Is Florida Trying To End Public Education?

 Wow. I never thought I would see such an overt attempt at pushing toward the privatization of an entire state school system as what happened recently in Florida.

Now, I have to be honest and admit that I’m not very knowledgeable about the workings of our educational system and their budgetary concerns. I may be misunderstanding this situation somewhat so, if I am, I hope somebody (Jeff, Dr. Bramhall, are you reading this?) will set me straight. 🙂

I read today that the Florida State House quietly passed a bill containing a few provisions that should concern people that fear more corporate intrusion into a society that already has far too much corporate control. 

One of these provisions will force public schools to share a huge portion of their construction budget with charter schools. The proposal would create the Florida Institute for Charter School Innovation in an effort to open more charter schools in the state.

Isn’t there already too much disparity in resources among public school districts? Don’t children in poorer neighborhoods have a tougher road to travel toward graduation without the threat of privatization corrupting the educational system further? We’re already dealing with standardized tests that create additional inequality in our educational system. What’s next, a poll tax on graduation day to receive your diploma?

Another of the provisions is one that would “encourage school districts to adopt mandatory school uniform policies for children in grades K – 8 by offering incentive money” according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Yes, we definitely need more effective measures at curtailing creativity in our children by encouraging bland acquiescence to the conformities of the dominant culture. Obedience is already drummed into our children and this is another step toward efficient assimilation – or mindless compliance to systematic behavior conditioning. Diversity is being burned to a crisp inside the vaunted “melting pot” of the good ‘ol U S of A.

The most disturbing thing to come to light is the background of the sponsor of the amendment regarding the construction budget, House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Erik Fresen, a republican from Miami.

Fresen worked as a “land use consultant” for a firm, Holland & Knight, that helped build several charter schools in Florida. Even more interesting is the fact that his brother works for Academica, which just happens to be the largest charter school management firm in the state.

Researching Erik Fresen, I discovered a few additional tidbits of interesting  information:

The Florida Ethics Commission fined him for failing to disclose financial information for four consecutive years from 2008 – 2011.

He once had a lien levied by the IRS for tax evasion.

He has been sued for about $30,000 by a mortgage company for failing to make payments on his house.

He had a lien levied by the Miami-Dade Building Department for a large number of code enforcement violations.

Even his agreement with the Florida State Advocate was rejected by the Ethics Commission due to an ethics violation fine he chose not to pay.

So, not only are a number of state politicians selling the education of the future children of Florida in order to fatten their bank accounts, one of the main architects of the legislation has a criminal track record and has somehow been able to stay in office.

If this isn’t another example of why we need to eliminate private campaign finance, regulate professional lobbying, enforce strict oversight of all levels of government and responsibly fund education, I don’t know what is.


13 comments on “Is Florida Trying To End Public Education?

  1. In recent decades, the Republican Party has morphed into a perverse ideology vehemently opposed to centralized, secular government because they correctly see it as the most effective public institution which promotes egalitarianism. Republicans these days are overwhelming white, fanatically religious, nationalistic, militaristic, authoritarian, and deeply disturbed by racial and ethnic integration. Destroying America’s public education system is part of a “crusade” they’re currently waging.

    Progressives, like myself, knew this was coming. We warned America to no avail. The 2014 midterms were pivotal. Had the GOP been defeated in that election, or at least held to a standstill, they wouldn’t have been able to push their agenda so vigorously. Unfortunately, that responsibility was left to Democrats – a divided political party controlled by corporatist “moderates” who feel more disdain for progressives, such as Elizabeth Warren, than they feel for Republicans. Consequently, voter turnout was barely 36% – the lowest in a midterm election since 1942 when the world was gripped in war.

    Going forward, things don’t look very rosy. The Democratic Party has alienated so much of its base that voter turnout is likely to continue declining trends – a long-term decline since the mid-1960’s, and a short-term decline since the 2008 “wave” election. These trends will offset much ballyhooed demographic shifts theoretically favorable to Democrats.

    Even if Democrats retain the White House in 2016, and possibly retake the U.S. Senate, it won’t make much difference. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive nominee, is no reformer. She and her “centrist” husband sold out to big money interests back in the 1990’s. Furthermore, the U.S. House of Representatives and most of the state legislatures across the nation are probably out of reach for Democrats until 2020 due to Republican gerrymandering following the 2010 election.

    Apologies for being so pessimistic, but this is how I see it.

  2. I understand your pessimism. You made some good points. The psychology of the U.S. people is very interesting.

    It’s true that corporate democrats have taken almost complete control of the party, while the GOP is completely in the hands of Wall Street – whether tea party wackos or slick executives. The democrats are losing a significant chunk of their base (progressives) while the GOP has gone so extremist they’re losing anyone who is sane. You’d think the time would be ripe for another party (or two) to make huge gains and become relevent. It’s very interesting how people can justify to themselves sticking with a party that doesn’t represent their views simply out of hate and anger to continue rooting for the home team as if it was the N.Y. Knicks or the San Francisco Giants.

    Yes, the GOP has been successful in turning reality upside down and convincing people that government interferes with industry. By purchasing elections and inserting their cronies into positions of power in the government, they support their long range plan of destroying any remnant of democracy while preaching freedom, strength and prosperity through “the markets” and waving flags to obscure the truth.

    We might get lucky and more people will see the reality of the situation. Maybe, we’ll get a progressive party. However, if we aren’t fortunate enough for that to happen, I still think it will be more difficult for the GOP to remain relevant than for the democrats in the long term. It’s got to be difficult to continue increasing the wealth of the wealthy while eliminating civil rights and building a police state. They might simply continue subverting the democratic party to their own ends.

    See, you’re not the only pessimistic one. Peace.

  3. There’s a provision in Obama’s stimulus package that requires states to increase the budget for charter schools in order to receive stimulus funding. The rest of it just sounds like more corporate welfare.

    This video has just gone viral about a 9 year girl advising her school board to end high stakes standardized tsting: http://www.upworthy.com/a-9-year-old-goes-in-on-standardized-tests-and-ends-with-the-best-mic-drop-of-all-time

  4. That’s interesting. I’d like to find details of that provision. My own research didn’t turn up anything on that. However, I did find some other interesting facts about the Economic Stimulus Act. One provision allows for states, as well as schools, to “track student data” according to a N.Y. times article published yesterday that printed details of the plan. I find that might be a bit “big brother.”

    More pertinent though is the reality that funds intended to help elevate the level of education in the U.S. were used to plug holes in school district budgets left by the callous slashing of school funding in state budgets. Especially disturbing is the fact that money meant for Title I schools were able to be “legally” diverted through “waivers” from the Education Department. These waivers increased significantly under Secretary Duncan in 2009.

    Apparently, state politicians have funded their own priorities in state budgets at the expense of federal money in a not-so-clever con game like modern snake oil salespeople. On the local end, it isn’t as bad as the Bush bank bailout in the sense that money at least went to teachers and others in the field of education as opposed to millionaires and billionaires.

    Thank you for your comment and thanks for the link to that brave, young girl who gave a piece of her mind to the local school board in Florida.

  5. Most of my information comes from education activist Danny Weil – I summarize it with links at https://zcomm.org/zblogs/obamas-neoliberal-stance-on-charter-schools-by-stuart-bramhall/

  6. “…one of the main architects of the legislation has a criminal track record and has somehow been able to stay in office.” Welcome to the sunshine state where it’s very own Governor’s former company was convicted of Medicaid fraud.

    Florida ranks almost last in state funding for mental health and developmental disability services, refused Medicaid expansion for millions of it’s own residents in an ideological stance against the Affordable Care Act and elected Jeb Bush twice. The last thing Florida wants is an educated populace.

    I worked in the Florida public schools for ten years, it’s push for privatization and corporate giveaways have been underway for years now. Former Governor Jeb Bush championed the high stakes, end of year testing that is a hallmark of NCLB/Race to the Top. The charter schools are a backdoor for corporate interests to gain an increasing foothold in public education and the lucrative pie it represents. I could literally go on and on but out of respect for your estimable blog and readers, I will stop now. Another thoughtful, well aimed post.

  7. Thank you. I’ll read it when I get a chance. Thanks or helping me out.

  8. Thanks again, Jeff. I was aware that Florida has quite a track record for scandal and controversy as well as a wild-eyed penchant for insane leaders. 🙂 I wasn’t aware of how far privatization of education had gone. Hopefully, people will fight back against this unfortunate trend.

    I don’t know if you read my reply to Dr. Bramhall, but I read a lot of disturbing news about how states have disingenuously directed funds intended for Title I schools into other areas of their budgets due to underfunding education. Most likely a convenient excuse to play with state funds to benefit themselves and their cronies.

    Thanks for the comment. Peace.

  9. Diane Ravitch is a former Asst. Secretary of Education who now opposes the corporate takeover of public education. She covers a lot of the issues you’ve mentioned here including the tracking of students through test data and underfunding of Title 1 schools: http://dianeravitch.net

    Badass Teachers (BATS) is a good resource too: http://www.badassteacher.org

    Chicago’s teachers recently went on strike to protest onerous contracts and the closing of dozens of “underperforming” schools. New Orleans entire school district was shut down following Hurricane Katrina and turned over to corporate interests.

    A few more takes on No (wealthy) Child Left Behind and it’s sequel Race to the Top (of cash mountain):

  10. Very interesting.

    I recently came across Diane Ravitch on Twitter and followed her account. And I’ve been following BadAss Teachers on Twitter for months and have learned a few things about the politics of education though I haven’t read a lot of their material due to limited time online.

    I’ve followed the situation in Chicago a little through twitter posts – the teacher strike and the support for Jesus “Chuy” Garcia against Rahm Emanuel. The runoff is in a few days.

    Thanks for the links. It should be educational.

  11. The short answer is yes, Republicans, paid by billionaires, are on a roll to destroy every aspect of the American social contract. The only serious question left is what will this country be like as a total oligarchy?

  12. Unfortunately, we are very close to that today. We have selections instead of elections, austerity budget proposals discussed as if they are responsible in any stretch of the imagination, deregulation of virtually everything, attempts at privatization of the entire economy, a war on unions, subsidization of toxic food while organic food is beyond the grasp of many and people arrested for protesting “legal” murder while economic terrorists continue raking in obscene wealth.

    What will it take to wake up the masses?

    Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  13. Readers should cheek out the links to blog posts related to this issue in the comment section left by Jeff Nguyen. They are informative and well-written.

    Also check out posts on a variety of issues at Jeff’s amazing blog, Deconstructing Myths.

    (Thanks, Jeff)

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