The Uncertain Future of Public Schools in Florida

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Your Tax Dollars For Private Use

January 11, 2012

Translated From Spanish Article Published January 10, 2012

By Ketty Rodriguez

The public school situation has become more complex and critical in 2012, especially when compared to last year. One only has to look at the laws that have come in to play, as well as the measures voters are being asked to approve. It’s no secret that the intent of legislators, with respect to the public school system, can be shortened to one word: privatization.

Who would have thought years ago that in a democracy like ours, that respects the rights of citizens, that we would ever be talking about privatization? Talk of privatization is not necessary when the money we all pay the taxes is designed to meet the educational and social needs of the state. What better way to invest our money than to do so in public education. Our public school students deserve the very best.

There is currently a bill in the Legislature that would allow tax money that has always been reserved for public schools, to be diverted diverted and invested into private schools. It seems that instead of finding new and creative ways to infuse money into our public school system, the legislators are busy trying to see how much they take take out. After years of deep educational budget cuts, forcing administrators to fire teachers, freezing salaries and eliminating educational programs, this is an atrocity.

It should be a very simple question: If money is tight at home, are you going to “give away” money to your neighbors? Don’t you first have to take care of your house before you start helping others? Is distributing public money to private schools prudent? Does it make sense to do this? What are the true intentions of giving public money to private schools, whether religious or secular?

Apparently, the answer might be the creation of a large structure of private and charter schools which are viewed as highly profitable businesses. Doing so will most certainly weaken public schools by denying them the money they deserve. The result would be: teacher layoffs, schools without technological resources to implement new programs, failure to maintain and / or remodel the old school facilities, and failing schools that no one wants to attend.

Public schools as opposed to private, have a constitutional duty to provide education to all children equally, regardless of socio-economic status, racial or immigration status. Everyone has the right to education, according to state law. We must protect the public schools to ensure their smooth operation and to ensure they receive adequate funding so that our children receive the most quality education possible. We should not use public money earmarked for education to turn a profit.

The danger of Amendment 7

What is the amendment 7 and what you propose? Amendment 7 is a proposal to amend the state constitution, and is included on the ballot November 6thof this year. If approved with 60% of the vote, it will allow schools and religious institutions to receive public funds. For years, religious institutions have been excluded from receiving public funds, due to the principle of separation of church and state.

In Florida, the Legislature, ignoring the sacred use of public money, has incorporated Amendment 7 onto the ballot, even though the circuit judge in Leon County, Terry Lewis forbade it. However, by passing the opinion of the judge, the Attorney General of Florida (Pam Bondi, rewrote the amendment and put it back on the ballot.

You see, the Florida Legislature with its Republican majority is focused on allowing public funding to be used by private schools. This would no doubt weaken all public schools in the state, which have already suffering enough.

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