I respect Public Education as the foundation of our society. There is never enough money for quality public education in our state despite the fact that it is required by our State Constitution. K-12 traditional public education should have the highest priority and should include technical training that prepares graduates for skilled jobs.
I do not support public tax dollars going to support religious or for-profit charter schools. Charter schools should be held by local school boards to the same comparable standard as our public schools as to curriculum, accountability, personnel credentials and only established if it is proven, by factual local consideration not testing results, that there is a cause to fulfill a local need. Traditional public schools should be given the same opportunities to pursue new, innovative educational strategies as the charter schools have been afforded. Resources from failed charters should be retained as public funds.
State taxes should not be diverted from the General Revenue Fund to provide for religious and/or private schools. Corporate tax scholarship vouchers are just an excuse to divert funds that would have gone into our state’s general revenue fund, forcing us to have smaller government while supporting private schools.
REVIEW: 2018 HB 7055 Education expands state school choice scholarship programs and streamlines accountability for participating private schools; provide flexibilities to school districts; modifies charter school requirements; specifies assessment, instructional and curriculum requirements; modifies other education provisions; and provides appropriations.
COMMENTARY: HB 7055 establishes Hope Scholarship Program and creates the Florida Sales Tax Credit Scholarship Program to fund the existing Gardiner Scholarship Program and the existing Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. This bill will shift millions, eventually billions of tax payer dollars from traditional public school to for-profit interests including private schools and charter schools and silence the teachers and their union who stand in opposition. Recurring appropriations of $13,750,000 in recurring funds to “implement” / $250,000 non-recurring funds to “implement.”
REVIEW: 2018 CS/SB 7026 “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act”
Temporarily restricts firearm possession by a person who is undergoing a mental health crisis and when there is evidence of a threat of violence, and by promoting school safety and enhanced coordination between education and law enforcement entities at the state and local level. Prohibits bump stocks; establishes 3 day waiting period or background check; prohibits a person under 21 years of age from purchasing a firearm; and establishes the school guardian program.
REVIEW: 2017 CS/CS/HB 989 Instructional Materials
Authorizes county residents to challenge use or adoption of instructional materials. At least one open public hearing must be conducted before an unbiased and qualified hearing officer who is not an employee or agent of the school district. Each school district must use the annual instructional materials allocation only for the purchase of materials that align with state standards and are included on the state-adopted list, except as otherwise authorized. Eliminated a requirement that at least 50% of the annual instructional materials allocation be used to purchase digital or electronic instructional materials.
COMMENTARY: 2017 HB 7069
This “omnibus” bill is a hodgepodge of good and bad policy that was passed without proper consideration and is an unvarnished attempt to defund public education in favor of charter schools. The good includes: recess added but only in public schools; Algebra II End-of-Course testing eliminated; end of year testing now only the last 4 weeks of school; AP and IB bonus caps eliminated; “effective” and “highly effective” teacher bonuses created; the Best & Brightest scholarships continue. The bad includes: “failing” public schools have to compete with charters; annual contract teachers have no job guarantee; public school construction dollars now have to be shared with charter schools which means public tax dollars are going to fund improvements to privately owned buildings that will never be held by the public.
High Stakes Testing
The FSA/Florida State Assessment determines too many things: student promotion and class placement, school funding, teacher evaluation and salaries, and even if a school stays open. High stakes standardized testing is expensive, the implementation costs are born by local taxpayers, the results are used to give schools failing grades which open the door to big firms for school privatization and profit. While standardized testing is useful, as long as it doesn’t subvert the purpose of education, which is learning, and turn it into a “teach for the test” process, the over emphasis and reliance on high stakes testing has not helped improve school quality since up to 40 days of the school year are spent preparing for and taking standardized testing. It would be preferable to concentrate on productive academic work, such as essays, projects and activities that deepen and strengthen an understanding of concepts and encourage critical thinking, creativity and analysis.
Florida’s Class Size Reduction Amendment
In 2002 citizens approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution that set limits on the number of preK-12 students in core classes in the public schools. A gradual implementation schedule was established, but the goals were never accomplished. Fewer schools were in violation of the class size requirement this year because there was a change in the law in 2013 by which “schools of choice” could avoid the strictest part of the amendment by using averages, much like charter schools do, and more districts are categorizing all of their schools “of choice” reasoning that every one of them had at least one student enrolled who does not live within its attendance zone. If the public schools are to follow the intent of the voters and of this amendment, then greater funding is needed to hire the proper number of teachers. Charter schools should have the same requirement.
Funding Higher Education
Public Universities and colleges should be funded by the State of Florida and by endowments or other funding that do not have an ideological agenda or requirements. I would support legislation to require full transparency for the relationships between colleges and universities and private individuals, foundations or other bodies. The state -wide metrics create two ways to obtain funding: performance and pre-eminence. The largest, more established schools are flourishing with an injection of funding; while specialized, possibly newer, regional schools are at a disadvantage, and left scrambling for money. Our state needs both types of higher education to be properly funded.