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To Educate and Inform on Issues Relating to Public Education

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The Florida League Speaks About the Assault on Public Education

The Florida Sun Sentinel just published this article written by the co-presidents and Education Chair of the Florida League of Women Voters. When the Board speaks, you know there is reason for everyone to be concerned. There is a “Deliberate assault on public education and minorities” by our legislature.

What appears to be regular school operations — adopting instructional materials from state-approved book lists, updating standards and reviewing library and classroom materials — is anything but routine. Behind the scenes, political operatives (our legislators) are busily transforming Florida’s public education system from an institution committed to educating all students to their fullest potential, to one where racism saturates the very core of instructional practices, where only white children will be respected and encouraged.

There are deliberate and systematic efforts to use Florida’s public education system to undermine
Black and brown marginalized populations. Consider the evidence:

  1. Approving the African American History Strand in Florida’s 2023 Social Studies Standards that includes numerous false narratives. One particularly troublesome to historians is the curriculum guide’s statement that children will learn “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Another teaches students that some racially motivated massacres were “perpetrated against and by African Americans.” Forbidding accurate history by banning school lessons that make people “uncomfortable” about the actions of their forefathers. History will be whitewashed. White children cannot learn about or discuss their ancestors’ wrongdoings.

  2. Retracting AP African American History for students because the governor thinks it “lacks value and historical accuracy,” again keeping Florida’s students from truthful accounts.
    Eliminating programs dedicated to achieving diversity, equity or inclusion. These further one’s ability to communicate and collaborate with individuals from different backgrounds, show empathy, or recognize personal biases. Elimination implies minorities don’t have to be understood or respected.

  3. Mandating removal of books from classrooms and school libraries discussing the cultures of nonwhite persons. When literature recounting experiences faced by marginalized groups is unavailable, their challenges can be minimized or even trivialized.

  4. Removing Social Emotional Learning (SEL) from Florida’s approved curricula, a program that develops self-awareness and resilience, thus improving marginalized persons’ chances to succeed.
    Considered individually, each of these minority-targeted restrictions might be seen as simply ill-conceived. But in their totality, they are better understood as a deliberate assault on goals of public schools and minority children attending them, who represent 64% of Florida’s public-school population. We must ask: What happens when a state builds its public-school system on a foundation of racist misrepresentations?

  5. When possibilities are blocked, despair and distrust can replace optimism. With DEI training banned, teachers know less about the experiences and culture of minority populations that would facilitate positive interactions. Cultural misunderstanding abounds, and Black students, representing only 22% of public-school enrollment in 2019-2020, comprised 37% of in-school suspensions and are disproportionately subject to out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.
    Although legislation denied their children culturally relevant literature, parents may have believed that history lessons would compensate and introduce their children to powerful minority role models who fought for justice. But textbook publishers have revised their content to satisfy Florida’s efforts to whitewash history. The 2023 Social Studies Standards omit Florida’s role in slavery. They mention racism and prejudice but not Floridians’ Jim Crow laws. Concerned about public schools’ treatment of their children, many African American parents are transferring their children out of public schools, accountable for student achievement, and into private schools not answerable to Florida’s Department of Education. In 2023, 47% of Florida’s private school attendees were minority students; more than 33% of these were of African American descent.

  6. Racist public-school legislation is also economically costly for many public-school children, their communities and the state. Marginalized public-school students whose families have taught them honest history, rejecting ideas that slavery wasn’t so bad or that their ancestors were partly to blame for the 1920 massacre in Ocoee, won’t be motivated to learn from texts that are irrelevant or untruthful, where characters don’t look like them or where experiences depicted bear little resemblance to their own lives, and this will have a cascading effect.

  7. Many of these students will be unprepared for standardized tests based on these racist standards, triggering reductions in Florida’s public-school ratings and declines in home values. Fewer minority Floridians will seek advanced degrees, thus diminishing talent pools for critical jobs, dissuading businesses from Florida. They won’t be motivated to vote, believing it would just further empower their oppressors, or know the potential power of their vote to strip racism from public schools. They will not believe that losing their right to vote will make any difference in their lives. Through truthful history and literature, they will learn otherwise. This is what we must teach.

Cecile M. Scoon and Debbie Chandler serve as co-presidents of the League of Women Voters of Florida. Jill Lewis-Spector serves as the organization’s second vice president and statewide education chair.

Betsy DeVos was a disaster. Erika Donalds could be worse.

Remember when the first Classical Charter school in Florida was founded in Collier County? Now there are several, but their reach is expanding nationwide. Their founder, Erika Donalds, was recently extolled by Donald Trump at a Moms for Liberty rally. Mother Jones magazine, founded in 1976, has put the spotlight on Donalds. You can learn about her history, issues, and associations here. Donalds is likely to be a major spokesperson for abolishing the Florida constitutional provision requiring the separation of church and state in the public funding of religious charter schools. The attacks on public education have been relentless. Do we really want our schools to be dominated by particular ideologies? Shouldn’t public schools welcome children of all faiths and ethnicities? Should public tax dollars fund private, religious schools?

Charter School Achievement: Fact or Fallacy?

The Network for Public Education’s (NPE) review of the latest CREDO report on charter schools is a must read. Here’s the NPE introduction:
‘In Fact or Fallacy? An In-Depth Critique of the CREDO 2023 National Report’ is an honest, well-researched response to the CREDO report that digs in and unearths the bias in CREDO methodology, reporting methods, and conclusions. NPE also traces the history of CREDO, which is housed in the conservative pro-school choice Hoover Institution, a connection that CREDO no longer reveals.

Below you can watch CREDO Director Margaret Raymond, the study’s author, praise Betsy De Vos while acknowledging her own role at Hoover.

In our NPE report, we dig into CREDO funding and summarize past critiques by scholars. And we prove that in the past, CREDO referred to the same average results in the growth of test scores as “inconsequential,” “small,” or “possibly the result of error” when the differences of the same size favored public schools.

Perhaps most important, we demonstrate the large error in their CMO list, identifying some large low-quality for-profit chains that were left off.
Please be sure to read and share our report on social media. It is time for the media and policymakers to ask:

Whose interests does CREDO really represent? The public or its funders? Read our report and decide for yourself.

Click here for a short video overview of the report.

The New Republic Checks Out Florida’s Byron Donalds

Byron Donalds hit the media spotlight when he was suggested as the conservative alternative to Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House. He is a relative newcomer to Washington D.C. In Florida, however, he and his wife Erika are well known in the conservative Christian charter school movement. Is he, as the New Republic speculates, the future star of the Florida Republican Party? You can read about him here.

I am quoted in the article. I have been following the Donalds’ for several years because they helped found the Classical Academies in Florida. It is worth knowing the people behind the attacks on Florida’s public schools. It helps to understand the strategies behind the vouchers, charters, and religious ideologies that seek to divide our communities.  Donalds offers the viewpoint of the only Black member of the Freedom Caucus.

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