This session is bound to be a doozy, looking at all the ways Florida Republicans are trying to dismantle the public education system.
Republicans have introduced a series of education deregulation bills (SB 7000, 7002, 7004) that aim to provide more flexibility and authority to school districts on various aspects of public education, such as teacher certification, contracts, evaluations, salary schedules, assessments, accountability, facilities, and funding. SB 7004 also modifies some provisions related to prekindergarten programs, retention and graduation, instructional materials, and reporting.
These bills largely undermine the quality and equity of public education in Florida. They weaken the standards and protections for teachers, students, and parents, and allow school districts to evade accountability and transparency. They also reduce the state’s role and responsibility in ensuring adequate and fair funding, facilities, and resources for all public schools. These bills are not in the best interest of the public, but rather serve the agenda of privatization and deregulation of education.
In another effort to undermine the public school system in Florida, House Bill 109 allows a public school to convert to a charter school if approved by a majority vote of the parents of students enrolled in the school and a majority vote of the school’s instructional staff. It also requires the school district to provide the converted charter school with the same per-student funding and facilities as other charter schools in the district.
This bill undermines the public school system and the democratic governance of education. It allows a small group of parents and staff to decide the fate of a public school without the input or consent of the broader community, the school board, or the state. It also diverts public funds and resources to charter schools that are less accountable, transparent, and equitable than public schools. It creates instability and uncertainty for the students, staff, and families who may not agree with or benefit from the conversion.
Senate Bill 282 exempts nonpublic religious postsecondary educational institutions (that is, private Christian colleges) from certain state regulations and oversight, such as licensure, accreditation, curriculum, faculty qualifications, and student outcomes. It also allows these institutions to participate in state financial aid programs and grants. This bill would allow private religious institutions to receive public funds and benefits without complying with the same standards and expectations as other postsecondary institutions. It also exposes students and taxpayers to the risk of fraud, abuse, and poor quality education. It infringes on the rights and interests of students, faculty, and staff who may not share or adhere to the religious beliefs and practices of these institutions.
In a scene right of out George Orwell’s 1984, Republicans have introduced a bill (HB465 and SB470) that would punish college students from protesting in support of Palestinian rights. That is, any student who opposes the killing of Palestinian civilians would be assessed an out-of-state tuition fee, and be deemed ineligible for state grants, financial aid, scholarships, or tuition assistance. For many students, this would effectively bar them from continuing their students at a Florida higher education institution. This bill is discriminatory, unconstitutional, and counterproductive. It violates the rights and freedoms of postsecondary education students based on their political views or associations. It also undermines the values and goals of higher education, which are to promote diversity, dialogue, and global citizenship. It also harms the academic and professional development of students and the academic reputation and integrity of postsecondary educational institutions. For a political party that likes to rail against “indoctrination” at Florida colleges, this bill is a blatant attempt to stifle freedom of speech and codify the very indoctrination they hope to prevent.
Air Force veteran, writing about the intersection of domestic policy and national security, especially as it effects his home state of Florida.