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The FLCRC Appears to be Hell-bent on Privatizing Public Education.

In Florida, the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) convenes once every 20 years to examine the Florida Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration. Any proposals that pass the CRC’s final vote would be placed on Florida’s General Election ballot (November 6, 2018) and must secure at least 60 percent voter approval to become law. This year, commissioners seem hell-bent of privatizing public education.

The list of CRC proposals should come as no surprise to those who have been following education policy in Florida over the last two decades. Privatization efforts (cleverly called “education reform”) have been in full force since former Governor Bush created his Foundation for Florida’s Future and the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE). Pro-public school advocates have been left with little recourse besides legal challenges to protect public schools. Not surprising, the CRC is stacked with supporters of privatization: Patricia Levesque, the President of FEE is a commissioner on the CRC, as are former Senate Education Chair Don Gaetz, current Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart and current Florida Board of Education Chair Marva Johnson. All have been instrumental in creating and passing legislation and policies that further Florida along the path to privatization. The only local school board member on the CRC is Collier County’s Erika Donalds, a pro-school choice and ed reform advocate who co-founded the Florida Coalition of School Board Members (FCSBM) along with a handful of other likeminded, pro-privatization board members. The FCSBM is closely tied with the Foundation for Florida’s Future, holding joint meetings where they discuss legislative policy and partnership opportunities. With commissioners like these, pro-public school policies don’t stand a chance.

Of course, these proposals still need to pass the CRC final vote and, if they do, they will need to secure at least 60% of voter approval in November 2018.

Dan Sweeny, in the Sun Sentinel, published a complete list of the current 103 proposals for changing Florida’s Constitution.

Here are the proposals that appear to directly impact education in Florida:

Proposal 4: by Roberto Martinez. Deleting language barring state funds from going to “aid of any church, sect or religious denomination.” This eliminates the Blaine Amendment and would allow direct voucher funding to private religious schools.

Proposal 10: by Don Gaetz. Requiring civic literacy to be taught in schools. Why does this need to be in our Constitution? Pass a bill…

Proposal 25: by Sherry Plymale.  Creating a 17-member board of directors for the state college system, which will oversee all community colleges and state colleges, but not universities.

Proposal 32: by Erika Donalds. Taking away any compensation except travel and per diem expenses from members of the state board of education, school boards, university boards of trustees and the university system’s board of governors. This would make local school board positions unpaid. Since Florida has some of the largest school districts in the country, we believe this should be a local decision.

Proposal 33: by Erika Donalds. Ending election of school superintendents and making all of them appointed by county school boards. Currently, forty-four of the state’s 67 districts have elected superintendents, with most of the large, urban systems opting for a school board-appointed leader instead. We believe this should be a local decision.

Proposal 43: by Erika Donalds. Preventing people from running for school board if they have been on the board for the previous eight consecutive years. This proposes term limits for local school board members. Again, we believe this should be a local decision.

Proposal 45: by Erika Donalds. Changing the wording of the “public education” section of the constitution from requiring a system of free public schools that “allows students to obtain a high quality education” to one that allows “for the opportunity for each student to obtain a high quality education.” Also lays out that “nothing in this section” prevents the Legislature from creating other educational opportunities in addition to free public schools. This opens the door wide for vouchers.

Proposal 59: by Marva Johnson. Allowing the state to use taxpayer dollars to fund private, religious schools. This proposal creates a definition a student’s “right to an education that meets his or her individual needs and learning differences” and then allows for public funds to be appropriated for private schools in the event that a public school fails to provide an education meeting that definition. The list of student’s rights include: a meaningful education that has lifelong value and prepares the student for future goals and needs; a socially, emotionally, and physically safe, sanitary, and positive school environment; the systemic maintenance of high educational standards, effective curricula, and assessment in a way which most accurately captures abilities and knowledge; teachers who are qualified, appropriate, and effective; opportunities for school and educational choice to enable and effect decision making about personal education; an education that meets individual needs and learning differences and to use public funding to attend a non-public school if those needs and differences cannot be completely met and accommodated by the student’s zoned public school; express publicly and to hear various points of view on subjects without fear, reprisal, or penalty, subject to constitutional limitations; protection from arbitrary interference of privacy; and due process and to petition the government for redress of grievances. It appears the list has been created NOT to inspire adequate provision for this definition of a quality education but rather to allow vouchers to private school should these standards fail to be met. We wish Ms. Johnson, as current Chair of the State Board of Education, had spent more of her tenure on the FLBOE promoting adequate funding and policy to allow for this vision of a quality public education.

Proposal 60: by Marva Johnson. Declares postsecondary education “fundamentally a public good necessary for the creation and the maintenance of a skilled workforce and a vibrant economy in this state” and, therefore. it is “a paramount duty of the state to ensure the affordability of postsecondary education to the residents of this state, ” requiring the Florida Legislature to fund 100 percent of tuition for students with Bright Futures scholarships or Public Student Assistance grants.

Proposal 71: by Erika Donalds. Adds to the section on school boards in the constitution that nothing within the section limits the Florida Legislature’s ability to create alternatives to school boards for the establishment of charter schools. This would allow the legislature to establish charter school networks outside of any control of district school boards, removing local control of those charter schools.

Proposal 76: by Marva Johnson. Repealing outdated and obsolete language in Article IX of the constitution. Article IX deals with education and the wording of this proposal is: “The Constitution Revision Commission intends to revise provisions in Article IX,” meaning they could do anything…

Proposal 82: by Brecht Heuchan. Preventing school boards from setting the opening day of school more than a week before Labor Day.

Proposal 83: by Nicole Washington. Creating a State College System under the Florida Board of Education.

Proposal 89: by Nicole Washington. Declares “the purpose of the public education system of Florida is to develop the intellect of the state’s citizens, to contribute to the economy, to create an effective workforce, and to prepare students for a job” and states “in order to build Florida’s talent pipeline for the careers of today and tomorrow and align the state’s education, workforce, and economic development efforts, it is the intent of the people to provide high quality and affordable postsecondary education opportunities.” We disagree with this definition of the purpose of public education, believing their should be more to an education than merely job preparation.

Proposal 90: by Patricia Levesque and Roberto Martinez. This would change the class size amendment, something voters have approved TWICE, changing the maximum class size for a public school of 22 to an average class size of 22 within the school. It allows any funds leftover from those appropriated to maintain class size would go toward increasing teacher pay to the national average. We recommend you read Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Maxwell’s excellent piece on this proposal, called this Devious Plans 2.0, The latest plan to undermine Florida’s class size-laws: “That’s when you see the proposal only provides money for teacher raises if Floridians first vote to lift the cap on class sizes and agree to stuff more children in Florida classrooms. And even then, there’s no guarantee of how much in raises teachers would get.” The teacher-raise proposal is a gimmick devised to trick voters into eliminating class size caps. Don’t fall for it.

Proposal 93: by Roberto Martinez. Allowing a school board, by a vote of the board or county voters, to turn a school district into a charter school district that is exempt from the same rules and regulations as a charter school. Again, more charter school expansion. If relief from rules and regulations is desirable, then there should be a repeal of those rules and regulations… for ALL schools, NOT offered as an incentive for charter conversion.

There is at least one proposal that we like:

Proposal 98: by Frank KruppenbacherPreventing a state lawmaker from voting on or even attempting to influence any legislation that would financially benefit the legislator or their family. This would limit those employed by the Charter School industry from “even attempting to influence” legislation that would benefit their employers, effectively silencing Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. on all charter school legislation.

You can follow the FLCRC shenanigans at http://flcrc.gov. The Education Committee will be meeting Monday, November 27, 2017. Scheduled discussions include presentations on Class Size, public funding of religious institutions and Erika Donalds’ Proposals 32, 33 and 43. The meeting will be broadcast on The Florida Channel.

 

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