Our Accountability Proposal, 2/21/11

posted Feb 22, 2012, 11:29 AM by Bill Duncan   [ updated Mar 30, 2012, 1:48 AM ]

3/30/12 Update:  Senator Forsythe, the author of the voucher proposal, has said that the accountability provisions added in response to our proposal, below, are responsible for some of the support the bill has gained in the Senate.  

However, there is no accountability provision in the legislation. Here, from the bill, is the parental survey each scholarship organization must submit to the State each year:

(11)(A) The aggregated results from a survey, designed by the department of revenue administration, and administered by the scholarship organization, which solicits information from at least 90 percent of the parents or legal guardians of participating students, broken down by the number of years in the program. In each case, the respondent shall be asked to gauge their level of agreement with the statement as follows: “strongly agree,” “agree,” “no change,” “disagree,” “strongly disagree.” The following statements shall be included in the survey:
(i) I am satisfied with the school my child is attending as compared to the school my child attended prior to the availability of the education tax credit program.
(ii) My child has seen a measurable improvement in academic achievement.
(iii) My child would have been unable to attend the school of his or her choice without the education tax credit program.
(B) The survey shall include the following question to the parent or legal guardian of a participating student: “Excluding the education tax credit scholarship, how much did you pay out of pocket for your child to attend school this year?”

Compare that to the Florida accountability provision, below.


Memorandum

To:          Senator Nancy Stiles, Representative  Stephen Stepanek, Representative Norman Major, Senator James Forsythe, Representative David Hess

Fm:        Bill Duncan

Re:         An accountability provision HB1607/SB372 Release 2.0

Date:     February 21, 2012

I oppose HB1607/SB372 because I think we should remain committed to our public schools rather than moving our children and tax money into private schools.  But I think that, with leadership behind it, it could pass, so I would like to propose a remedy to a particular concern I’ve had – accountability for the taxpayer money going to the private schools that will be the beneficiaries of our tax dollars.

HB1607/SB372, as originally filed, had a brief section on administrative accountability but I don’t see even that section in the Feb 16th version of the proposed amendment.  There aren’t even the standard strictures against hiring criminals, etc.

Whenever the accountability question comes up, HB 1607/SB372 supporters respond that private schools have the ultimate accountability – the parents can withdraw their children.  I think parents deserve more than that.  They would benefit from real academic assessment as part of their decision to place a child in the first place and as part of the basis of their decisions about whether to keep the child there. 

But that’s not the primary purpose of accountability in this kind of program.  It’s the taxpayers who deserve assurance that their money is well spent.  In addition, taxpayers should be able to determine whether the promised academic and competitive improvements materialize. 

This is the position taken by The Alliance for School Choice, ALEC and other major school choice advocacy organizations.

Here is what The Alliance for School Choice says about accountability:

"The Alliance for School Choice and our affiliate, the American Federation for Children, support strong, commonsense accountability provisions for private school choice programs to ensure the highest level of program quality and sustainability. To achieve this goal, we support public policies that allow for significant transparency to parents, policymakers, taxpayers, and independent evaluators in order to show the effectiveness of these programs. Responsible accountability standards demonstrate both a serious commitment to transparency while ensuring that participating schools maintain their autonomy.

.................

"We believe the school choice movement should encourage states to create new legislation and improve existing legislation so that there is significant transparency to all parties to show the effectiveness of these programs and the schools that participate in them. We also believe that academic information, including both snapshots of academic achievement and some measure of student gains, should be provided to parents and the public, both for voucher programs and tax credit scholarship programs."

Their web site shows the many accountability requirements in force in other states.

I propose that there should be administrative, fiscal and academic components of the accountability provision.  I have attached some possible language (Attachment 1.) based on sample legislation The Alliance for School Choice provides in hopes it would be a useful starting point for Legislative Services if you support the concept in principle. 

Release 2.0 Note

In response to Vice-Chair Major’s questions concerning how much of the accountability I am proposing was already in place in New Hampshire, I have added two more attachments.  Here is the current list of Attachments:

Attachment 1: Proposed Amendment

This is the amendment that I propose would improve HB1607/SB372 in the necessary ways.

Attachment 2: Accountability Provision Comparison

This is a table showing the important components of accountability, what states have implemented that component of accountability, whether DOE is already regulating non-public schools in that manner, whether the provisions are already in HB1607/SB372, and where that component of accountability is addressed in my proposed amendment (Attachment 1).

Attachment 3: The Florida Accountability Statutes

Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program  is frequently referred as a model for the proposed New Hampshire tax credit program.  Therefore, Attachment 3 shows the relevant portions of the Florida statute.  Florida’s extensive accountability requirements are probably one reason the program passed with bi-partisan support.

Attachment 4: Accountability Yields Important Information in Wisconsin

The importance of accountability in a school choice program is illustrated by last year’s results in Milwaukee, WI, the granddaddy of school choice programs.  For the first time, Wisconsin required private schools with voucher students to participate in the state’s standardized state-wide testing program for the first time (parents could choose to opt their child out).

The results show the that voucher schools under-performed the troubled Milwaukee public school system and demonstrates the risks of a school voucher program - the risk of not instituting an assessment program, the risk that the voucher program will not achieve its promise in educational improvement and the risk that access to easy government money will lead to exploitation such as that highlighted under "Low Performing Schools," below.

This article in the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal is the whole report.  The attachment shows the two key charts from the report.


 

Attachment 1. Proposed Amendment

XXX Accountability Standards for Receiving Schools

 

(A) Administrative Accountability Standards. All participating schools shall:

 

(1) comply with all health and safety laws or codes that apply to private

schools;

 

(2) hold a valid occupancy permit if required by their municipality;

 

(3) certify that they comply with the nondiscrimination policies set forth in 42 USC 1981;4, and

 

(4) conduct criminal background checks on employees. The participating school then shall:

 

(a) exclude from employment any people not permitted by state law to work in a private school; and

 

(b) exclude from employment any people that might reasonably pose a threat to the safety of students.

(B) Financial Accountability Standards. All participating private schools shall:


(1) demonstrate their financial accountability by:

 

(a) annually submitting to the Department of Revenue Administration a financial information report for the school that complies with uniform financial accounting standards established by the department and conducted by a certified public accountant; and

 

(b) having an auditor certify that the report is free of material misstatements and fairly represents the program's costs per pupil, including the costs of the testing required in subsection 3(C)(1)(a).  The auditor's report shall be limited in scope to those records that are necessary for the department to make payments to participating schools on behalf of parents for scholarships.

 

(2) demonstrate their financial viability by showing they can repay any

funds that might be owed the state, if they are to receive $50,000 or more

during the school year, by:

 

(a) filing with the department prior to the start of the school year a

surety bond payable to the state in an amount equal to the

aggregate amount of the Parental Choice Scholarships expected to

be paid during the school year to students admitted at the

participating school; or

 

(b) filing with the department prior to the start of the school year

financial information that demonstrates the school has the ability to

pay an aggregate amount equal to the amount of the Parental

Choice Scholarships expected to be paid during the school year to

students admitted at the participating school.

 

(C) Academic Accountability Standards. There must be sufficient information about

the academic impact parental choice scholarships have on participating students in

order to allow parents and taxpayers to measure the achievements of the program,

and therefore:

 

(1) participating schools shall:

 

(a) annually administer either the state achievement tests or

nationally recognized norm-referenced tests that measure learning

gains in math and language arts to all participating students in

grades that require testing under the state's accountability testing

laws for public schools;

 

(b) provide the parents of each student with a copy of the results of

the tests on an annual basis, beginning with the first year of testing;

 

(c) provide the test results to the state or an organization chosen by

the state  on an annual basis, beginning with the first year of

testing; and

 

(d) report student information that would allow state to aggregate

data by grade level, gender, family income level, and race; and

 

(e) provide graduation rates of participating students to the Department or an organization chosen by the state in a manner consistent with nationally recognized standards.

 

(2) the state or an organization chosen by the state shall:

 

(a) ensure compliance with all student privacy laws;

 

(b) collect all test results;

 

(c) provide the test results and associated learning gains to the

public via a state website after the third year of test and testrelated data collection; and

 

(d) aggregate the findings by the students' grade level, gender,

family income level, number of ye XXXX

 

XXXX. Evaluation of the Education Tax Credit Program

 

(A) The Department of Education may contract with one or more qualified researchers who have previous experience evaluating education programs to conduct a study of the program with funds other than state funds.

 

(B) The study shall assess:

 

(1) the level of parental satisfaction with the program;

 

(2) the level of participating students' satisfaction with the program;

 

(3) the impact of the program and the resulting competition from private

schools on the resident school districts, public school students, and quality

of life in a community;

 

(4) the impact of the program on public and private school capacity,

availability and quality; and

 

(5) participating student's academic performance and graduation rates in

comparison to students who applied for a scholarship under this program

but did not receive one because of random selection.

 

(C) The researchers who conduct the study shall:

 

(1) apply appropriate analytical and behavioral science methodologies to

ensure public confidence in the study.

 

(2) protect the identity of participating schools and students by, among

other things, keeping anonymous all disaggregated data other than that for

the categories of grade level, gender, family income level, race and

ethnicity.

 

(3) provide the Legislature with a final copy of the evaluation of the

program.

 

(D) The relevant public and participating private schools shall cooperate with the

research effort by providing student assessment results and any other data

necessary to complete this study

 

(E) The Legislative Service Agency may accept grants to assist in funding this

study.

 

(F) The study shall cover a period of five years. The legislature may require

periodic reports from the researchers. After publishing their results, the researchers

shall make their data and methodology available for public review while complying

with the requirements of FERPA (20 USC Section 1232 g).


Attachment 2: Accountability Provision Comparison



 

Attachment 3: Accountability Excerpts from the Florida Statute (Here is the full Florida Statute)

Part 1: The accountability provision of the Florida Statute

1002.421 Accountability of private schools participating in state school choice scholarship programs.

1(1) A Florida private school participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program established pursuant to s. 1002.395 or an educational scholarship program established pursuant to this chapter must comply with all requirements of this section in addition to private school requirements outlined in s. 1002.42, specific requirements identified within respective scholarship program laws, and other provisions of Florida law that apply to private schools.

(2) A private school participating in a scholarship program must be a Florida private school as defined in s. 1002.01(2), must be registered in accordance with s. 1002.42, and must:

(a) Comply with the antidiscrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. s. 2000d.

(b) Notify the department of its intent to participate in a scholarship program.

(c) Notify the department of any change in the school’s name, school director, mailing address, or physical location within 15 days after the change.

(d) Complete student enrollment and attendance verification requirements, including use of an online attendance verification form, prior to scholarship payment.

(e) Annually complete and submit to the department a notarized scholarship compliance statement certifying that all school employees and contracted personnel with direct student contact have undergone background screening pursuant to s. 943.0542.

(f) Demonstrate fiscal soundness and accountability by:

1. Being in operation for at least 3 school years or obtaining a surety bond or letter of credit for the amount equal to the scholarship funds for any quarter and filing the surety bond or letter of credit with the department.

2. Requiring the parent of each scholarship student to personally restrictively endorse the scholarship warrant to the school. The school may not act as attorney in fact for the parent of a scholarship student under the authority of a power of attorney executed by such parent, or under any other authority, to endorse scholarship warrants on behalf of such parent.

(g) Meet applicable state and local health, safety, and welfare laws, codes, and rules, including:

1. Firesafety.

2. Building safety.

(h) Employ or contract with teachers who hold baccalaureate or higher degrees, have at least 3 years of teaching experience in public or private schools, or have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in subjects taught.

(i) Require each employee and contracted personnel with direct student contact, upon employment or engagement to provide services, to undergo a state and national background screening, pursuant to s. 943.0542, by electronically filing with the Department of Law Enforcement a complete set of fingerprints taken by an authorized law enforcement agency or an employee of the private school, a school district, or a private company who is trained to take fingerprints and deny employment to or terminate an employee if he or she fails to meet the screening standards under s.435.04. Results of the screening shall be provided to the participating private school. For purposes of this paragraph:

1. An “employee or contracted personnel with direct student contact” means any employee or contracted personnel who has unsupervised access to a scholarship student for whom the private school is responsible.

2. The costs of fingerprinting and the background check shall not be borne by the state.

3. Continued employment of an employee or contracted personnel after notification that he or she has failed the background screening under this paragraph shall cause a private school to be ineligible for participation in a scholarship program.

4. An employee or contracted personnel holding a valid Florida teaching certificate who has been fingerprinted pursuant to s. 1012.32 is not required to comply with the provisions of this paragraph.

(3)(a) Beginning July 1, 2007, all fingerprints submitted to the Department of Law Enforcement as required by this section shall be retained by the Department of Law Enforcement in a manner provided by rule and entered in the statewide automated fingerprint identification system authorized by s. 943.05(2)(b). Such fingerprints shall thereafter be available for all purposes and uses authorized for arrest fingerprint cards entered in the statewide automated fingerprint identification system pursuant to s. 943.051.

(b) Beginning July 1, 2007, the Department of Law Enforcement shall search all arrest fingerprint cards received under s. 943.051 against the fingerprints retained in the statewide automated fingerprint identification system under paragraph (a). Any arrest record that is identified with the retained fingerprints of a person subject to the background screening under this section shall be reported to the employing school with which the person is affiliated. Each private school participating in a scholarship program is required to participate in this search process by informing the Department of Law Enforcement of any change in the employment or contractual status of its personnel whose fingerprints are retained under paragraph (a). The Department of Law Enforcement shall adopt a rule setting the amount of the annual fee to be imposed upon each private school for performing these searches and establishing the procedures for the retention of private school employee and contracted personnel fingerprints and the dissemination of search results. The fee may be borne by the private school or the person fingerprinted.

(c) Employees and contracted personnel whose fingerprints are not retained by the Department of Law Enforcement under paragraphs (a) and (b) are required to be refingerprinted and must meet state and national background screening requirements upon reemployment or reengagement to provide services in order to comply with the requirements of this section.

(d) Every 5 years following employment or engagement to provide services with a private school, employees or contracted personnel required to be screened under this section must meet screening standards under s. 435.04, at which time the private school shall request the Department of Law Enforcement to forward the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for national processing. If the fingerprints of employees or contracted personnel are not retained by the Department of Law Enforcement under paragraph (a), employees and contracted personnel must electronically file a complete set of fingerprints with the Department of Law Enforcement. Upon submission of fingerprints for this purpose, the private school shall request that the Department of Law Enforcement forward the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for national processing, and the fingerprints shall be retained by the Department of Law Enforcement under paragraph (a).

1(4) A private school that accepts scholarship students under s. 1002.39 or s. 1002.395 must:

(a) Disqualify instructional personnel and school administrators, as defined in s. 1012.01, from employment in any position that requires direct contact with students if the personnel or administrators are ineligible for such employment under s. 1012.315.

(b) Adopt policies establishing standards of ethical conduct for instructional personnel and school administrators. The policies must require all instructional personnel and school administrators, as defined in s. 1012.01, to complete training on the standards; establish the duty of instructional personnel and school administrators to report, and procedures for reporting, alleged misconduct by other instructional personnel and school administrators which affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student; and include an explanation of the liability protections provided under ss. 39.203 and768.095. A private school, or any of its employees, may not enter into a confidentiality agreement regarding terminated or dismissed instructional personnel or school administrators, or personnel or administrators who resign in lieu of termination, based in whole or in part on misconduct that affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student, and may not provide the instructional personnel or school administrators with employment references or discuss the personnel’s or administrators’ performance with prospective employers in another educational setting, without disclosing the personnel’s or administrators’ misconduct. Any part of an agreement or contract that has the purpose or effect of concealing misconduct by instructional personnel or school administrators which affects the health, safety, or welfare of a student is void, is contrary to public policy, and may not be enforced.

(c) Before employing instructional personnel or school administrators in any position that requires direct contact with students, conduct employment history checks of each of the personnel’s or administrators’ previous employers, screen the personnel or administrators through use of the educator screening tools described in s. 1001.10(5), and document the findings. If unable to contact a previous employer, the private school must document efforts to contact the employer.

The department shall suspend the payment of funds under ss. 1002.39 and 1002.395 to a private school that knowingly fails to comply with this subsection, and shall prohibit the school from enrolling new scholarship students, for 1 fiscal year and until the school complies.

(5) The inability of a private school to meet the requirements of this section shall constitute a basis for the ineligibility of the private school to participate in a scholarship program as determined by the department.

(6) The inclusion of eligible private schools within options available to Florida public school students does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, its officers, or any school district to impose any additional regulation of private schools beyond those reasonably necessary to enforce requirements expressly set forth in this section.

(7) The State Board of Education shall adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 to administer this section.

History.s. 3, ch. 2006-75; s. 16, ch. 2008-108; s. 7, ch. 2009-108; s. 16, ch. 2010-24.

1Note.Section 20, ch. 2010-24, provides that “[t]he Department of Revenue is authorized and all conditions are deemed met, to adopt emergency rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54, Florida Statutes, to administer the provisions of this act. The emergency rules shall remain in effect for 6 months after the rules are adopted and the rules may be renewed during the pendency of procedures to adopt permanent rules addressing the subject of the emergency rules.”

Part 2: Excerpts from the rest of the Florida Statute (emphasis added)

(8) PRIVATE SCHOOL ELIGIBILITY AND OBLIGATIONS.An eligible private school may be sectarian or nonsectarian and must:

(a) Comply with all requirements for private schools participating in state school choice scholarship programs pursuant to s. 1002.421. [this is the accountability section shown in Part 1, above]

(b) Provide to the eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization, upon request, all documentation required for the student’s participation, including the private school’s and student’s fee schedules.

(c) Be academically accountable to the parent for meeting the educational needs of the student by:

1. At a minimum, annually providing to the parent a written explanation of the student’s progress.

2. Annually administering or making provision for students participating in the scholarship program in grades 3 through 10 to take one of the nationally norm-referenced tests identified by the Department of Education. Students with disabilities for whom standardized testing is not appropriate are exempt from this requirement. A participating private school must report a student’s scores to the parent and to the independent research organization selected by the Department of Education as described in paragraph (9)(j).

3. Cooperating with the scholarship student whose parent chooses to have the student participate in the statewide assessments pursuant to s. 1008.22. [this is the student assessment carried on in the public schools]

(d) Employ or contract with teachers who have regular and direct contact with each student receiving a scholarship under this section at the school’s physical location.

(e) Annually contract with an independent certified public accountant to perform the agreed-upon procedures developed under paragraph (6)(n) and produce a report of the results if the private school receives more than $250,000 in funds from scholarships awarded under this section in the 2010-2011 state fiscal year or a state fiscal year thereafter. A private school subject to this paragraph must submit the report by September 15, 2011, and annually thereafter to the scholarship-funding organization that awarded the majority of the school’s scholarship funds. The agreed-upon procedures must be conducted in accordance with attestation standards established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

The inability of a private school to meet the requirements of this subsection shall constitute a basis for the ineligibility of the private school to participate in the scholarship program as determined by the Department of Education.

(9) DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OBLIGATIONS.The Department of Education shall:

(a) Annually submit to the department and division, by March 15, a list of eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations that meet the requirements of paragraph (2)(f).

(b) Annually verify the eligibility of nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations that meet the requirements of paragraph (2)(f).

(c) Annually verify the eligibility of private schools that meet the requirements of subsection (8).

(d) Annually verify the eligibility of expenditures as provided in paragraph (6)(d) using the audit required by paragraph (6)(l).

(e) Establish a toll-free hotline that provides parents and private schools with information on participation in the scholarship program.

(f) Establish a process by which individuals may notify the Department of Education of any violation by a parent, private school, or school district of state laws relating to program participation. The Department of Education shall conduct an inquiry of any written complaint of a violation of this section, or make a referral to the appropriate agency for an investigation, if the complaint is signed by the complainant and is legally sufficient. A complaint is legally sufficient if it contains ultimate facts that show that a violation of this section or any rule adopted by the State Board of Education has occurred. In order to determine legal sufficiency, the Department of Education may require supporting information or documentation from the complainant. A department inquiry is not subject to the requirements of chapter 120.

(g) Require an annual, notarized, sworn compliance statement by participating private schools certifying compliance with state laws and shall retain such records.

(h) Cross-check the list of participating scholarship students with the public school enrollment lists to avoid duplication.

(i) Maintain a list of nationally norm-referenced tests identified for purposes of satisfying the testing requirement in subparagraph (8)(c)2. The tests must meet industry standards of quality in accordance with State Board of Education rule.

(j) Select an independent research organization, which may be a public or private entity or university, to which participating private schools must report the scores of participating students on the nationally norm-referenced tests administered by the private school in grades 3 through 10.

1. The independent research organization must annually report to the Department of Education on the year-to-year learning gains of participating students:

a. On a statewide basis. The report shall also include, to the extent possible, a comparison of these learning gains to the statewide learning gains of public school students with socioeconomic backgrounds similar to those of students participating in the scholarship program. To minimize costs and reduce time required for the independent research organization’s analysis and evaluation, the Department of Education shall conduct analyses of matched students from public school assessment data and calculate control group learning gains using an agreed-upon methodology outlined in the contract with the independent research organization; and

b. According to each participating private school in which there are at least 30 participating students who have scores for tests administered during or after the 2009-2010 school year for 2 consecutive years at that private school.

2. The sharing and reporting of student learning gain data under this paragraph must be in accordance with requirements of 20 U.S.C. s. 1232g, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and shall be for the sole purpose of creating the annual report required by subparagraph 1. All parties must preserve the confidentiality of such information as required by law. The annual report must not disaggregate data to a level that will identify individual participating schools, except as required under sub-subparagraph 1.b., or disclose the academic level of individual students.

3. The annual report required by subparagraph 1. shall be published by the Department of Education on its website.

(k) Notify an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization of any of the organization’s identified students who are receiving educational scholarships pursuant to chapter 1002.

(l) Notify an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization of any of the organization’s identified students who are receiving tax credit scholarships from other eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organizations.

(m) Require quarterly reports by an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization regarding the number of students participating in the scholarship program, the private schools at which the students are enrolled, and other information deemed necessary by the Department of Education.

(n)1. Conduct random site visits to private schools participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The purpose of the site visits is solely to verify the information reported by the schools concerning the enrollment and attendance of students, the credentials of teachers, background screening of teachers, and teachers’ fingerprinting results. The Department of Education may not make more than seven random site visits each year and may not make more than one random site visit each year to the same private school.

2. Annually, by December 15, report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives the Department of Education’s actions with respect to implementing accountability in the scholarship program under this section and s. 1002.421, any substantiated allegations or violations of law or rule by an eligible private school under this program concerning the enrollment and attendance of students, the credentials of teachers, background screening of teachers, and teachers’ fingerprinting results and the corrective action taken by the Department of Education.

(o) Provide a process to match the direct certification list with the scholarship application data submitted by any nonprofit scholarship-funding organization eligible to receive the 3-percent administrative allowance under paragraph (6)(i).

(10) SCHOOL DISTRICT OBLIGATIONS; PARENTAL OPTIONS.Upon the request of any eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization, a school district shall inform all households within the district receiving free or reduced-priced meals under the National School Lunch Act of their eligibility to apply for a tax credit scholarship. The form of such notice shall be provided by the eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization, and the district shall include the provided form, if requested by the organization, in any normal correspondence with eligible households. If an eligible nonprofit scholarship-funding organization requests a special communication to be issued to households within the district receiving free or reduced-price meals under the National School Lunch Act, the organization shall reimburse the district for the cost of postage. Such notice is limited to once a year.


Attachment 4: Accountability Yields Important Information in Wisconsin

These two charts are from this article in the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal.

Chart 1: Comparison Graph

 



Chart 2: The data for each school. The chart is too large for a page, but the summary is enlarged below. Too see the whole chart, click on the image.