Florida policymakers trying to privatize entire state public school system

You read it right; “vulture capitalism” coming to a public school system near you.

This is from Eileen Roy, a member of the Alachua County (Florida) School Board and published in the Gainesville Sun (my emphasis):

Make no mistake, there is a determined, coordinated effort to dismantle public schools. June Girard’s Jan. 2 Speaking Out (“For Profit Virtual Schools A Bad Deal for Kids”) is right on target in exposing the machinations to privatize public education. The plan is to allow venture capitalists to step in with for-profit virtual schools, cut the costs of traditional public schools, and make bundles of cash … education on the cheap at the expense of children’s education.

Who cares that these virtual schools may have a poor or non-existent track record, or that virtual school teachers often have hundreds of students each? While “attending” virtual school, many students have no adult supervision. Profit, not educational excellence, is the motive.

The Florida Legislature in the past two sessions has passed a flurry of bills to distract educators and parents by requiring every student to take and pass a college prep curriculum to graduate high school, eliminating teacher tenure, requiring end-of-course exams for every subject taught (without providing funding), and requiring every student to take at least one virtual school class to graduate. … The writing is on the wall.

I came by that article via this one, whose writer adds:

Roy provides another example which explains why Jacksonville Sen. Steve Wise proposed a bill last session to end school board member salaries. It was a cynical ploy to eliminate opponents and weaken local control.

It is from school boards where Florida’s republican privateers are getting their most significant opposition. Roy’s not alone. Flagler’s Colleen Conklin has taken the legislature to task for unfunded mandates and their general failure to fund. Orange county board member Daryl Flynn wrote last month that “the school choice movement may be leading us to unaccountable forms of corporate-run models for educating students.” Another Orange county school board member, Bill Sublette, accused Charter USA of attempting to “stockpile charters.” The state’s association of school boards is calling for an end to unfunded mandates and to provide proper funding. …

How alone are the privatization crowd? Maybe they realize it. It sure explains why legislative efforts are often stealth or seek to impose phony, artificial choice triggers.

A couple of notes:

■ This is an editorial, not a news article. In fairness though, Gov. Rick Scott is fully capable of this kind of pro-corporate radical plan; and the writer is a school board member, not just a citizen.

■ The article referenced in the second sentence of the first quote — “For Profit Virtual Schools A Bad Deal for Kids” — is a good read also. Please click through; it’s not long.

■ Radically restructuring government and society by taking maximum advantage of power has a strong Hungary ring to it. These Republican governors — if you think about it — may be writing the template for the next Republican president.

(Don’t be foolish enough to dismiss that. The governor is the president of a state, and Republicans love power like a drug.)

Watch for these “Parent Triggers” — cynically branded as “Parent Empowerment” bills. It’s the backdoor way to get parents to pull the trigger that hands over their schools:

The “Parent Trigger” is a common ploy that has been attempted around the country. This legislation cynically uses parents and their love for their children as a tool to pull the “trigger” and hand their neighborhood school over to a private entity with no true guarantee of gaining anything better for the children. The net result is that schools are taken away from the jurisdiction of duly elected district officials and the physical property of the school is seized and handed over to a for-profit management company.

“Parent Empowerment” — perfectly Orwellian, and a perfect example of the 180 Tell. It’s exactly 180° opposite to what it claims to be.

This has all the earmarks of an ALEC operation. Read through the two Florida articles and note how many of the enabling details are similar to the Missouri proposal linked here.

(For the newly born or just awakened, ALEC is the national Republican–corporate law-writing shop that creates almost all of these radical state proposals. This link will get you started — our baseline ALEC post. For more, the google is your friend, for now at least.)

Huge props to progressive Florida activist Susan Smith and education activist Rita Solnet for the catch. Activism pays, folks. This is not a done deal. (This is also why you want to get on school boards. It’s very local, and these are your children after all.)


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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