To the editor:
The current legislation being considered by the Florida legislature (known as the Parent Trigger Bill) is the latest assault on the public education system. Promoted as a means of parent empowerment, (nothing about turning a profit) the Parent Trigger Bill allows parents to petition for dramatic changes at failing public schools. However, most parent groups feel it's nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Careful analysis of this legislation reveals its clear but unstated goal, public dollars for private companies and a diversion of resources from the public education system. Since 1991 the Legislature has reduced state funding for our schools from 62 percent to 49 percent. They have created charter schools that take money out of the public school system and are currently considering allowing charter schools to receive capital outlay dollars. These taxpayer dollars are designated to be used for maintenance and repair of public school buildings. Now, we are considering giving taxpayer dollars and buildings to private corporations.
This is all a strategy implemented and promoted by charter companies and conservative think-tank groups. If you think public education cannot be taken over by the private sector, remember there was a time when we had a Department of Labor and a Department of Commerce. Those two agencies no longer exist, and their responsibilities have been taken over by private organizations. In the process, Florida has lost millions of federal dollars that once flowed through the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor.
To the detriment of our citizens, the State of Florida has always viewed education as a necessary evil. The lottery was created to enhance education programs in the State of Florida. However, from the moment this legislation was enacted, politicians began to reduce the amount of funds allocated from the general revenue by replacing the funds with lottery dollars. As a result, the lottery is not enhancing the educational process. It is funding the education process. This is another example of smoke and mirrors by the Florida Legislature. This also demonstrates that the stated intent, may not be, the actual outcome of proposed legislation. Keep this historical background in mind while examining the Parent Trigger Bill.
Let's point out some of the pitfalls and dangers this bill poses to the public education system. The bill states that the parents of students attending a failing school can vote to convert said school into a charter school. As we know, most failing schools are in low economic and disadvantaged communities. How much money can big corporations spend to convince parents to turn their failing public school into a charter school? The amount of money is unlimited; there are no limitations on the amount of funds a big corporation can spend. If major advertising campaigns can convince you to smoke and buy certain products, why can't they convince parents to change the ownership of our public schools?
The major intent of this bill is hidden by smoke and mirrors. This is an attempt to disguise the plan to privatize education in the State of Florida. If the citizens of Florida are not diligent and vigilant, in the next five years, public education will no longer exist.
Candidate for Lee County School Board