Education in Florida

June, 2018, David TK Hayes

Underfunding and the deliberate dismantling of the public-school system.  That is it.  That is the fundamental flaw in the thinking, and that is the fundamental problem with the current system.

Quality public education is guaranteed in the Florida Constitution.  Coming from the ‘outside’, I have seen education in many other places that I have lived.  I cannot even conceive how we got where we are today.

I see a major ongoing effort to privatize education for profit-based schools.  This goes against everything I have ever believed in.  There is no model in the world where the best public education available is delivered via a for-profit model.  It simply does not exist and Florida should not be the testing ground.

Charter schools were designed to fill very specific niches.  They are specialized schools with the intent of closing gaps in specialty education that might cost a lot for the taxpayer.

Today, we have 650+ charter schools that take 10% of the State’s students.  While many believe that charter schools have the same responsibility for reporting and for performance as public schools, nothing could be further from the truth.  Charter schools report to management companies and charge fees for this to your tax dollars.  Those groups lobby the government for more charter intrusion into our system, using the very profits they make from taxpayer money.

Charter schools do not have challenges to their subject matter, or formal hearings because parents complain.  Public schools are required by law to answer to challenges from anyone, regarding the curriculum or subject material presented.  The cost of this process just whittles away at the already-strapped resources.

Charter schools can get money even if they never open.  Prospective charter schools only need to meet minimum initial application requirements to receive grant money for opening their doors.  If they never open?  They can ‘go out of business’ before that and the public coffers lose that money.

We assume that giving parents choices makes the most sense.  I would argue that most parents are not actually aware of what makes a good education.  Just because you are a taxpayer does not mean you know what is best for any agency that is a recipient of your tax dollars.

That is like me claiming that I should best decide how NASA should explore space, or I should have ‘choices’ in the rockets they use just because I am a taxpayer.  Or what kind of asphalt should be used on our roads.

What we need is to further educate parents on what a good education consists of.  Educate and demonstrate the elements and processes that make up a high-performing education system.

Tax issues are yet another burden.  We have reduced the millage rates on property taxes over the years.  Millage rates are a portion of the home and business owners property tax bill that funds schools.

TK’s Real Estate Tax Bill for 2017

A small increase in property taxes, to the tune of $50-$60 per year for most homeowners, would not only close the current $1.1M budget gap (at the time of this writing), but would allow an average $1000/year wage increase for teachers. Also at the time of this writing, the School board has already announced ‘no raises for teachers this year’.

And now there is a Constitutional Amendment to increase the Homestead Exemption which Floridians enjoy.  That will reduce the ‘Assessed value’ of a property and thus reduce the amount of taxes collected under each category.  Who does not want lower property taxes?  But the reality is that it cost money to run the State, and we cannot run an education system with no money coming in (or not enough money coming in).

Now back to charter schools….

I recently heard, “Charter Schools are here to stay”.  Wow, I hope not.  The war against public schools is in full swing, and charter schools are NOT performing at any higher rate than any other public school.  It has become a Catch-22 where we punitively punish public schools for poor performance, we offer no raises for teachers, we defund programs in favor of school security measures with ZERO new dollars to cover it and then when schools perform badly, we can say “See, that schools is not performing and we should support more charter schools”

The trend needs to be reversed.  Florida ranks low in the country for teacher pay.  We are somewhere in the middle of education quality.

  • Teacher Pay – We do not and thus cannot attract the talent we need to make public education better than it is.
  • The expansion of charter schools – draws resources and money away from public schools with not enough oversight and no improvement in outcomes.
  • Lowering of Taxes – while this sounds great on the surface, we are damaging our future and out inability to recover from that.
  • Teaching towards a standard testing model is flawed from the beginning. I cannot find any teacher anywhere that compliments or supports the model of education we have.

Working, strong, high-output education systems are already operating in the country and around the world.  We need to learn from these models, build them and fund them.

Education is the single most important thing that a society can provide its citizens and people.  With a solid education system, you produce generations of people that care capable of solving the future problems of those generations.  But it takes two generations of commitment to produce the first batches of success.

My Republican incumbent candidate has voted multiple times to damage the public school system.  His record on education is graded an ‘F’ by the Florida Education Association Report Card.

Florida, let’s get to work on this.  We can do better, but only it we change the votes in the Legislature by changing the people that cast those votes.

 

Updates July 2, 2018

Some clarification on something I said above:

“Teaching towards a standard testing model is flawed from the beginning. I cannot find any teacher anywhere that compliments or supports the model of education we have.”

I do not mean that we should not be teaching to a standard.  Educations standards are important, but more criticizing the model that expects all students to pass the standard tests at the same level.  Our expectations of the test scores, and what we do with that data is part of the problem.  All students cannot possibly perform at the same level.  But we can have high standards, still educate everyone to the best of THEIR ability.  But please, let’s not punish the school because some students score lower than others.