Other board members take exception to their stance against public schools. A group of citizens has organized to support public schools. The battle lines have formed.According to Political Fix Florida, Collier County residents have started the Coalition for Quality Public Education. The new organization is an alliance among parents and other citizens who are also members of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Jewish Community Relations Council. The new group, which members say is separate from their other affiliations, plans to organize parents, teachers, and community members.
The other side is also organized. The pro charter group includes Southwest Florida Citizens Alliance and Parents ROCK. Their talking points vehemently oppose the Common Core Standards and testing while the Coalition for Quality Public Education takes a more moderate stance on these issues. These issues may mask deeper divisions.
The Naples Herald calls the school board a ‘political battle ground”. A recent board meeting lasted six and a half hours. Public comment ran over two hours. Accusations flew on both sides. Charges of conflict of interest were raised.
Changes in the demographics in Collier County have been significant. Currently, the school population of 45,435 is 48% Hispanic and 36% white. This is a flip flop in the last fifteen years between white and Hispanic school age populations. Sixty-four percent of students are currently economically needy. Yet, the overall population of the County is nearly 90% white; ten percent older and have higher average family incomes than other Floridians.
Collier County has a relatively small population (348,000) compared to its southern neighbors in Dade and Broward Counties. It does, however, have significant differences in wealth and population diversity within age and income groups. How these differences play out in the future could impact the future of its public schools. The ability of the opposing forces to appeal to a broad range of voters may become clear in 2016. Two more school board members are up for election.