Republicans have dominated state government since 1999. They
have been in charge of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion
and since the governors appoints supreme court justices the legislative branches
as well. That is 18 years.
Since Jeb Bush was governor with a brief slow down by
Charlie Crist, Republicans have done all they can’t kneecap public education.
High stakes testing, a republican idea, ignoring poverty, a republican idea,
basing teacher’s evaluations on a nearly incompressible VAM formula, a
republican idea, underfunding schools and underpaying teachers, a republican
idea and there is school choice, the worse republican idea of all.
Vouchers for private schools annually drain hundreds of
millions of dollars from the state coffers and where run of the mill
republicans may like the idea of vouchers, I bet they don’t like the idea of them
not having any accountability. Schools that take vouchers don’t have to take
the state tests which are so important for public schools, have certified
teachers or a recognized curriculum and most do not even have to report how they
spend the money.
Then there are charter schools. I bet most people don’t know
that over 350 charters schools have taken money and folded. I bet most people
don’t know that as a group they underperform when compared to public schools
and most of the ones that do well, are set up in neighborhoods and communities
that already have public schools that are doing well.
Most of the charter chains are for profit and business has
been good making their owners multi-millionaires and one of the biggest special
interest’s groups in Tallahassee giving millions to politicians who push their
expansion. In fact, several republican legislators who introduce and push
charter school bills either work for or own charter schools or have families
that do. That blatant conflict of interest is okay here in Florida too, which
again is a republican idea.
Charter schools admittedly a noble concept are nothing more
than crony capitalism that destroys home rule. Up till now I thought were two
things that real conservatives and republicans railed against.
Then there is the abomination of house bill 7069. This 278-page
train bill was created on the last day of the session, behind closed doors
without input or debate from the public. Senator Corcoran, one of the men sequestered
away crafting the bill, wife owns a charter school by the way. Then the
governor didn’t sign the bill until after a special legislative session where
his pet projects, Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida were funded. Public
schools, the children that attend them and the teachers that work at them were reduced
to bargaining chips.
The bill makes it easier to close schools and creates a 130-million-dollar
fund to replace them with charter schools despite their awful track record. It
also forces cash and resourced starved public schools to share tax dollars
earmarked for repairs with for profit charter schools.
Republican’s is this what you wanted and voted for?
Republicans argued, we must change the status quo. Well
friends they are right, except the real status quo is how republicans have been
completely in charge of education for nearly 20 years, to which the bulk of the
time they have spent knee capping, starving and chipping away at public
education. Not unions, not democrats, but republicans.
Are there problems in public education? Yes definitely, the
biggest ones are ignoring poverty, a lack of resources and republicans who have
done all they can to hurt public education. Republicans, ordinary ones, not those getting rich in Tallahassee, isn’t it time you said, enough.