I apologize to my readers for this article being about Florida. However, since that is where I live and where most of the corruption and plans to destroy our children’s future’s originates, I hope that by informing you of the measures our legislature is taking in ruining our children’s futures – you will also take a long hard look at your state to see if you are becoming a ‘copycat’! Amendment 8 to FL SB 1552!
In 1999, Jeb Bush pushed through the legislature an “Opportunity Scholarship Program” that gave students in “failing” public schools state funding for tuition at religious and other private academies. Americans United for Separation of Church and State and other allied groups immediately challenged the voucher scheme in state court. After years of legal wrangling, the Florida Supreme Court finally struck down the program in January 2006. The 5-2 court majority said vouchers violated a provision of the state constitution requiring a uniform system of free public schools.
Our new governor, Jeb Bush, stated vouchers will help parents rescue their children from chronically failing schools. If we have chronically failing schools, then the State of Florida and its legislators have failed to live up to what is expected by all Florida residents. A voucher allowing public money to be used in private schools defies the very definition of PRIVATE SCHOOLS. This money should be used to take all these failing and critically low-performing schools to a higher standard than we have today and get our legislators out of the BUSINESS of EDUCATION.
Jeb Bush reportedly was livid about the FL Supreme Court’s decision and vowed to press for a constitutional amendment, but he found it more difficult in the state legislature than expected. In May 2006, the proposed constitutional amendment fell short by one vote in the Republican-controlled Senate, despite a lot of hardball political pressure from the governor and his allies.
Bush then went for Plan B – after leaving office in Jan 07, he & his top advisers crafted a back-door maneuver to revise the state constitution and advance vouchers. They decided to stack the state’s 25 member Taxation and Budget Reform Commission (TBRC) which meets every 20 years & has the power, by a two-thirds vote, to place initiatives directly on the ballot, bypassing the legislature and other governmental checks and balances.
Commission members were appointed by then governor Charlie Crist (Bush arranged with Crist to appoint Greg Turbeville, a former Bush policy director, the Senate president Ken Pruitt and the House speaker Marco Rubio who helped the scheme along by appointing Bush education adviser Patricia Levesque and other voucher fans). In all, “nine Bush-era acolytes with financial ties to voucher groups who stood to gain financially” were appointed to the Commission!
Once again the FL Supreme Court stepped in and prior to the 2008 election, they ruled that the TBRC had exceeded its narrow authority of dealing with issues related to taxation or the state budgetary process in proposing the two initiatives and removed them from the ballot.
In the Spring of 2010, the Florida Legislature considered two resolutions (amendments) which, if passed, would have placed a ballot initiative similar to the TRBC’s Amendment 7 on the ballot. The legislation failed to advance beyond the Rules Committee in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
Now we are back to the table again and in the Spring of 2011, the Florida Legislature approved a resolution to place Amendment 7 on the November 2012 ballot. Amendment 7, similar to the church-state related constitutional provisions considered by the TBRC and the Florida legislature, would strip the Florida Constitution of its long standing church-state separation provision. The Amendment was designed to eliminate religious freedom protections currently in place in Florida and open the back door to taxpayer funded vouchers for private and religious schools. The Amendment would eviscerate protections in place governing partnerships between the state and private or religiously affiliated organizations, (possibly even permitting taxpayer money to flow directly to houses of worship). The Amendment is the first step towards permitting private school vouchers.
In July of 2011, Florida parents and clergy, as well as representatives of school administrators, teachers, and school boards, filed a lawsuit in Leon Circuit Court seeking to remove Amendment 7 from the November 2012 general election ballot.
The lawsuit made two claims. First, the plaintiffs contended that the language that will appear on the 2012 ballot doesn’t accurately describe what the amendment, if adopted, will actually do. In short, they argued that the ballot language was misleading. Second, the plaintiffs argued that the process set in place by the legislature for fixing misleading ballot language violates the separation of powers. The current law would have allowed the Attorney General to rewrite Amendment 8 if the Court had found it to be defective. The Plaintiffs argued that the Attorney General (a member of the Executive Branch) lacks the power to rewrite the language, as only the legislature can approve ballot language.
Judge Terry P. Lewis of the Second Judicial Circuit of Leon County ruled that the language that was slated to appear on the actual ballot to explain Amendment 7 was misleading and ordered Attorney General Pam Bondi to make the changes and hence, Amendment 7 came back as Amendment 8 in 2012. http://www.au.org/content/legal-challenge
But wait, vouchers have already been ruled as unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court stating they violated a provision of the state constitution requiring a uniform system of free public schools. However, Amendment 8 is focusing on vouchers to be used by PRIVATE and RELIGIOUS AFFILIATED ORGANIZATIONS!
Then in April 2014, the voucher hypocrisy of Jeb Bush supporter Florida legislators gave us vouchers despite the fact the voters in 2013 turned it down by a decisive margin and the FL Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional.
You see here in Florida it is not about the children, but “whatever Jeb Bush wants, Jeb Bush gets – sooner or later and by hook or by crook! Cons to this scam:
- Private schools have little to no accountability requirements as to having certified teachers. Taxpayer funds should never be made available to private or parochial schools. (In the 2012 Voucher amendment, 2 of the 3 legislative writers of the amendment are Catholic).
- The untruth passed through the halls of the legislature were that the parents wanted a push for STEM ((Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) when it originated within the Federal government. Teaching children science and history that is corrupt is not the way to equip them for the modern world unless the intention is indoctrination or you plan for them to be in the fields and factories anyway.
- Programs for private schools are sometimes attractive to parents precisely because they are free of the innumerable unfunded mandates and endless testing inflicted on public schools. Parents are NOT checking with the private and parochial schools to see if they participated in the RTTT grant games and a good share of them did take money from the federal government which means CC.
- And last but certainly not least, private school vouchers defy the Florida Constitution, which states that it is the state’s paramount duty to have a uniform system of high quality, free public schools. Corporate tax vouchers create a dual system that is profoundly unfair, dangerous and is intended not to benefit our children, but to fill the wallets of legislators and their corporate cronies along with filling another dream of Jeb Bush’s.
In a poll taken by Sunshine State News in April 2014 showed 55% of those participating were against vouchers, 42% supported and 2% were undecided. So again we must ask who is the FL legislature working for. With Andy Gardiner (R) now the head of the Fl Senate and a strong supporter of education privatization our children are in serious trouble.
One thing taxpayers must remember when it comes to education in Florida is that our system is set up that the governor in the end CHOOSES who will be our Commissioner of Education and APPOINTS the State School Board. Cronyism? Where else do you know that an APPOINTED state school board can overrule a district ELECTED school board?
Charters make up a disproportionate number of F-rated schools within the state and you never hear about all their failures and always with the excuse that they enroll students who have struggled in traditional schools and that they are in the low-income areas and were set up for failure from the start. I ask those parents if that is the right mentality to start a school with and is that what they are projecting to their students?
But then you have charters where they are earning A’s. In some cases, as with magnet schools, that’s the result of cherry-picking good students with motivated parents. Charter Management companies have even found ways to weed out the lower achieving students to help make their overall grade look better – yet it is the charter school which have all the unaccountability, uncertified teachers and in some cases uncertified schools themselves.
A warning to parents who are choosing the voucher approach to educate your child if they fall into the category of ‘English Language Learners’ (ELL). In the state of Florida there are laws in place that cover this in a ‘traditional public school’.
When your child goes to a school where vouchers are used for payments, all bets are off when it comes to these rules, and it’s because these schools are private and are not required to comply with state ESOL rules.
Another failure by our legislature is instead of insisting that students going to private schools with public money take the same standardized tests that public school kids take, the legislature would use public money to pay the Learning System Institute at Florida State University to do annual reports on the performance and learning gains of voucher students. So they are going to use additional taxpayer money to ‘assess’ the performance of the children being school on the voucher system?
Now we are back to the Florida State Constitution which states ALL children must be treated the same! I do believe we have some laws suits floating around again!
So in essence children going to a private school by voucher do not have to take the FL standardized tests but a child with disabilities who are in alternate schools do. In case you aren’t aware, so are hundreds and hundreds of students who are classified as not liking school, truant, 1-2 years behind their peers, or just normally cannot pass a test.
(Yet the FL Statutes clearly states all testing is mandatory and Commissioner Stewart has stated there will be consequences for anyone not participating in the testing process. She however fails to tell parents what those consequences are).
These children are housed in traditional and charter school settings within normally un-used buildings all over the state never having to take another test, not show graduation rates, but we are paying for their bus transportation not only to school but to work. For you see these students are actually in ‘school-to-work’ schools – not technical schools just school where the most important agenda is them working in a McDonald’s, Burger King, car wash – not very often in an office and certainly not in training that would support them.
And most certainly do not call one of these school principals and ask any questions. Not only do they become rude and unaccountable, but in some cases will even tell you they don’t have to answer your questions and they send you to your district board to try and find out who is overseeing the program.
Now the current chapter in Florida’s charter/voucher corruption, the legislators are using the basic format of Amendment 8 from the 2012 election cycle and putting it in SB 1552.
With an ongoing Republican control in the Florida Senate and House, parents best start forming home school coalitions and tap into the ‘good’ teachers who have quit teaching because of Common Core and the antics in Tallahassee.
Parents it is impossible to make this stuff up and we must come together and stop this madness. I don’t care what your party affiliation is, your nationality, or your race – I care about the futures of our children.