Protect Our Public Schools (POPS)

August 19, 2017
Manasota Move to Amend

Manasota MTA has formed an Education Committee. At our last general Move To Amend meeting, there was intense interest in local education issues. The primary concern was the privatization of our public schools. On Tuesday, we had our second meeting. Thanks to The Reserve for letting us meet there.

Carol Lerner started the meeting  by explaining some of the components in HB7069, which was recently signed into Florida law. It contains an empty body with one 278 page amendment with manifold provisions to siphon taxpayer funds from public schools to private coffers. HB7069 provides more taxpayer funds for private and charter schools - including an expansion of vouchers, bringing in Schools of Hope to replace low performing public schools, and requiring capital outlays to charter schools. This will undoubtedly lure even more profit-driven schools to open up in Florida. Sarasota County School Board Member, Shirley Brown, wrote an excellent editorial about the situation in Critical Times.

Although HB7069 has a few positive points, they seem dwarfed by the overall direction of the bill. We decided we would speak up about this, when the Sarasota Legislative Delegation meets on September 5. We will ask that this bill be rescinded and that the Florida Legislature start over. And after some deliberation, we named ourselves Manasota MTA Protect Our Public Schools - POPS for short.

We are very fortunate in Sarasota County to have some excellent charter schools that serve our children well. The rest of Florida has not been so lucky. The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Center for Democracy, and the League of United Latin American Citizens recently completed a report summarizing Florida Charter Schools’ Poor Performance, which you can download here.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune reported one consequence of the new legislation for Sarasota County is a requirement to give $9.3 million to charter schools for capital improvements and maintenance this year. The County had already allocated $5.5 million. The extra money must be taken from the public school budget and given away, regardless of whether it is needed. And finally, the County will not retain ownership of any of the capital assets that might be purchased with these taxpayer funds.

What is pushing Florida toward more charter schools, even with their overall poorer performance? The Florida Times Union, a Jacksonville newspaper, followed some of the money flowing from charter schools into political PACs and campaigns. Read their exposé here. Sue Legg, a Florida League of Women Voters expert in charter schools explains

“Regulating charters is difficult in Florida. Most key education committees are run by legislators with personal ties to charters.”

And don't take your eyes off the money. Donations from charter school management companies are now headed toward Florida's local school board races.