by Deb Herbage
Year after year the Florida Legislators continue to violate their oath of office by choosing to defund public education and fund for-profit, non-accountable to the tax payers charter schools thereby not providing our kids with a FAPE as mandated by the Florida Constitution. This year especially is the hardest to stomach. With their bill – HB 7069 we are on the verge of having the most harmful, destructive bill ever in the past 3 years (that passed in the senate and house) get signed into law by Governor Scott. This bill will essentially defund our public schools by giving tax payer dollars to charter schools to open the “Schools of Hope”. Here’s the thing – the Florida legislators are NOT funding our public schools appropriately and never have therefore not providing a FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education) and by doing so – they are failing the children, parents, and teachers in the state of Florida. The Florida legislators would rather give our hard earned tax dollars to these for-profit schools whose only goal is to continue to reap profits off the backs of our kids. The Florida legislators do not want to give the funding to our public schools to help them improve. Instead, they want to take all our “D” and “F” schools and turn them into charter schools. Our “failing” schools need that money to put themselves on the path to success. It’s actually quite simple. Give the money to the failing schools to help them improve. Instead, the Florida Legislators have decided to give the money to the charter schools AND REPLACE our public schools. It’s pretty pathetic that our legislators are owned by Jeb Bush and his foundations and continue to vote these harmful policies and laws into place to satisfy Bush and his foundations with their destructive loyalty to him.
The Florida legislators are using our kids as pawns in this political game they play every year. They use our kids for political maneuvering, financial gain as well as political gain. They have no allegiance to the oath of office they took but they do have allegiance to Bush which is why we are where we are today. Bush has worked hard since 1992 to get the charter school, tax credits and school voucher programs up and running – not just here in Florida but across the country. Let’s get one thing clear – charter schools are not required to take disabled students, students of color or Title 1 kids. They leave those students to the public schools with no money. Charter schools want the elite, white kids. Charter schools are not bound by law to accept all students like our public schools are required to do and mandated by federal laws (IDEA) to educate our disabled children. Charter schools are not subject to the same taxation or rules our public schools are nor do they have locally elected school boards accountable to the taxpayers, parents and students. Here is an excerpt from an excellent blog about school vouchers from Steven Singer. This is so worth the read -https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/09/school-vouchers-transubstantiate-your-cash-for-fun-and-profit/ :
“School vouchers are not paid for 100% by the parent. They are paid for with an aggregation of local tax dollars above and beyond what individual parents pay in school taxes.
In short, this is not just your money even if it’s spent on your kid. You shouldn’t be the only one who gets a say in how this money is spent. The community provided this money. The community should decide how it’s spent. At very least, the community should get a say.
If the community doesn’t want children to be raised with a distinctly Biblical view of history and science, the community shouldn’t have to contribute to that. If individual parents want to spend their own money on that, fine. That’s your prerogative. But school vouchers are made up of public tax dollars, yet we’re removing the majority of the public from having a voice in how that money is spent.
Moreover, traditional public schools are required not to discriminate against students. They can’t select against students based on learning disabilities, ethnicity, skin color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. And that’s a really good thing. Everyone’s money is used to pay for these schools. These schools should serve everyone.
But private and parochial schools (and charter schools, too, by the way) aren’t held to this same standard. It’s telling, for example, that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has refused to commit to holding private and parochial schools that accept school vouchers accountable if they discriminate against children. She seems to be implying that the U.S. government will stand aside and let public tax dollars be spent to support schools that discriminate. And the reason they think they can get away with this is the cynical monetary alchemy outlined above: school vouchers are private money and can be spent any way parents want. It isn’t and they can’t.
This is government sanctioned money laundering, pure and simple.”
Government and state sanctioned money laundering. The ethics violations run deep in this state. Florida legislators who are on the Senate Education Committee and K-12 Appropriations Committee help craft, write and pass legislation that will benefit them personally and financially through their charter schools. Rep. Manny Diaz sits on the K-12 Appropriations Committee and earns a six figure salary as Chief Operating Officer of the charter school Doral College. House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s wife owns a charter school in Pasco County and Rep. Michael Bileca is the executive director of the foundation that funds True North Classical Academy charter. All 3 were instrumental and key architects of HB 7069 which will essentially give millions to charter schools while taking away the desperately needed funding from our public schools to expand charter schools. That is a massive conflict of interest and violation of ethics to vote for charter school expansion at the expense of the tax payers for their personal gain. Their abuse of power at the expense of our kids, teachers and schools is staggering. How can they possibly justify taking millions of dollars away from our already struggling public schools to increase their profit margins at their charter schools? How do they think that our public schools, who have already started making cuts to teachers, media assistants and programs ahead of HB 7069 will be able to provide a quality education to our kids while handing over $140 MILLION dollars to charter schools for expansion using tax payer dollars will benefit our public school kids? What they are doing is providing corporate welfare to the corporations and foundations that own the charter schools. What they are doing is giving up on our kids who attend public schools. The Florida legislators do not think investing in our kids is worth it. Why would they not want to provide that $140 MILLION in funding to the struggling schools to help them improve? Why would they take the greatly needing funding AWAY from our public schools? They haven’t funded the failing schools in years…….of course they are going to remain failing schools with no funding.
Charter schools have a bad track record in Florida and across the country. Here is a screenshot of what came up when I googled “failed charter schools in Florida”:
The charter school industry track record in Florida is all about scams, failures and closings. How many more charter schools are going to receive MILLIONS of dollars only to close their doors weeks or months later with no repercussions whatsoever and are not required to pay back any funding they received – especially from taxpayers. It’s horrendous the amount of money that has been wasted due to fiscal irresponsibility when we have public schools in dire need. Here is chart that speaks volumes:
“The federal government has spent $3.3 BILLION dollars in the past two-plus decades fueling the charter school industry that has taken money away from traditional public schools. And, as the Center for Popular Democracy has demonstrated, more than $200 million of that money resulted in fraud and waste over the past decade.” From CMD -http://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/09/12936/cmd-publishes-full-list-2500-closed-charter-schools
Remediation costs from charter high school “graduates” getting into college, but not having basic proficiency are astronomical both in terms of economics and demoralization of students. Education legal scholars like Robert D. Skeels have called for wealthy charter school executives and their unrelenting boards of directors to be held financially liable for the damages to both individual students, and to society at large. The costs of putting charter greed before student need are grave. It’s time to end the racist and classist “school choice” and “voucher” projects as well as charter school expansion pushed nationwide by Jeb Bush and his foundations. They are deliberately crippling our public schools by under-funding them.
The Florida legislators do not think our kids are worth the investment in our public schools. They have given up on our kids. Why? Perhaps because they will get a better ROI from charter schools since it benefits them personally and financially. What better way to line their pockets under the guise of caring about our kids and wanting to provide a “quality education”. If that were true – the Florida legislators would want to invest the money into our public schools and not give it all away to for-profit, unaccountable, non-transparent charter schools. As if the “cradle-to-grave” data-mining under Common Core weren’t enough……charter schools are “cradle-to-cubicle” as depicted in the below picture. Students are stationed in their cubicles for 3/4 of the school day leaving no time for interacting and socialization with their peers or teachers.
HB 7069 is an extremely sad turn of events for this year’s senate session. When you can’t have faith in the people you have elected to serve you – it’s time to find someone that would want that honor.
There is no honor in reaping profits off the backs of children by shutting down their public schools and turning them over to for-profit charter schools – none.