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Florida: The Graveyard of American Public Education

Remember that Betsy DeVos points to Florida as a model.

Betsy DeVos at CPAC in 2017

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos spoke at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr/cc)

Florida has the worst education policies of any state in the nation, and it is about to get even more destructive, more ignorant, more backward.

Read this alarming article and remember that Betsy DeVos points to Florida as a model.

A model, yes. A model of how religious extremists, rightwing ideologues, and uneducated political hacks can destroy public education, drive away teachers, and fund “schools” that indoctrinate students in religious dogma.

The post was written by Kathleen Oropeza Parent Activist in Orlando.

Jeb Bush started the descent into the swamp of ignorance. Now the torch is carried by Ron DeSantis, who wants to arm teachers, expand the state’s voucher programs to include middle-class families with income up to $100,000 a year, reduce the power of local school boards so they can’t block new charter schools, and undercut public schools in every way their little minds can imagine.

Oropeza writes:

“Pay attention, because what happens in Florida usually shows up in the thirty or so other states under GOP control.

“Step one for DeSantis was to stock the State Supreme Court with three conservative judges. Next, DeSantis charged the Board of Education with appointing Richard Corcoran as State Commissioner of Education. As the immediate past Speaker of the Florida House, Corcoran was the architect of the “school choice” expansions logrolled into multi-subject, opaque omnibus bills that became law over the past several sessions.

“DeSantis, a known Trump ally, made it clear in his proposed education vision to legislators before the the start of the 2019 session that they should “send me a bill” for a new private school tax-funded voucher program. The DeSantis voucher became SB 7070/HB 7075, the radical Family Empowerment Scholarship Program. Funded through the Florida Education Finance Program from property taxes, this is a dangerous co-mingling of the already thin dollars designated for Florida’s district public schools.

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“In a state that prizes high-stakes accountability for its public-school students, these vouchers go to unregulated private schools that maintain their right to discriminate against certain students, charge more than the voucher for tuition, teach extreme curriculums, and are not required to ensure student safety or hire certified teachers. This dramatic expansion of private religious school vouchers, once meant for low-income recipients, is morphing into a middle-class entitlement program for families of four making close to $100,000 a year….

”On teacher pay, DeSantis wants to double down on the awful policy of providing bonuses instead of raises viaSB7070. Teacher pay in Florida ranks 45th in the nation: $47,858 on average. The state is struggling with a massive teacher shortage projected by the Florida Department of Education to reach 10,000 vacancies by the start of next school year.”

As Oropeza points out, no one ever bought a home with a one-time bonus (except on Wall Street).

”DeSantis supporter Representative Kim Daniels continues to insert religion into public schools this session by sponsoring HB 195. This is model legislation from ALEC-like Christian Nationalist Project Blitz. Daniels, a Democrat, passed a 2018 law requiring “In God We Trust” to be displayed in public schools. This year Daniels is pushing Blitz legislation requiring public high schools to offer a religion class that teaches only Christianity.”

Another bill allows schools to withdraw any book that is “morally offensive,” such as Frank McCourt’s “Angela’s Ashes.” Expect to see demands to remove a lot of “morally offensive” classics by authors such as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Harper Lee, and Mark Twain.

“Another bill, HB 330 by Senator Dennis Baxley, the original sponsor of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, seeks to revise curriculum standards and force public schools to teach “science” theories such ascreationism and alternate views to subjects such as climate change.”

Florida is indeed a model: a model of kakistocracy.

Look it up.

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education at New York University. Her most recent book is Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools.  Her previous books and articles about American education include: The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform, (Simon & Schuster, 2000); The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn (Knopf, 2003); The English Reader: What Every Literate Person Needs to Know (Oxford, 2006), which she edited with her son Michael Ravitch. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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