CRC: Nothing Subtle About This

The first Commission on the Constitutional Revision Committee has filed his proposals to amend the Florida Constitution. The one that struck me immediately was P0004 filed by Roberto Martinez. He simply struck the language prohibiting taking money from the State or political subdivisions or agency from the public treasury and giving it to religious denomination, church or sect.

Basically, this would enable vouchers to private schools which the Florida Constitution now prohibits

The voters would have to approve this amendment.

CSUSA Principal Does What?

Can you believe that the principal of the for-profit CSUSA charter school in Jacksonville posted support for lynching blacks and memes against Black Lives Matter? Duval Charter School at Bay Meadows is headed by Kimberly Stidham, who according to the report by Raw Story said she was appalled that her personal political views were perceived to be racist. I have to admit I find the whole episode so distasteful, that I won’t give the details. You can read it here.
The school is listed as an ‘A’ school which might be expected. There are only 16% of students who quality for Free and Reduced Lunch whereas over 40% qualify in the district.

The whole thing makes me wonder what a ‘good’ school really is. This one has an ‘A’ grade, clearly discriminates in its selection of students, and hires a principal who advertises racist rhetoric.

CSUSA, of course, will do an investigation.

HB 7069 Lawsuit Growing

The lawsuit against HB 7069 has a law firm to represent the 11 school districts that have now joined the complaint about the Florida legislature’s attack on local public school board authority. The Florida Constitution states that local elected school boards govern our schools. The legislature believes it does. More districts are considering the suit. Thus far, only Sarasota has decided not to participate.

Bay
Broward
Hamilton
Lee
Martin
Miami-Dade
Orange
Palm Beach
Polk
St Lucie
Volusia

Sarasota voted not to join

Bills to Meddle with School Boards

The signals are emerging from the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) hearings. Over 30 proposals for amendments have been filed, but no decision by the Commission on which proposals will be on the November 2018 ballot. The Tampa Bay Times has published a story about two signal flags:

SJR 194, Greg Steube, R Sarasota is a bill to limit school board members to serve no more than two four-year terms. This measure must be submitted to the voters. It would change Article IX to the Florida Constitution.

SB 192, Baxley, Ocala would allow two or more members of school boards to meet in private and without public notice if no official acts or public business is to occur. Multiple members can go on fact finding missions and meet with legislators if no formal action takes place or is contemplated.

It is early in this CRC process. Stay tuned.

CSUSA Hits the News Again

There are a few facts we should know automatically. Here are some about Hillsborough:

  1. Charters compete with good public schools; they do little to help communities. There are 101 charter schools in Hillsborough. Only 35 charters serve low income area students and only a third of those achieve an A or B on school grades.

  2. Charter schools are no panacea for poverty. CSUSA for example, has 19 charters in the area. Those that serve high income schools do well just as those district-run schools do. Charters that draw predominately from low income families struggle.

  3. Charter schools have high teacher turnover. The WFTS Tampa Bay reports on Channelside, a CSUSA charter that is losing ground. Its school grade is dropping. Its students are not doing as well as they once did. The reason? A student describes the loss of her teacher for three months. They watched movies with an uncertified substitute teacher.

Positive Advocacy for Public Schools

There are many ways to support public schools. We are asking our county and city governments to support September: Public Schools Awareness Month. We hope to generate a public discussion about what is happening with our public schools. Here’s what we have planned. Let us know what you are doing.

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SEPTEMBER PUBLIC SCHOOLS AWARENESS MONTH

Our schools are hanging in the balance. The League is trying to tip the balance toward our public schools and away from privatization. Here’s how. We have formed a coalition with the Alachua County Council of PTAs, the Alachua County Education Association, the U.F. College of Education Council and the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce to promote: September: Public School Awareness Month.

Events include:

• A Proclamation submitted to the Gainesville City and County Commissions

• “From Heroes to Hacks: The Disturbing Rise of Bad Teachers on Television,” by Dr. Mary Dalton. UF’s “Schools on Screen”
Symposium—September 20 at 6pm in Pugh Hall

• Florida Premier of ‘Passion To Teach’ and discussion led by the film producer, Bart Nourse.
September 24, 3:30 pm at Lincoln Middle School
September 26, 6:00 pm at Buchholz High School

• “Bad Teacher” by Kevin Kumishiro a book to read on school reform. Watch the interview.

COME TO A COMMUNITY FORUM TO HEAR FROM OUR SUPERINTENDENT ON: What is Happening with OUR Schools?
September 23rd, Wiles Elementary at 9:30 a.m.

• Karen Clarke, Superintendent of Schools: “Building New and Rennovating Old Schools”
• Sue Legg, Florida League of Women Voters Education Chair “Impact of Choice Legislation”
• Anne Wolfe, Education Specialist and Valerie Freeman, Director of Educational Equity and Outreach on “CulturallyResponsive Classrooms”

Public Education, Our Children, and the American Dream

Here’s a letter from the Florida League about our children’s future under HB 7069. Take the time to feel the impact. It has been submitted to the Miami Herald.

HB 7069, which passed the Florida Legislature has been described as “harsh, severe, and promises to undermine not only the economic viability of our school system, but the long-term stability of public education in our community and across the state,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

While the bill has some good aspects, especially recess for K-5 students, there are many parts which negatively impact our public schools, and children and families in our Florida communities.

We all agree that our children deserve a public funded (no cost) education so they can achieve their full potential. That is what distinguishes our country from countries around the world. This is a core American value; the foundation of the American Dream.  HB7069 does exactly the opposite. It was crafted in the middle of night, behind closed doors, with little public input, or access to the language of the bill; it was presented as take-it-or-leave-it.

The League of Women Voters of Florida believe that HB7069 needs serious revisions: public schools must have access to tax dollars to maintain and construct our schools; fiscal and academic accountability should be the same for all schools receiving public funds; state standardized testing should continue to be reduced; funds for parental involvement activities should be restored; the role of our communities and parents in local schools be reinforced and not diminished or eliminated; that free play recess be guaranteed to all K-5 students in all schools, public and charter; that school choice by parents be strengthened by providing teacher and student attrition data to school performance information for all schools (public and charters equally); that because charters receive our tax dollars, parents should have access to charter management company profits and guidelines for lease and management fees; and that school authority reside with locally-elected school boards who are accountable to local communities, to us, the taxpayers and voters.

We believe that with access to a public education, our children, especially of working families, or from poor homes, or with disabilities, or with other challenges, can become the very best they can be and grow up to contribute to our communities, as future working adults, paying taxes, and making our communities across Florida better places to live.  Any child can enroll in our schools and get a public education, no matter our child’s economic status, or race, or religion, or any other category. When my family arrived from Russia, or my friends came from Cuba or Haiti, or from name the country, our families’ children were welcomed by the neighborhood public school. That is America and Florida and Miami.

With HB7069, all that we believe is at risk. While charter schools provide parents a choice, let’s remember that the source of charter schools’ funding is our local tax dollars. The very first line of your County 2017-18 Proposed Tax Bill is for school taxes; the taxes that support our core value, a public education.

When it comes to allocating our hard earned tax dollars to public schools, we expect that this money will be spent responsibly to meet the needs of our children.  Indeed, that is at the heart of any elected official’s responsibility – to make sound spending decisions regarding our public dollars, with accountability and transparency.

This is what we must strive for in our school system for Miami and across Florida, for all our children and the very future of our communities.  “The word that comes to mind is courage,” said Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, School Board Member, “We’ve got to have the courage to do what is right.”

Pamela S. Goodman, President
League of Women Voters Florida

LWVF Conference Call Follow Up

Here are the key points from our call tonight. I will send Pat Drago’s LTE and Susan’s HB 7069 letter tomorrow. Sue

LWVEducation Issues Blog: http://lwveducation.com
Passion to Teach film trailer and website: https://www.passiontoteach.org/
September Public Schools Awareness Month website: https://www.passiontoteach.org/
PACT Parents Against Corporate Takeovers website: https://www.parentsagainstcorporatetakeovers.com/
PTA Position on HB 7069: http://lwveducation.com/the-pta-and-hb-7069-the-poison-pill/

Proclamation Text:

PROCLAMATION: SEPTEMBER PUBLIC EDUCATION AWARENESS MONTH

Whereas: The Florida constitution states that:
• adequate provision shall be made for access to a uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality system of free public schools.
• the School Board shall operate, control and supervise all free public education in the district.
• no revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.
Whereas: Our public schools are the foundation of our democratic system.

Therefore: The League of Women Voters of Alachua County, The Alachua County Council of PTAs, and the University of Florida Education College Council request that the Gainesville City Commission and the Alachua County Commission proclaim September to be:

Public Education Awareness Month

and remind every person and business that it is the public duty to protect and support our system of public schools.

Senator Simmons Replaced

The hero of the last legislative session fought a valiant effort for fairness and equity in education. Senator Simmons led the charge against the most egregious parts of HB 7069. As Chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Education, he was in a position to bargain. He tried to stem the flow of money to charter schools. He recognized the inequities. He saw the damage and possible unconstitutionality of taking local capital outlay from public schools and giving it to privately owned charters. His reward?

He was moved from his post on education to the appropriations subcommittee on general government. His replacement is a first term senator from Naples who just moved up from the House. The only thing I could find out about her was that she was in favor of school uniforms. She did support HB 7069, the religious expression bill and the textbook review bill. She campaigned on her record of consistently cutting taxes, so she should fit right in with Governor Scott’s priorities for the next session.