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Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Tallahassee Republicans continue to attack schools, students and teachers

 Representative Dennis Baxley out of Ocala, whose day job is that of a mortician has proposed radically changing the Bright Futures scholarship program, a program that annually pays the college tuition for tens of thousands of high school graduates that attend Florida schools.  

He says some college degrees do not lead to employment and went as far as calling it an entitlement program, failing to understand the benefit that it provides to the many families that use is that is then paid forward by having students attend local schools and with them then in turn living and working in Florida. Bright Futures is also heavily financed by the Lottery, not the general fund. 

Teachers, colleges, parents, and as you can imagine student groups have fiercely opposed the proposed changes, but they do have one group that seems to overwhelmingly support it and that is republican legislators in Tallahassee. Which begs the question why? I believe it is because they do not understand the value of education and have a pathological dislike of public education and everything that comes from it. You see it is not just students and their scholarships that they are seeking to cripple but teachers and public education itself. 

There is currently a half dozen anti-teacher union bills working their way through Tallahassee including one by local representative Cord Byrd. He wants to make it more difficult to join and stay in unions by stopping automatic reduction withdraws. His proposal would only affect teachers, not police or firefighters which are also heavily unionized. He says it is because he wants to narrowly focus on education, but the reality is Byrd like his fellow local republican politicians, Yarbrough, and Fischer, routinely do all they can to marginalize and injure the teaching profession. It also costs next to nothing to set up the withdraws. 

Then senate bill 48 takes all the state’s education voucher programs, that already have little oversite into how the money is spent and turns them into education savings accounts with even less oversite. Originally sold as a way to save poor children from poor and failing schools, families with an income as high as 80k would be eligible. Worse however is it pays for schools that can pick who they take and keep, discriminate against whoever they want, hire, and teach anything, and most of whom will not even have to report how they spent the money they receive. Juxtapose that with public schools that have accountability on steroids. In Tallahassee, both systems paid for with public money are just fine.   

Voucher schools which enroll about 14 percent of all schools, also have an incredibly high turnover rate among children and most of the children come from schools with grades of C or higher, which begs the question of why the state spends so much time trying to expand them to the detriment of both accountability and public education. Florida through the general fund or through tax breaks annually spends billions on vouchers. 

Comedian Bill Maher does a segment called, I don’t know for a fact, but I know it is true. Well after witnessing the annual attacks from Tallahassee on teachers, students, and public education, I know the republican legislature's pathological hatred of public education is true and ongoing.  

There is one bright spot, since 86 percent of families with school-age children have chosen public schools, they could demand Tallahassee put a stop to the constant attacks, and instead support public education. All that would take was more people voting for what is best for schools, students, and teachers, rather than a little R next to a politician’s name.   

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