The defense (Florida) in Citizens for Strong Schools argues that districts have enough money or can get enough through discretionary millage assessment on property taxes. The problem they assert, is mismanagement and a reordering of priorities. Do they have a point? You can check out this claim in your local districts. We are looking into budget priorities in Alachua County. We have also looked at the state audits of the district in past years. The hard choices they suggest are destructive choices. They can rob the programs that the State brags about to help improve conditions for at risk kids. Some choices are just bad choices.
Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of Fund Education Now reports about the trial underway in Tallahassee.
She provides context for the complaints against the Florida Legislature, governor, and state Department of Education. Funding, for example, is now only about $50 more than in 2007.
Districts state that budgets are inadequate to meet all student needs. Children in poverty and the high rate of homelessness require more funding to provide tutoring, time and behavioral support. However, the defense argues:
Superintendent Vitti’s testimony was a straight forward account of the demographic makeup of the county schools. The district is 44% African American and 36% white and 11% Hispanic. Nearly half of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch (FRL). About 56% of FRL students were below grade level, and their graduation rate was 67%.
How the needs of students are met was the subject of his testimony. Are districts funded adequately to meet these needs?
The Citizens for Strong Schools trial can be viewed online.
Monday three of us from 5forChange met with the group of legislators known as the Black Caucus. We had been advised by our local representative, Clovis Watson, that we should talk to the broader black community. He believed they would be supportive of our message about the need to preserve diversity in our public schools. They were. We were able to explain the Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit and why it mattered to each of us.
These are personal, emotional remarks from the heart by parents of children in our public schools. We represented diversity just by looking at us.
Tarcha Rentz spoke first. She is a former teacher who grew up in our community and received her Ph.D. in Special Ed. She held everyone’s attention. Here are her remarks:
There is something about standing on the old capital steps on a beautiful day in Tallahassee. The Florida League delegates to the Legislative Summit assembled to hear Senator Nelson not only praise the LWVF’s successful redistricting lawsuit, but also the possibility that a more thoughtful mix of legislators may result. The sunny day, the sense of possibility permeated the air.
Following Senator Nelson, Florida League President Pamela Goodman made a strong statement supporting Florida’s public school system.
A Gainesville parent with four children teamed up with a granddad who is a retired teacher. They are spreading the word by organizing PTA and School Advisory Council meetings across the city. Their campaign is to support the Citizen for Strong Schools lawsuit.
The lawsuit comes to trial in Tallahassee in March 2016. The suit contends that Florida is shortchanging our children. We are the third largest state with next to the bottom level of support for our schools.
They are passionate about public schools. Read Rik’s article in the Gainesville Sun this week. It is called: Ensure Florida Adequately Funds Education.
There is now a website called Five for Change . It has lots of information. http://www.5forchange.org/ . They are asking for a five dollar donation to support the lawsuit. Think what could happen if a thousand people sent in a donation. What a boost in morale it could be. You can be counted. Your organizations can be recognized on the webpage.
Florida League President, Pam Goodman endorses the campaign. You can too where ever you live. The suit helps all schools in Florida!
They are holding meetings all over the county. Everyone interested in supporting public education is welcome. The first one was at Eastside high school. The next ones are in the media rooms at 6:30 pm on:
January 21st: Santa Fe High School
January 26th: Gainesville High
February 2nd: Hawthorne High
February 9th: Buchholz High
February 11th: Newberry High
Equity means providing resources, not just equally, but adequately for all children to succeed. There is no ‘one size fits all’ curriculum. Yet, there is a tension between providing opportunity for all students, regardless of their backgrounds, and the efficient allocation of limited resources. School choice was supposed to give better options, but too often, the choices are no different and ineffective.
The Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit in Florida is about equity, but this is also a national issue. I found a blue ribbon panel report that addresses equity and provides direction for educational policy.
In time, Florida may be required to focus on these six directions. They give us a vision of what could be.