The Oppermanns

The Oppermanns by Lion Feuchtwanger

The FCFS book discussion group is discussing this book the first Sunday in January 2023

I am formulating the discussion topics here. This is still WIP (work in progress)

Location: 35
It is not your duty to finish this novel, but neither are you free to neglect the history it preserves with such artistry, agony, and passion.

Location: 56
a novel about the German 1930s—a novel about pervasive surveillance and militarized policing, and about how the fake-news threats of “migrants” and “terrorism” can be manipulated to curtail civil liberties and crush democratic norms—will never be enough to prevent any of that from ever happening again.

Location: 110
the commercial success of the book only further imperiled its author. With the outbreak of war in September 1939, Feuchtwanger was detained by the French, … With the aid of American journalist Varian Fry, Marta contacted Hiram Bingham, the American vice-consul in Marseille, It was Bingham who planned Feuchtwanger’s escape, which was not without its farcical elements

Location: 138
the principle that art can, or even must, have a message; and that such art-with-a-message, which will always be dismissed as propaganda, is in fact the only available corrective to the real and actual propaganda of entrenched official power.

The above was the introduction to the book updated in 2022. Here’s a review by Cohen:

Begin excerpts from the book for discussion with possible discussion questions.

  1. Let’s discuss efforts to bring down prices. Why do people buy the less expensive products and then blame a scapegoat? For example, companies that move factories to countries where labor is cheaper aren’t boycotted but the trade agreements are scapegoated.

Location: 378
This movement called itself National Socialism. It freely expressed what Heinrich Wels had long secretly felt, namely that the Jewish firms with their cut-price methods were responsible for Germany’s decline. It was true that people still preferred to buy cheaper tables, but at least they abused the Oppermanns.

2. Who profits when minorities are slandered?

Location: 385
Chicanery from official quarters increased under pressure from the growing National Socialist party. Heinrich Wels profited.

3. Is he talking about Poland here? Excerpt from Wikipedia:

On August 31, the day before the German invasion of Poland that began World War II, the Germans began mass arrests of prominent Poles in the city. Among the arrested Poles were activists, entrepreneurs, journalists, editors, scout leaders, the director of the local Polish bank and the director of the local Polish library. The Nowiny Codzienne newspaper was closed down on September 1, and its editorial team, including editor-in-chief Jan Łangowski, was deported to concentration camps. In September 1939, local Polish organizations were closed down by the German police and Gestapo, and the assets of the local Polish bank were confiscated. On September 13 and October 4, 1939, arrested Poles were deported from the city to concentration camps

Location: 566
“Grosnowice changed masters seventeen times. Seven times the changes brought pogroms with them.

I am formulating the discussion topics here. This is still WIP (work in progress)


Who is the group that is trying to harm the public schools?

Governor has signed the bill

Since it passed, DeSantis has repeatedly mischaracterized what the bill does. He’s said the bill will stop young students from being “sexualized” in the classroom. Amendments offered by Democratic and Republican lawmakers to broaden the bill to include a prohibition on teaching young kids about all kinds of human sexuality — not just topics that appear to relate to LGBTQ Floridians — were roundly rejected by GOP lawmakers.

Excerpt from an Integrity Florida Report:

Some charter and school choice advocates are clear about their goal. The ultimate hope of many, as Milton Friedman wrote (see Page 8), is to bring about a transfer from government to private enterprise, in part by “enabling a private, for-profit industry to develop” in​ education.

This excerpt from that 2018 Integrity Florida Report caught my eye because the Florida legislature just passed SB 758 which will establish a statewide charter school authorizer:

The Florida Supreme Court removed from the November 2018 ballot a constitutional amendment that would have established a statewide charter school authorizer. Approval of that amendment would have added momentum for further charter school growth.​”

A March 21st letter to the TU mischaracterized HB 1557. If HB 1557 was really about banning discussion of sexual activity in grades K-3, then Senator Baxley would have changed his bill to include Senator Brandes’ amendment (which replaces the “don’t say gay” language with “don’t discuss sexual activity”). 

This is a great video that explains Brandes’ amendment that Baxley refused to include in his bill: 

You can listen to Senator Baxley’s words on the senate floor as well as in the committee meetings defending his bill. He clearly didn’t write the bill. Some group wrote it and got him to sponsor it. From his own words, it appears he agreed to sponsor it because he thinks it’s not OK to be gay. Of course, that’s incredibly sad. I find it comparable to saying “it’s not OK to be black or disabled or anything that’s different from me.

I posit that the real goal of HB 1557 (by the people who actually wrote the bill) is to harm the district-run schools because the bill doesn’t apply to charter or voucher funded private schools. Please take a look at the bill analysis (ref 9). The real goal of the bill is to harm the neighborhood and magnet schools by allowing parents to bring frivolous lawsuits based on the vague wording in the bill or at least that’s how it appears to me. A recent article in the New York Times (ref 10) clearly explained how the bill is vague and could lead to frivolous lawsuits.

If the bill was truly about the health and safety of the students, then it would apply to all publicly funded schools. Charter schools and voucher funded private schools are required to comply with health and safety laws.

I offer as support for my suggestion the wording in HB -1B signed by the Governor late in 2021 specifically exempting charter and voucher funded private schools. The real purpose (of HB-1B) is to allow Education Commissioner Corcoran to financially harm the district-run schools that followed CDC guidelines. Corcoran didn’t want to financially harm the charter or voucher funded private schools that also disobeyed Dr. Ladapo’s rule by following CDC guidelines. That’s how it seems to me.  IF it was really about the health of the students, wouldn’t it apply to ALL publicly funded schools?

HB 1557 as well as HB-1B are attempts at financially harming the schools run by the locally elected school boards rather than an actual health concern. They appear part of the movement to privatize our public school system. We must vote out these legislators who are trying to harm our neighborhood and magnet schools in their efforts to privatize public education.


  1. March 21st letter to the editor that I mentioned in the first paragraph.
  2. At minute 31 in the Appropriations committee meeting, Senator Gibson asked if HB 1557 (the Don’t Say Gay bill) covered charter schools. The bill sponsor, Senator Baxley, said he didn’t know and went to ask the staff. He came back and said it only applies to the traditional public schools. Senator Stargel, the chair of the Appropriations Committee, said Baxley was wrong–she said his bill covered the traditional and charter schools. I followed up with Senator Stargel asking her under what statute HB 1557 will apply to charter schools. She hasn’t replied to my email. The main Florida statute governing charter schools is f.s. 1002.33. It specifically says charter schools are exempt from statute chapters 1000-1013 (except a few covering such things as health, safety, and testing). During the public comment period of the committee meeting around the one hour and 36 minute mark, Senator Stargel again insisted the bill applied to the charter schools, but seemed to indicate it didn’t apply to voucher funded private schools. The bill’s language specifically mentions district schools (but not charter schools) so how does it apply to charter schools?  And if it does apply to charter schools because of its supposed health aspect, then it would also apply to voucher funded private schools according to f.s. 1002.421
    Link to the video of the committee meeting that I mentioned:

3.  F.S. 1002.421 reads in part as follows:
A private school participating in an educational scholarship program established pursuant to this chapter must
(g) Meet applicable state and local health, safety, and welfare laws, codes, and rules …

4.  HB 1557 references f.s. 1002.20 which uses the vague term public school and says:
K-12 student and parent rights.—Parents of public school students must receive accurate and timely information regarding their child’s academic progress and must be informed of ways they can help their child to succeed in school. K-12 students and their parents are afforded numerous statutory rights including, but not limited to, the following … 

5.  But notice that f.s. 1002.33 says 1002.20 doesn’t apply to charter schools.
F.S. 1002.33 reads in part:
(a) A charter school shall operate in accordance with its charter and shall be exempt from all statutes in chapters 1000-1013. However, a charter school shall be in compliance with the following statutes in chapters 1000-1013 ….   Those statutes pertaining to student health, safety, and welfare.

6. HB 1557 enrolled version:

7.  Charter schools and voucher funded private schools are supposed to comply with health and safety laws BUT the wording in HB -1B signed by the Governor late in 2021 specifically exempted charter and voucher funded private schools. The bill reads in part:
A district school board, a district school superintendent, an elected or appointed local official, or any district school board employee may not…

8.  F.S. 1014.04 appears to apply to all schools, not just publicly funded schools. I hope a journalist will do a deep dive on what “public school means” and which bills apply to ALL schools whether they are publicly funded or not.
1014.04 Parental rights.—
All parental rights are reserved to the parent of a minor child in this state without obstruction or interference from the state, any of its political subdivisions, any other governmental entity, or any other institution, including, but not limited to, all of the following rights of a parent of a minor child in this state

9.  Excerpt from the bill analysis for HB 1557 which does NOT say charter and voucher funded private schools BUT only district schools:
Bring an action against the school district to obtain a declaratory judgment that the school district procedure or practice violates the provision in the bill and seek injunctive relief. A court may award damages and must award reasonable attorney fees and court costs to a parent who receives declaratory or injunctive relief.

10. This article examines Florida’s HB 1557 and explains why it is vague and can lead to frivolous lawsuits:

What is a public school?

Please urge your state representative to ask that the staff analysis indicate which schools must comply with the various bills. We now have 3 categories of publicly funded schools:

  • Schools run the locally elected school board
  • Charter schools
  • Voucher funded private schools

Charter schools and voucher funded private schools are supposed to comply with health and safety laws BUT the wording in HB -1B signed by the Governor late in 2021 specifically exempted charter and voucher funded private schools. The bill reads in part:

A district school board, a district school superintendent, an elected or appointed local official, or any district school board employee may not…    

Did representatives who voted yes on the bill give a rationale that explained why this particular health rule wouldn’t apply to all publicly funded schools? Was it because Education Commissioner Corcoran wanted to go after the district-run schools that followed CDC guidelines but didn’t want to go after charter or voucher funded private schools that also disobeyed Dr. Ladapo’s rule? In other words, was the bill an attempt to hurt the district run schools rather than an actual health concern?

F.S. 1002.20 discusses parental rights and (3) is specific to health issues but notice how (n) singles out the district-run schools.

1002.20 (3) (n) reads in part:

 1. A district school board, a district school superintendent, an elected or appointed local official, or any district school board employee may not:

F.S. 1002.33 reads in part:
16) (a) A charter school shall operate in accordance with its charter and shall be exempt from all statutes in chapters 1000-1013. However, a charter school shall be in compliance with the following statutes in chapters 1000-1013:

1. Those statutes specifically applying to charter schools, including this section.

2. Those statutes pertaining to the student assessment program and school grading system.[but voucher funded private schools don’t, correct?]

3. Those statutes pertaining to the provision of services to students with disabilities.

4. Those statutes pertaining to civil rights, including s. 1000.05, relating to discrimination.

5. Those statutes pertaining to student health, safety, and welfare.

F.S. 1002.421 reads in part as follows:

A private school participating in an educational scholarship program established pursuant to this chapter must
(a) Comply with the antidiscrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. s. 2000d. [it doesn’t say f.s. 1000.05]

(g) Meet applicable state and local health, safety, and welfare laws, codes, and rules …

Charter and voucher funded private schools do not have to follow the rules of f.s. 1003.42 unless stipulated elsewhere. That statute specifically says it only applies to the district run schools:
F.S. 1003.42 reads in part:

(1)(a) Each district school board shall provide all courses required …

   (2) Members of the instructional staff of the public schools, subject to the rules of the State Board of Education and the district school board,

Are charter schools and voucher funded private schools part of “public education” mentioned in Florida’s Constitution Article IX? In other words, does “free public schools” mean “publicly funded schools”? 

ARTICLE IX of Florida’s Constitution

SECTION 1. Public education.—(a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education  …

HB 395/ SB 268

HB 395/ SB 268 is another one of those bills that aims to distort history in pursuit of a particular (possibly harmful) ideology.

HB 395 is getting its first reading in the House on February 22nd.
Its companion bill SB 268 has one more committee to go: Senate Appropriations

Here is a rough draft of talking points:

  • The countries mentioned in the bill are totalitarian centralized command post countries that do not embrace democracy. Democracy embraces the concept of letting all voices be heard. It is telling that similar fascist countries are left off the list in the bill. This bill could be amended to something I might actually support.
  • By using words such as marxist and communist, it moves the narrative away from the true dangers facing our country by distorting historical facts. The true dangers facing our country are the attempts at silencing the voice of the people by voter suppression laws and attacks on teaching the facts of history in our public schools.
  • One of the ideologies that helps make our country great is that cities and businesses can experiment with what works as compared to a centralized command post that controls all production.
  • Instead of what this bill suggests, curricula could be suggested to point out how our Constitution helps prevent violent revolutions. The course might include the history of violent revolutions that might have been prevented if the voice of the people had been considered in the running of the government. The course work might include the value of hearing all voices compared to totalitarian/authoritarian regimes. The course work might include a discussion of the First Amendment which protects free speech, the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
  • Certainly the confiscation of private property and Fidel’s brutality has left many Cuban immigrants and humanitarians angry.
  • Problems with the bill: It could be argued that the economic hardships in Cuba since the revolution were caused by the US embargo and not by the form of government practiced in Cuba. Also the bill downplays what led to the Cuban revolution:
  • Corruption had been an issue in Cuba since the establishment of the Republic of Cuba in 1902. Politics and power were seen as means for the elites to further enrich themselves and accumulate personal wealth whilst in office. Worsened by nepotism, people grew to accept and work within the system, acknowledging they needed bribes in order to achieve certain ends. Batista seized power by violence which undermined the notions of democracy.

Should tolerance be taught in all publicly funded schools?

What is the difference between a public school and a publicly funded school?

The legislature needs to always specify which of the publicly funded schools a bill applies to.  Bills should no longer just indicate “public schools.”   There are now three types of publicly funded schools: district-run, charter, and voucher funded private schools.

If the bill doesn’t apply to all publicly funded schools, then the bill sponsor needs to be clear why not.  In other words, why does the bill sponsor want to burden the district-run schools with the requirement but not the other publicly funded schools? The district-run schools are the only ones run by locally elected constitutional officers.

Taxpayers want their tax dollars protected. The legislature shouldn’t create rules and punishments for district run schools that don’t apply to all publicly funded schools. Please add an amendment to these bills so that the courses being required apply to all publicly funded schools:

  • HB 281
  • HB 361
  • SB 480
  • SB 490

In 1994 when the state legislature began requiring  public schools to teach the Holocaust, “public schools” meant the neighborhood and magnet schools.  It is important that charter schools and voucher funded private schools teach the Holocaust and African American studies in the same way district run schools are required to teach it. Florida bill HB 51 will require the courses be taught in all publicly funded schools as it should be. It is vital that the Holocaust be taught in all publicly funded schools as first required by Florida statute beginning in 1994:

to be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions

The teaching of the Holocaust in a way that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions should be taught in ALL publicly funded schools. 

Please urge your state representative to co-sponsor this important bill HB 51.

Strengthen Florida statute 1013.62 (5) in the 2022 Florida legislative session

Are you watching the 2022 Florida legislative session? There are lots of issues involving education including funding for teacher salaries and more mental health counselors.

This issue is about safeguarding our tax dollars that are designated for capital outlay funds. Please urge our legislators to strengthen F.S. 1013.62 (5) in at least two ways

  1. Allow the school board to deny new charter applications if 100% of the local tax capital outlay funds and the assets they purchased can’t be recouped by the school district if the charter school closes
  2. Allow the school district to withhold distributions of the capital outlay funds until the charter contract stipulates how the capital outlay funds and the assets they purchase can be recouped if the charter school closes

The goal of this suggestion (as an amendment to a bill) will be to keep the assets purchased with capital outlay dollars within the public school system if the charter school should close. It is important that the public know that charter schools are skirting the law by making lease payments to related parties rather than owning the building. If the charter school owned the building then it would be easier to keep the building in the public school system for another charter school or the district to use if the charter school should close. As it stands now, our sales surtax and local property tax money’s investment will be lost if the charter school closes and a private entity owns the building. Giving away tax revenues with few strings attached is not an effective way of meeting policy objectives or managing public finances. It is clear that without a legally enforceable contract specifying the obligations of the respective parties, an economic incentive will be considered a gift. I don’t think anyone wants our sales surtax or local property tax money to be a gift to private investors. Capital outlay dollars and the assets they purchase should stay within the public school system.

Possible bills this amendment could be added to:
HB 225 and its companion bill SB 892
HB 609 and its companion bill SB 622
HB 865 and its companion bill SB 758

f.s. 1013.62 (5) reads in part:
(5) If a charter school is nonrenewed or terminated, any unencumbered funds and all equipment and property purchased with district public funds shall revert to the ownership of the district school board, as provided for in s. 1002.33(8)(e) and (f). … If there are additional local issues such as the shared use of facilities or partial ownership of facilities or property, these issues shall be agreed to in the charter contract prior to the expenditure of funds.

HB 51

Florida Statute 1003.42 (2)(g)–that passed in 1994–is an important message for our community and should be taught in all publicly funded schools:

(g)1. The history of the Holocaust …[must] be taught in a manner that leads to an investigation of human behavior, an understanding of the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping, and an examination of what it means to be a responsible and respectful person, for the purposes of encouraging tolerance of diversity in a pluralistic society and for nurturing and protecting democratic values and institutions,

Please ask your representative to suggest changing this part of HB 51

71 (1) Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, the department
72 shall annually verify that each school district, charter school,
73 and private school [that receives voucher money] implements the instruction required under s.
74 1003.42(2)(g) and (h), relating to the history of the Holocaust
75 and the history of African Americans, efficiently and faithfully

by adding

in such a way that students are encouraged to understand the ramifications of prejudice, stereotyping and racism. If we truly want to educate our next generation to understand the evils of hatred, as exposed during the Holocaust, so that history does not repeat itself, we must address the universal lessons,

The necessity for the additional clause and line is because the standards passed by the state Board of Education in June 2021 don’t emphasize the original goal of 1003.42(2)(g). Excerpts from this Orlando Sentinel article:

Experts tapped by the state to help write or review new Holocaust standards say Florida’s proposal fails to connect the horrors of the Holocaust to lessons that would encourage today’s students to understand the “ramifications of prejudice, stereotyping and racism.” That failure is a violation of the state’s nearly 30-year-old Holocaust education law, they say, and undermines the work of longtime Holocaust educators. “Any legitimate Holocaust education expert” would advise that students learn what happened from 1933-45 and about antisemitism and also be encouraged “to make connections between the past and their own roles and responsibilities today,” wrote Yael Hershfield, interim regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Florida, in a June 11 letter to Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. “If we truly want to educate our next generation to understand the evils of hatred, as exposed during the Holocaust, so that history does not repeat itself, as it did in Rwanda and other genocides, we must address the universal lessons,” Hershfield added.  

Oren Stier, a professor of religious studies and director of the Holocaust and genocide studies program at Florida International University, says PJTN should never have been consulted, a view shared by other state experts.  Laurie Cardoza-Moore, PJTN president, said  the Holocaust should be taught without “universalizing” it. Cardoza-Moore said, “If you’re going to talk about the Holocaust you don’t bring in racism or xenophobia or all these other issues.”  But other experts disagree. The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center in Maitland, for example, founded by a Holocaust survivor from Poland, says its mission is to “use the history and lessons of the Holocaust to build a just and caring community free of antisemitism and all forms of prejudice and bigotry.”

Our country is based on wonderful ideals: liberty and justice for all, equal opportunities for the pursuit of happiness, freedom to practice your religion, and freedom from the brutalities of other people’s religions. Publicly funded education that teaches those ideals is one way to get closer to achieving them.

Link to bill:

Ladapo’s rule 64DER21-15

64DER21-15 is a new rule from the newly appointed head of the Florida Department of Health.  Governor DeSantis appointed Ladapo, but the state senate has not yet confirmed him. As you read this, please consider if you’d like to ask your state senator to vote no on Dr. Ladapo’s confirmation.

You can find the text of the new ruling at this link:

The new rule also says, “64DER21-15 repeals and replaces rule 64DER21-12 that was adopted August 6, 2021.”

Under the section called “specific reasons“, 64DER21-15 notice says “the Department observed no meaningful difference in the number of COVID-19 cases in school-aged children in counties where school districts have imposed mask mandates…” On what is Dr. Ladapo basing that statement? He indicates no study or data to support that claim. Is he basing that statement on data pre-delta variant?  What would be his conclusion if masking was the only option of these four:

  • windows open
  • keeping six feet apart
  • excellent ventilation systems
  • mask mandates

Excerpt from this article:

Chalkbeat dove back into the research. In short, existing studies focusing on schools — including those cited on both sides of the debate — are strikingly limited. Little if any research has definitively shown what effect masks have on COVID spread in schools. At the same time, there is a broader body of evidence collected in other settings that suggests that masks help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19. That appears to be what’s driving health authorities to recommend masking in the classroom, alongside a general desire to minimize the risk to children and communities when cases are rising. “It’s entirely possible that open windows or fresh-air ventilation accounts for nearly all the mitigation benefit in a classroom and other ‘layered’ interventions may contribute only a marginal benefit or none at all,” concludes Zweig. In fact, it’s not clear that any of the most cited studies examining masks in schools are able to pin down cause and effect. “All of the studies that I have seen,” said Tulane University epidemiologist Susan Hassig, “are not sufficiently rigorous to assess the actual effectiveness of masks” in schools. Some experts say we should look beyond research on masking in schools and keep the basic logic of masking in mind. COVID-19 “is transmitted predominately by inhalation of respiratory droplets generated when people cough, sneeze, sing, talk, or breathe,” explains the CDC. The logic of masks, then, is straightforward. They can block particles, protecting the wearer and limiting transmission from an individual who has the virus. Masking is particularly important for a disease like COVID-19 where an infected individual can transmit the disease before developing symptoms (and thus realizing they should stay home).  Laboratory  simulations  confirm that masks stop many — though not all — of these droplets that could contain the virus. Jeremy Howard, author of a review of masking research and a research scientist at the University of San Francisco, says the benefits of masks very likely apply in school. “For masks in schools, the weight of evidence, when you combine it all together, is very strong,” he said. Mike Smith, a pediatrics professor and epidemiologist at Duke said “We have to make decisions weighing the risks and benefits without the gold standard randomized-controlled trial data.” Ultimately, Sarah Bode, a pediatrician in Columbus, Ohio argues, masks will help keep schools open during the delta surge, and the benefits of in-person school outweigh any downsides of masking.

Elected school boards only make rules for the district-run schools. Charter school boards will be making the rules for their schools. Some Florida state laws apply to both and some only apply to district-run schools. However, I think most people agree district-run and charter schools are considered “public schools” but I keep making the plea that the term “public schools” is outdated since the advent of charter schools and voucher funded private schools. Should public schools mean any school that receives public funds? When people use the term “public schools,” are they being intentionally vague?

64DER21-15 is called “Protocols for Controlling COVID-19 in School Settings.”   Can’t we assume that means all schools?

Item (1) of 64DER21-15 does use the term “public schools” so I assume everyone will agree it applies to the district-run and the charter schools. I make the case that it also applies to voucher funded private schools because of Florida Statute 1002.421 which says:

.A private school participating in an educational scholarship program established pursuant to this chapter must …  be in compliance with all requirements of this section …(g)Meet applicable state and local health, safety, and welfare laws, codes, and rules…

Items (2) and (3) of 64DER21-15 definitely seem to apply to ALL schools, even private schools that don’t receive government funding.

Why is the state Board of Education only going after the district-run schools? Are they even asking what protocols charter and voucher funded private schools are following? Are they threatening to reduce the funding of charter and voucher funded private schools that follow CDC guidelines? The 4 out of the 7 Duval county school board members are merely trying to follow CDC guidelines. Ladapo’s new rule is NOT following CDC guidelines. I agree with the counties that say the Florida Health Department shouldn’t have the authority to tell the Constitutional Officers (the elected school boards)  to NOT follow CDC guidelines. It’s outrageous!

When people use the term “public schools,” are they being intentionally vague? What did “public schools” mean when Article IX of our Florida Constitution was last amended? I’ve heard many people say “charter schools are public schools” but they don’t have to follow all the rules set by district school boards. My memory tells me that charter schools have only been in Florida for 20 years. I’m not sure when the state legislature started giving vouchers to help cover the cost of private school tuition.

ARTICLE IX of Florida’s Constitution

SECTION 1. Public education.—(a) The education of children is a fundamental value of the people of the State of Florida. It is, therefore, a paramount duty of the state to make adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders. Adequate provision shall be made by law for a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education and for the establishment, maintenance, and operation of institutions of higher learning and other public education programs that the needs of the people may require. To assure that children attending public schools obtain a high quality education, the legislature shall make adequate provision to ensure that, by the beginning of the 2010 school year, there are a sufficient number of classrooms so that …

Book discussion on September 5th at Intuition Ale Works outside on the rooftop

Limit: 24 vaccinated people
The topic suggestions are in red. Excerpts from the book relating to that topic follow the topic question. “Location” is the location in the kindle version of the book.

1. Do agree with this?

 Location: 61—page xiv— “education is the one remaining public good to which most Americans still believe we are entitled to by right of citizenship.”

2. Let’s discuss the value of a public good and what is a public good.

 Location: 254—page 6–A private good benefits only those who consume it. A public good, such as public education, benefits all members of the local, state, and national community, whether or not they have children. …Neighborhood residents benefit when young people become involved in the community and reinvest their success locally. … That’s why we treat public education more like a park than a country club. We tax ourselves to pay for it, and we open it to everyone.
Location: 1,656—page 97—In research that would win him a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2016, Oliver Hart laid out the high cost of privatizing essential services. Privatization increases pressure to cut labor costs—worker pay, as well as funding for training—which, as he put it, “can lead to a substantial deterioration of quality”

3. What about testing? Should all schools give the same tests? Should testing be used to punish schools?

 Location: 2,356—page 144–In 1999, the inaugural year of Jeb Bush’s two terms as governor, Florida rolled out a system that assigned grades to schools solely on the basis of student standardized test scores. But such grading systems, popular among conservative lawmakers, school choice groups, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, spurred a backlash. Giving A ratings to schools solely on the basis of student test scores, which closely correlate with student demography, means that the wealthiest schools earn the top grades, while high-poverty schools get Ds and Fs. “‘A’ is for affluent,”

4. How much does deceptive advertising bother you?

 Location: 2,613—page 161–Outsized claims regarding college-going rates are common throughout the charter school marketing world. The “fine print,” meanwhile—that three out of four charter school graduates, on average, leave college without a degree—never appears.

5. How do you feel about neighborhood schools being forced to advertise because the charter schools and voucher funded private schools are advertising to lure kids away from the neighborhood and magnet schools?                

 Location: 2,510—page 155–Daniels imagined a future in which all schools, even those in affluent suburban districts, would feel the need to advertise. His hope was that schools would begin competing with each other more seriously for students and the dollars that come with them.
Location: 2,530—page 156–In a school landscape already riven by inequities of race and class, edvertising threatens to open new chasms: between privately subsidized charter networks with vast budgets to devote to advertising, and traditional public schools—or even small, independent charter schools—which must now direct scarce funds toward marketing.
Location: 2,583—page 159–What Moskowitz never mentioned was the expansive—and expensive—marketing that goes into producing that demand. After labor, which chews up the lion’s share of most school budgets, marketing is Success Academy’s biggest cost.
Location: 2,652—page 163–High-profile charter management organizations (CMOs) like Success Academy and KIPP have already developed these services in-house. Both devote extensive resources to building and maintaining their brands, projecting consistent imagery and narratives to an audience that includes not just prospective parents and teachers but also funders. KIPP, whose network of charters now includes 224 schools and more than one hundred thousand students, even maintains a “Brand Guidelines” video on its website.

6. What is the solution for the high cost of special education and the high cost of Bilingual courses?            

 Location: 603—page 29–Much of the increase in the cost of public education is due to an expansion of special education services. … In the 1960s spending on special education was less than half of what it would be by the end of the twentieth century. … In 1975 with the passage of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which required a “free and appropriate” education for all children, regardless of mental, physical, or emotional difference. … Special education costs roughly twice what general education costs, and millions of students have disabilities—two hundred thousand in New York City alone.
Location: 2,196 to 2204—page 133–When the Bilingual Education Act was passed in 1968, funding for programs increased from $7.5 million to $68 million. In 1974, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act was passed, requiring school districts to overcome barriers limiting equal participation by students. … A third group of students whose education comes with a cost are those with physical and intellectual disabilities….As the libertarian Reason Foundation complained, the regulatory state has “created ample provisions to protect and serve children with disabilities” without establishing “a cost-control provision in the law to protect the schools.” Market-oriented conservatives argue that the cost of such regulations is mostly wasted. Parents unhappy with the quality of a particular school, if provided choice, will simply move their children until they find the right fit.

7. How do you feel about neighborhood schools and socialism?               

 Location: 292 –page 8–And it isn’t just essential nutrition that schools provide. Increasingly, they have offered “wraparound services”—an approach that treats the school as the delivery site for a vast range of supports that children and their families require to overcome the hurdles erected by economic and social inequality. Advocates maintain that since out-of-school factors weigh so heavily in determining student achievement, using the school to address what’s happening in the home and the neighborhood makes sense.

8. How much do you think the Citizens United decision and super PACs are hurting our democracy?

Location: 1,579—page 92–And in Florida, the largest for-profit charter network in the state, Academica, is a major donor to conservative PACs and candidates … In fact, Florida’s charter school law, with its lax regulation and oversight, was written with the aid of the founder of yet another for-profit charter network: Charter Schools USA.  … The founder and his companies gave lavishly to pro-charter legislators, who do their part to expand funding to the charter sector and fend off regulatory efforts. 

9. Let’s discuss DeSantis’ attack on the local school boards and his broader attack on democracy

Location: 266—page 6—Consider elected school boards: imperfect though they are, the democratic process allows voters to hold them accountable for the success of the local schools.

10. Are you worried about charter schools being a way for privatizers to profit off the taxpayers rather than wanting to solve the problems of educating our children?

 Location: 1,588—page 93–charter schools “have turned into cash cows through multi-million-dollar business deals between charter schools and their founders.” One of the most egregious examples cited by the journalists was Republican lawmaker and charter school founder Eddie Farnsworth, who leveraged the state’s lax charter laws to become a millionaire. After the Republic series wrapped up, Farnsworth earned millions more by selling his for-profit charter school chain to a nonprofit entity created specifically to buy it.
Location: 1,629 to 1634—page 96–Making matters more complicated is the legal gray area, often by design, that distinguishes nonprofit and for-profit schools. ECOT, the Ohio virtual school that imploded in 2018, was a nonprofit; but founder William Lager’s management company, which ran the schools, was a for-profit entity. Most states require charter schools to operate on a nonprofit basis, but they often do little to impede the self-dealing that occurs through facilities leasing and contracting for services. …One Cleveland charter school, for instance, was paying about $516,000 above market rate to its for-profit landlord Imagine Schools.
Location: 1,855—page 111—The founder of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, Nick Trombetta, was sentenced to prison in 2018 for embezzling more than $8 million from the school to purchase luxury goods and a private plane.
Location: 1,920—page 115–State audits revealed that two virtual charter schools fudged enrollment figures, then funneled the proceeds through a dizzying array of related companies. The auditors concluded that the officials “focused on maximizing profits and revenues by exploiting perceived vulnerabilities” at every level of state and local governance.
Location: 1,938—page 116–State regulators sought to “claw back” some of the profits that ECOT’s [another virtual charter school] founder had pocketed,

11. Should charter schools be eliminated or is adequate oversight and clawback provisions possible?

Location: 1,941—page 116–“Since so many of the virtual schools are driven by profit, one option is to limit private owners and operators. Another option is to create and implement safeguards regarding private EMOs.” The authors recommended creating regulatory oversight boards, mandating transparency regarding financing and student performance, and establishing accountability mechanisms.  
Location: 2,120—page 128–
Dramatic news stories of sudden school closures, as well as fraud perpetrated at the expense of teachers and students, are also fueling calls for more charter oversight.
Location: 2,211 to 2215—page 134–Nationwide, charter schools serve fewer students with disabilities than traditional public schools. As scholar Gary Miron has observed: “There is considerable evidence that charter schools actively discourage families from enrolling disabled children and counsel them to leave when they do manage to enroll.”31 Indeed, an entire industry of advocates and lawyers has emerged to help parents get the special education accommodations from charter schools that they are entitled to under federal law. … Private schools, for their part, are free to admit (or not admit) any student they like, even when the schools receive public funds via voucher programs  
Location: 2,224—page 135—School management companies, both for-profit and non-profit, are now routinely implicated in headline-grabbing financial scandals, many involving related-party transactions—wherein charter schools purchase goods or services from companies in which board members and other administrators have a financial stake. 

12. How worried are you that there is a movement afoot to eliminate the neighborhood schools?

Location: 39—page xiii of 267–[When the pandemic began and federal aid money was being made available] DeVos encouraged states to use federal funds to help parents pay private school tuition, and demanded that school districts share millions of aid dollars with wealthy private schools.
Location: 56—page xiv —When the Koch network held its annual retreat in 2018, Charles Koch told donors, that among the network’s priorities: replacing brick-and-mortar schools with a voucher program that would allow parents to purchase education products for their children in an Amazon-like marketplace.
Location: 161—page xxi —Those seeking to dismantle the system, meanwhile, are unified, patient, and well resourced.
Location: 3,303—page 207–As reporters for the Tampa Bay Times pointed out, DeSantis, who in the 2018 gubernatorial election beat an avowed supporter of public education by a mere thirty thousand votes, is enacted an ambitious plan for private school vouchers. … With a Republican-dominated legislature and a newly conservative Supreme Court in place to brush aside constitutional objections, Florida seems poised to dismantle its public education system once and for all.               

  13. Let’s discuss the broader ideology of personal freedom

 Location: 243—page 5— Freedom, of course, can be interpreted a number of different ways. One useful, if reductive, way of understanding such differences is to divide the concept between “freedom to” and “freedom from.”
Whereas the first kind of freedom, to act as an individual, requires checks on government power, the second kind of freedom requires the opposite. Freedom from hazards usually demands collective action, usually at the direction of government, and it often requires limits to individual autonomy.
Freedom to: freedom to speak one’s mind, or to worship as one sees fit.
Freedom from: the threat of violence, or from environmental pollution.

14. Let’s discuss market philosophy and where it works and where it doesn’t

Location: beginning around 408—page 16–Unlike bread or beer or even milk, education is not merely produced for the individual who consumes it, but for the social, civic, and economic benefit of the broader public. ….Yet for adherents of market philosophy, what is true for the production of food is generalizable to public goods like education. …A contributor to the free market magazine Reason put it this way: “The freed market is a political-legal setting in which people are at liberty to peacefully pursue their chosen plans. This activity generates, unintentionally, an undesigned order that facilitates cooperation and coordination among even distant strangers, making each person’s pursuit more effective and efficient than otherwise…. And it does this work without compulsion or authoritarian central direction.”
Location: 432—page 17–The idea that the market model should be applied to education was first outlined three-quarters of a century ago by Milton Friedman.
 Location: 505—page 22–A report commissioned by the libertarian Reason Foundation, for instance, pronounced charters “a middle ground between the existing public-school system and a full school-choice program that allows the flow of public funds to private schools.” 
Location: 1,887—page 113–To that end, K12 Inc. has already experimented with outsourcing parts of its teachers’ jobs, including having student essays graded in India.   
Location: 1,980—page 119–The resulting prohibition against child labor was part of a vast legal framework that emerged during the Progressive Era, often in response to corporate abuses detailed by journalists who wanted to protect consumers and public interest   
Location: 2,089—page 126–Doug Tuthill, president of a group administering Florida’s school voucher program, wonders why teachers even need bachelor’s degrees, and maintains that private schools receiving taxpayer-funded vouchers should be free to hire whomever they want.

What are the qualifications to be on the state Board of Education?

I find it worrisome that these state Board of Education members who were appointed by Scott and DeSantis are drafting standards for our student’s curriculum.

An excerpt from the article:

Tuck took the State Board chairmanship — a position that can control the board’s agenda and serve as a bully pulpit — as the board stood poised to consider revisions to all K-12 academic standards. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order in January calling for the review, with results due to him by the start of 2020. The board could have proposals to debate and vote on by spring 2020.

It makes me wonder if the attacks on teaching evolution are part of the problem. If people don’t have a basic grasp of evolution, they can’t grasp that the virus mutates? Even though this is a 2019 article, Andy Tuck is still on the state Board of Education.
Excerpt from article:

Andy Tuck voted with the Highlands School Board in 2008 to oppose the teaching of evolution as fact.