward as opposed to not having had that choice.

And the truth of the matter is that many of the children that come into those schools that are F schools never had a choice on anything in their lives. They didn't have a choice of what they were going to wear for that day; they didn't have a choice of what they're going to eat. And when you give them a multiple-choice test, they don't even know what that means. They don't have any choice.

And so we have got to have a way to give those parents choices, not just the ones whose kids do great in education and can go to magnet schools and can pass AP courses and all of those wonderful choices because they're great, you know, and I think we need to have those. But let me tell you this: I think those parents are going to take care of their kids and they're going to be fine.

If we shut the public education system down right now, 20 years from now, you know what I believe? I believe we'll have a 25 to 30 percent illiteracy factor, because those parents that care, know the importance of an education, and would see to it that they got one, one way or another. And yet, when we have a free and public education system, why wouldn't we be seeing to it that those children whose parents didn't have the benefit of an education themselves don't realize the importance of it for the American dream; that's where we have to figure out how to get to them.

Mr. Davis. Well, Commissioner Gallagher, I hope Hillsborough is not alone in this regard, but that's not a correct statement with respect to where we put our magnet school programs here. I mean, some of our best magnet school programs are right in the middle. Let me just finish my point.

Mr. Gallagher. But the kids that are going to that school are not from that neighborhood.

Mr. Davis. No, that's not correct. And I can't speak for the rest of the State, but let me take a very specific example: Take Young Middle School, which is over in the college area, which is in the second-most impoverished statehouse district in the State of Florida behind Liberty City. You ought to go visit this school. They have a math and science program, they had this NASA simulation program where these kids get to practice landing a module on the moon; we helped them get some grants.

This kid came from the suburbs to go to that school, and he went up to the principal, Margaret Fisher, who said, "How do you like your new school," and he said, "It's great. It sure beats public school," and that was a public school. Dr. Lennard can comment upon the extent to which the kids in the neighborhood are going to that school, but that's what you're talking about. We need to have more of these choices available for all our parents.

Mr. Gallagher. Well, let me say something for Dr. Lennard. Dr. Lennard said that he will take a 5 percent cut and most of his administrators will do the same thing if they have an F school in his district. How about that for a step up?

Dr. Bennett. Back in 1976, I began the magnet school concept as an element of the voluntary desegregation program, and that was in Milwaukee. I've served as a consultant in most of the States in the development of over 400 magnet schools. So, based on that experience and coupled with the more recent experience as a consultant with charter schools, you're right about the characteristic of these schools as having an intense set of adults; most parents, but not all, who really come to the aid and daily assistance of that school.

I recently surveyed the amount of volunteerism in the Sarasota schools and found that in our poverty schools, one of the elementary schools had 10 adult volunteers annually versus 460 volunteers in our more affluent schools. Fortunately, this is something we can do something about. When we put the word out regarding the circumstances and the need for more adult volunteers in some of these inner city schools, we had over 2,000 people immediately come forward and indicate an interest. Our volunteer level went from 5,000 volunteers in the system to 7,000 volunteers in the school district in just 2 months' time period.

We have to find tactics and strategies for creating this intense adult interest in participating in public schools where we bring the grandmothers and the grandfathers in along with the parents. In many circumstances, the parents are working individuals and just can't be there and help during the day. But in doing so, I think we can create an enthusiasm and an excitement in those kinds of environments, the same kind of thing that you see in the start-up of a magnet school and the charter schools.

Dr. Lennard. If I could very briefly comment: We've looked at ways that we can make our public schools the schools of choice for the people in Hillsborough County so that they will want to send their youngsters to those schools. And a part of that are the magnet schools, as Congressman Davis just mentioned, where we have a proximity zone around that magnet zone in the urban area. We also have those youngsters that would apply to go there, and so the benefits are extended to those youngsters in that proximity zone, as well, or their home boundary. And we've found that tactics like this work.

We embrace the fact that social promotion was something that needed to be looked at, and in 3 years before the State did, Hillsborough County removed social promotion from our books. But "routining" a youngster without providing some sort of an intervention and an instructional program does nothing but exacerbate the problems of that youngster and the possibility of failure in future years. You've got to place some sort of intervention so that the youngster will find some other ways to learn, and that may be a charter school or something that is outside a normal public school setting. So, we have looked at those kinds of things.

I think I would like to say that the real issue here is that we no longer have the option of educating everyone in the United States of America. At one time, that was an option, you could get an education and go onto the professions and could be very successful. Today, you no longer have that option. What you have to do is educate everyone, and along with that great education and being successful, you could also drop out and be successful. You can't do that today.

I recognize that a generation ago, people dropped out to go to work. I think we've all heard of our grandparents, or our parents' period of time when that was the custom. Today, you cannot go to work if you drop out, and I think that is a key element for all of us, whether we're educators in the Federal Government, in the State, whether we're superintendents, whether we're charter schools, or whether we're parents who are looking for a way to ensure that our sons and our daughters are educated. We've got to join together and find the resources that are required, the initiatives, and the way to ensure that everyone in our school district, everyone in our State, and everyone in our nation is educated. And I think the key right there is to continue looking for that, and continue looking for ways to help the public school systems, as well.

And I have heard that there's no such way as abandonment of that system, but this is what's made America great. Without this free, great public school system that we have, we would not be the country we are today. And with that, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to be here with you. And I would like to thank you for all of your interest, because you don't have to be here. You are, and that's important to us, and I appreciate it.

Ms. Richardson. I would like to say that there are three different kinds of parents that I see. I myself am a doer that tries to juggle a family life and take part in my child's education, work, and take care of the family. The second parent would be the type that's willing but they don't understand how, perhaps because they're uneducated themselves and they don't know how to help their kids with their homework. And then, there's the parent who is absolutely unwilling, which is a lot of the parents that are involved in this situation.

And I think if we came up with a program that would help get the parents motivated and get them into the school system to help as well, that would have a great impact on the public school system. Thank you.

Chairman Hoekstra. Mr. Lourie?

Mr. Lourie. Everyone here is talking about choice and freedom. You said you felt like you won the lottery. Well, the lottery is there when you have a charter school. Our school was founded by parents and 90 percent of our governing board is parents of current students. There are parents here all the time. This is an example of how parents can be involved.

Congressman Schaffer, you're involved in your child's charter school. There's a sense of futility in the system if you feel like you have to go to this school and you can't do anything about it and you have all of these statutes. But the founder of our school was unhappy with the way things were going despite her efforts to change things, when someone said to her, "Well, all right, go start a charter school." Well, she did, and all the parents are on board right now.

So, charter school law gives the opportunity for parents to do something if they want to change how their children are educated.

Chairman Hoekstra. Ms. Nelson?

Ms. Nelson. I think that charter schools are showing something else. I think that when charter schools started catching on within the State and within the country, people felt that it was going to be mostly middle-class households that were going to be taking part in these programs. What happens is that you're getting everyone across the board, and the lower socioeconomic parents are mostly represented. And these parents who were not active in their other schools are coming across the State of Florida and enrolling their youngsters within these programs.

When I look at my particular population, we serve some of the most difficult youngsters that there are. These are youngsters who have psychiatric illnesses, or who have severe, severe behavioral problems who have been unsuccessful in the schools. These were youngsters who were violent, turned off to education, and their parents didn't want any part of any school, because to be connected to any school was to hear negative things about your youngsters.

I've always been in special education my whole career, and there's a standing joke: When you have a PTA meeting for parents of special needs kids that your staff is always going to outnumber your parents, and this has always been true. So, you try to get stimulating PTA meetings, and I would be looking across the table at my assistant principal and my PTA board, and no one else came.

When we had our first PTA meeting and the continuing meetings we have had, I was astounded. One of the teachers said, "Should we set it up in the gym," and I said, "In the gym? Are you kidding? You're going to hear our echoes resounding in the halls." I said, "Let's make it in the hallway or it's going to be pretty much empty." All but two of our parents showed up, and our parents come from all over Hillsborough County, and they came to the school. And they are vested.

These disenfranchised parents are vested in their children's education. Why? Because we, like many other charter schools, try to find out what is happening in family dynamics. If we need a meeting at night, we stay late at night. We'll meet them on Saturdays or Sundays at the school. If a parent can't get out of the house, the staff goes into the home to have a home meeting. If they need it in their offices after work, we'll go to their offices because the bottom line is, we're interested in their children. And after a period of time, they buy into our interest, they start buying into the school, and we start changing children's behavior. In our particular case and in the case of some of the other charter schools, as well, you talk about accountability.

Some of these children are not going to grow until and unless you take care of the emotional problems that are making them unavailable for learning in the classroom. Charter schools are typically small enough to be able to zoom in on what the problem is, and then we can return them into the mainstream where the regular schools can do a very admirable job of beginning to remediate them academically.

But can you reach the parents? You sure can.

Chairman Hoekstra. Did you want to add to her statement?

Mr. May. No, I would just like to add to what Superintendent Lennard said and say thank you for the opportunity to speak to this group. It seems we're making a closing statement, so my closing statement would be this about accountability, and about making us responsible for a year's worth of learning. I support that 100 percent.

I would also suggest to those of you that make policies and make laws that some year we take the opportunity to just not make any. Let us take an opportunity for laws to go into effect instead of 1,500 new ones each year that we can't keep up with in terms of implementing them in our schools. If you will just look at what's happening in the State of Florida today, you'll see 1,500 new laws. I will say to you that accountability is not only for public schools, it's for the lawmakers that make these major decisions about what's going to happen.

I hope, again, that you've learned something about how we feel about the program itself. I do think that you've seen one thing that we all believe together. We believe all students can learn and should learn, and for that, it's been worthwhile for me. Thank you.

Chairman Hoekstra. Thank you. Mr. Schaffer, do you still have some more questions?

Mr. Schaffer. I still had some more. Everybody is making their closing comments, but I have some more questions.

Ms. Richardson, your testimony today has been particularly inspiring to me. The concern for your daughter that led you to a level of activism with respect to public schools is largely the same as my concern for my kids that led me to get involved in Congress and running for Congress with respect to the schools.

What is your daughter's name?

Ms. Richardson. Khaliah.

Mr. Schaffer. Fundamentally, the person that bears the ultimate responsibility for educating Khaliah is you, and the person that bears the ultimate responsibility for educating my kids are my wife and me. And to that extent, we hire government to teach our kids. That's what public education is all about.

Now, some and most people in government education for the most part, have lost that viewpoint over time. Outside of a sense of altruism, there is no real institutional motivation for government-owned monopoly schooling to measure themselves and to improve. There's no market-driven effort in that respect, and so that's why public officials like Commissioner Gallagher and me and the rest of us here, spend so much time on education issues and so on.

I think one of the most dramatic reforms that is taking place and the most encouraging one is that government officials are finally getting the message from parents like you that want to see market-driven approaches to government-owned monopoly schooling and want to break that monopoly up to some extent so that we start focusing on the outcome of children and what helps children learn rather than which institutions get the most amount of cash. From that standpoint, it's kind of a dilemma for the government to be telling you and me which schools deserve A's or which schools deserve F’s. It's the government trying to rate its own product and sell it to us.

And so my question is: As the parent that is responsible for your own education, do you need the State of Florida to tell you whether her school deserves an A or an F? Does that make any difference? Would you still want to choose the setting that earns your confidence regardless?

Ms. Richardson. I would. I would still want the choice to decide where my child goes to school.

Mr. Schaffer. Let me say: If the State of Florida rated the previous school where your daughter was at and gave it an A, would you still want to take your kid somewhere else?

Ms. Richardson. I would still want that choice.

Mr. Schaffer. You know actually, what Mr. May finds appalling I find to be something we ought to strive toward, actually. I don't think that when we allow parents to take their dollars and put it behind educating their child in any setting, that that harms public education or represents any kind of abandoning effect. In fact, I have the confidence that public schools can compete well, given a free market or given an environment for competitiveness. And I'm encouraged that there is some State in the Union, Florida, where parents are given the choice to choose the academic setting that earns their confidence and is in the best interests of their child.

I'm hopeful that we're able to see that flourish in other places throughout the country. And your testimony today, I think, bears very direct witness and evidence to the power of parental involvement. And that statement has been made; we need to find ways for parents to get more involved in schools.

I submit you can invite parents to all the forums and parent nights and so on in a monopoly school, and some of them may attend and some of them may actually be helpful and be fruitful. But really what engages parents is choice, which gives them the moral obligation to be in charge of their child's schooling. When government stands in the way and says that I can only spend my money on schools as a taxpayer, that really drives a wedge between the government and parents, and I think we need to pull that wedge out and focus on an effort nationwide. Our goal is to support children, not support certain buildings, certain government jurisdictions and so on.

Mr. Gallagher. In keeping with what you just said, let me just give you a real quick overview of Bibbs and Dixon. There were about 900 students in those two schools, and for the first time in the history of Florida, those parents were going to get a choice because the school had been rated an F. Now, I will tell you that those schools are doing a wonderful job in increasing student learning in those two schools.

What happened was a tremendous give and take going on, I mean major. The principals and the teachers got involved trying to get the parents to stay where they were. Would you agree with that?

Ms. Richardson. Oh, I definitely agree.

Mr. Gallagher. Major involvement. At the same time, over 100 parents were invited to choose the private alternatives, and 100 parents wanted a choice, and there were only at that time 60 openings. So there was a lottery of which 60 got to go and 40 didn't get chosen. Now, there are only 52 that are still in the private schools, because they had a choice to go back just like you and I would have if we wanted to put our children back.

The principals and teachers said, "Look at the programs we're going to have here in this public school. Please stay," and many parents said, "Great, I will. I like what you're doing. I like that the principals are given the authority to move teachers out of the school." That doesn't sound like a big deal, but I will tell you that in public education, that's a big deal. "And we're going to make sure that the teachers that are here offer your kids the best." and so there was a major contest, a little competition. Everybody wanted those parents.

The public schools wanted to keep the parents there. The private schools wanted to make their offering there, and of course, they had the choice of another private school. I don't think I've seen anything healthier in the entire State of Florida than that. We saw parents that were talked into keeping their children there and were basically given a commitment by the principals and teachers saying, "We're going to really do something good for your kids. Please leave them here and let us do it." I think that's an important part of what public education ought to do, but the parents should have that final choice, as you said, Mr. Schaffer.

Ms. Richardson. But I would also like to add that the schools did not fail overnight. This is something that's been going on, it's a progressive thing. And like Commissioner Gallagher suggested, the schools finally said, "Hey, stay. You know, we're going to do this, we're going to do that if you stay." Competition is good. Anytime there's competition in any arena, it puts pressure on both sides to prove who's better.

Mr. Schaffer. If Mr. May suggested it was possible for you to choose another government-owned school, why weren't you satisfied with any of the other choices?

Ms. Richardson. I'm sorry, as far as what?

Mr. Schaffer. Sending your child to a different school in your school district.

Ms. Richardson. Well, I wasn't aware of a choice like that. I don't think a lot of parents were. It wouldn't have been convenient for me because most of the schools that were better were in the suburbs. They were in the outlying areas where I wouldn't have had transportation. It wouldn't have been convenient for my job because I would have had to arrange for day care, so those issues would have been a problem.

Mr. Gallagher. Let me just mention, believe it or not this was probably our failure in the State, that the transportation was provided for those 84 parents who did choose to go to other private schools. Transportation is one of the things that the law says will be provided. Those parents that take the choice to go to a private school, Catholic or otherwise, may not have the freedom of a lunch option, and they have to provide their own transportation. So, there is a buy-in here that requires a parent to do more than just have their child walk out to get on a bus or to walk to school.

Dr. Bennett. As a strong advocate of public school choice and of charter schools in particular, I'm reminded, however that if you were to add up all of those presently attending charter schools nationwide and public and private-sponsored vouchers, you would have fewer than 1 percent of the public schools in these environments. I just spent 8 years in the private sector. If you were to offer up a 1 percent solution as something of a paradigm shift, frankly, in the private sector, that wouldn't even make the radar screen.

For those who remain, and I join with them that the charter is a strong advocate of this alternative solution, recognize that the vast majority of students, even under the most favorable scenario, will continue to attend the traditional public school system.

As public policymakers, I think we all need to keep our eye on the 99 percent. I know that Commissioner Gallagher does that, and in private conversations with the Governor, I know the Governor is strongly in favor of making sure that the 99 percent of students who attend the public school systems attend systems that have the same approach to maintaining the vitality of the systems. That's our dedication up here, to make sure that those public schools are exciting places to be, that stimulate the participation of parents and others in those schools to the extent that they do in charter schools. That needs to be our continuing commitment here today, and I again thank you for the opportunity to make these comments.

Mr. Schaffer. And again, I want to point out that I'm in agreement. I think our objectives are largely the same, but the 1 percent I don't believe should be the full measure or necessarily is. I think charter schools are a healthy and vibrant opportunity for private competition. Frankly I think it's not so much the focus on the people who have the opportunity of private schools; that kind of competition is essential for thriving public schools.

If I can just relate a quick example of my hometown back in Fort Collins, we had no choice in our district at all. There were very minimal opportunities for private education, but once we introduced a single charter school, it revolutionized the entire district. Even though a tiny percent sent their kids to that school, the fact is that other parents went to the parent night, and they came back, largely as Terrace Community has here in their book, and they said, "Here's what my fifth grader is going to learn in math. What are you going to teach my kid in the neighborhood schools?" And the neighborhood schools came up with answers, maybe not that day, but they came up with them pretty quickly.

By just introducing that small element of choice, I can tell you my entire public school district has improved dramatically in the 3 to 5 years that's it's been there. So, that's why I am inclined to do whatever we can to give the "Ms. Richardsons" of the world the greatest latitude to choose the academic setting that is in the best interest of their children. I fundamentally believe that will do more to promote nationwide improvement in public education than any strategy we can embark on just to limit our public funds, resources and interests to the government on monopoly schools around the world.

Chairman Hoekstra. Are you done?

Mr. Schaffer. For now.

Chairman Hoekstra. For now, all right.

I want to thank you very much for coming today. Again, we learned a lot, and we learned about some specific things that we may actually go back and try to fix in the legislation as we're working on the Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Again, it's been very informative, and I appreciate your time in being here very much.

Mr. Davis, thank you very much for joining us. And with no other business in front of the Subcommittee, the Subcommittee will be adjourned. Thank you.


Whereupon, the Subcommittee was adjourned.