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Monday, August 31, 2015

A round up of what the state board of education is up to.

Everybody should be alarmed by what the state board of education has proposed.

First the State board proposed spending seventy million dollars on charter school maintenance and another seventy million dollars on public school maintenance costs.  Sadly this is better than in some years past when charters got a hundred million and public schools didn’t get anything.

There are a little over six hundred charter schools, there would have been more but as of last count 295 have taken public money and failed leaving families and communities in a lurch and a little over 3,200 public schools in Florida. It hardly seems fair to allocate the same amount of money for both groups of schools but it gets even worse. Many charter schools are managed by for profit companies and business has been very good. Why should we send more money to them, money that will either go to help their bottom line or fix buildings that don’t belong to the public?  For profit management companies that operate charter schools should not see one penny more than the per pupil allotment.

Speaking of charter schools when asked why charter schools should be allowed to set up in neighborhoods that have successful public schools, Representative Eric Fresen, one of the most powerful men in Tallahassee, and like local business men and board of education member Gary Chartrand, has close ties to charter schools, said in the Sun Sentinel, "I would never put a facility above the academic options of children."

This basically means he thinks we should have charter schools “just because”. Not because they do better because the Stanford Credo the definitive charter schools study said Florida’s charter schools when compared to public schools do worse and not because they are needed either because more and more charter schools many of which are managed by for profit management companies are setting up in neighborhoods that already have great schools siphoning away resources from them, but “just because”.

Next I hope you like School Vouchers that send kids to private schools, of which over seventy percent are religious, because if you own property in the state of Florida you are about to pay for them.  The state board of education proposed raising school funding by 485 million dollars but only fifty millions of this is going to come from the state and the rest is going to be generated by higher property taxes.  

That 435 million dollar figure in increased property taxes is important because that number is nearly identical to the four hundred million plus that is diverted from the state coffers to pay for vouchers.

Maybe vouchers were acceptable to some despite the fact the schools that receive them have barely any financial and academic accountability when somebody else was paying for them. I wonder how acceptable they will be, now that we all have to.

I for one would rather see public money sent to public schools, rather than see money earmarked for the public good diverted to private schools especially since it means my taxes are going to go up to pay for it.

Then speaking of vouchers, Florida State University which was contracted by the state to study the voucher program released its report which said only twenty-five percent of students who receive vouchers leave D or F public schools. That means the vast majority of them leave successful schools. We’re not helping poor and mostly minority escape failing schools, how the program was initially sold, instead we’re paying for families “choice” to have their kids get a religious education. So much for the first amendment right.

Finally Gary Chartrand who as I mentioned above is on the state board of education, said he wants to revisit the class size amendment calling the law foolish. Mr. Chartrand despite his position on the board was never a teacher and doesn’t understand how large class sizes hurt education but furthermore it is worse because he sent his children to exclusive private schools that tout their smaller classes. Why are manageable classes okay for his kids but not for ours?

Like many in positions of power in Tallahassee Gary Chartrand doesn’t feel like he has to listen to the will of the people who have voted twice now for the class size amendment. He is right though we should revisit it but not to get rid of it like he wants but to make sure it is in place like the people voted for. Tallahassee has eroded it so much that many non-core classes which includes Advanced Placement classes and electives have huge numbers and some districts are ignoring it because it is cheaper to pay a fine.

Instead of allowing Chartrand and Tallahassee to further gut the class size amendment we should demand they obey the will of the people and fund it properly because if they don’t then it is time we stopped pretending we lived in a democracy where the people’s votes matter.   

The state board of education, which does not have a true educator on it often does things contrary to the best interests of public schools which means the vast majority of Florida’s children and families pay the price. Shouldn’t we have a board that looks to improve public education rather than one that one that continuously seeks to privatize our schools and injure it?

I think we should.

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