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  … 

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3#A9S01

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  

https://www.holocaustresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/FL-HolocaustMandate.pdf

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: 

https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=73071&SessionId=93

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:
https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/64DER21-15.pdf

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.

https://www.chalkbeat.org/2021/8/26/22643549/covid-masks-schools-research

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…

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=View%20Statutes&SubMenu=1&App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=1002.421&URL=1000-1099/1002/Sections/1002.421.html

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 … 

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3#A9S01

How would you define expert when you want an expert to design the standards for a course on the Holocaust?

Do you object to any of the new Holocaust standards? The  final version of the Holocaust standards starts on page 20:
https://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/18736/urlt/SR-SocialStudies.pdf

When we advocate for “experts” to draft standards for our district-run schools, how should we define “expert”?

The task force’s official position is that the Holocaust should be “taught in ways that encourage a pluralistic perspective and democratic practices.” This view is standard among Holocaust education experts.“ The Holocaust should be studied in a way that builds empathy and focuses on social action so that it doesn’t happen again,” Dobrick said. “You have to also bring into Holocaust education things like hate groups today, and hate crimes against Asian Americans, and shootings at synagogues and mosques.” Though the final draft of the standards includes, at the very end, the mandate to “recognize the significance of ‘Never Again,’” Hershfield argues that the rest of the document fails to live up to that goal. “If we truly want to educate our next generation to understand the evils of hatred, exposed during the Holocaust, we must address the universal lessons,” Hershfield wrote in a letter to FLDOE on June 11th. “Failure to do so effectively makes the last proposed standard a mere label without any meaning or substance.”  … LAST OCTOBER, the expert panel appointed to write Florida’s Holocaust education standards—a group composed of scholars and Jewish communal leaders—received feedback on a draft of the standards from the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) provided by the right-wing Christian Zionist organization Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN). … Tensions boiled over at a February meeting between FLDOE officials and members of the expert panel and task force. Stier likened the FLDOE’s reliance on PJTN to inviting a group “championing the so-called ‘lost cause’ of the southern states” to contribute to learning standards on slavery. … The expert panel rejected PJTN’s recommendations, citing both historical inaccuracies and an inappropriately religious tenor, which, they wrote in a letter, “has no place in the public school curriculum.” … Over the course of many months, the members of both the expert panel and a state-appointed Holocaust education task force of area experts fought to minimize PJTN’s influence on the standards—but the final draft still bears evidence of the group’s political project, and its efforts to overtly falsify history to build support for Zionism. The latest standards contain scaled-down versions of the inaccuracies that the experts have protested. … PJTN’s communications director, Jackie Monaghan, explained that “Jewish interests are a big part of our game plan.” The “game plan” of Christian Zionists is well established: They support complete Jewish control over Israel/Palestine based on the theological premise that it will bring about the rapture, or the end of days. The group approaches state education standards as an opportunity to cultivate political support for Zionism toward its theological ends. … PJTN is not the only group guiding the transformation of Florida’s schools: In 2020, FLDOE also invited Hillsdale College, a conservative college in Michigan with deep ties to pro-Trump Republicans, to weigh in on civics education standards. …

https://jewishcurrents.org/the-christian-zionist-group-shaping-holocaust-education-in-florida/

The League of Women Voters has a list of issues for which they advocate.  I think they need to define “expert” in this bullet point:

Support a curricular framework that includes broad common standards developed by educational experts that serves as a guide to local districts.

https://lwvfl.org/issues/education/

The way I understood Florida Statute 1003.42 (2)(g) is that its main purpose was to explain the Holocaust in a way to reduce prejudice against all groups. It wasn’t meant to be a history course or a course on comparative religions.  Am I wrong?  This is how that statute reads:

(g)1. The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), the systematic, planned annihilation of European Jews and other groups by Nazi Germany, a watershed event in the history of humanity, 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,

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=1000-1099/1003/Sections/1003.42.html 

Some of the new standards seem to have an agenda other than trying to instill tolerance in our children. Specifically
1. It seems to me (and I could be wrong) 912.HE.1.3 is trying to tell kids that reparations led those paying the reparations into an irrational mob mentality. That seems a distortion of history. Certainly there could be a course about the pros and cons of reparations, but does it belong in a course about the Holocaust?
2. It seems to me (and I could be wrong) SS.912.HE.2.2  is trying to blame Hitler’s actions on the one Jewish kid who committed a crime. How is that helpful? It was HItler who did these things.  It’s like blaming George Floyd for Trump having protesters pepper sprayed.

Please tell me if you think these are OK. These are excerpts from the standards (see link above):
SS.68.HE.1.1 
 Students will describe the basic beliefs of Judaism.   
 Students will identify examples of antisemitism related to Israel 
SS.912.HE.1.3   
  Students will recognize German culpability, reparations and military downsizing as effects of the Treaty of Versailles  
SS.912.HE.1.7  
 Students will explain how the Nazis used propaganda, pseudoscience and the law to transform Judaism from a religion to a race.   
SS.912.HE.2.2 
 Students will understand the reasons for Herschel Grynszpan’s actions at the German embassy in Paris and how the assassination of Ernst vom Rath was a pretext used by the Nazis for Kristallnacht.

Admittedly my knowledge of history isn’t that great. I wasn’t interested in history in school. Maybe we do need to know the ugly as well as the good so we can know when people are distorting history. However, it doesn’t seem that the new standards are focusing on

The history of the Holocaust (1933-1945), … [should 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,

Civics standards in Florida–they asked our opinion

They asked our opinion. Here’s the survey:
https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6360487/Civics-and-Government-Standards-2
Here’s the proposed standards:
http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/18736/urlt/CivicsGovernment.pdf

The changes I suggested in the survey are listed in red:

SS.K.CL.1.1 Identify the purpose for rules and laws in the home, school and community.
● Students will define rules as standards of responsible behavior (e.g., rules for home and school).
● Students will define laws as a system of rules intended to protect people and property which are created and enforced by government (e.g., follow the speed limit).
● Students will identify the difference between rules and laws.
● Students will identify what happens without rules and laws.
SS.K.CL.1.2 Define a constitution as an agreed-upon set of rules.
● Students will recognize that the United States has a constitution.
● Students will identify the words “We the People” as found in the United States Constitution

I’d hate for Kindergarteners to learn that the Constitution is merely a rule that won’t be enforced by our government. I suggest they change the SS.K.CL.1.2 benchmark from
Define a constitution as an agreed-upon set of rules
to:
Define a constitution as the supreme law of the land.

SS.K.CL.2.3 Define patriotism as a love of one’s country.
● Students will identify the patriotic holidays and observances (e.g., American Founders Month, Celebrate Freedom Week, Independence Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Patriot Day, Veterans Day).

I don’t see how the clarification helps explain the benchmark. Delete this clarification:
Students will identify the patriotic holidays and observances (e.g., American Founders Month, Celebrate Freedom Week, Independence Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, Patriot Day, Veterans Day)

SS.K.CL.2.4 Recognize symbols that represent the United States.
● Students will recognize the American flag, Pledge of Allegiance and United States currency as symbols that represent the United States.
● Students will identify “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” as the Pledge of Allegiance.

Delete currency as one of the symbols.
Add these symbols:
Liberty Bell, the Statute of Liberty
Add:
Students will identify when “under god” was added to the pledge of allegiance
and discuss if it makes atheists uncomfortable

SS.K.CL.2.5 Recognize symbols that represent Florida.
● Students will recognize Florida’s state flag as a symbol that represents the state

Delete that benchmark. How does it help? Some founding fathers were reportedly atheists and some Americans are atheists. It doesn’t feel right to push theism in a school that is supposed to be for all Americans.

SS.1.CL.2.4 Recognize symbols and individuals that represent the United States.
● Students will recognize the Bald Eagle, the United States President, Uncle Sam, and national motto (“In God We Trust”) as symbols that represent the United States.
● Students will recognize Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr. as individuals who represent the United States.

Delete the benchmark or add: The modern motto of the United States of America, as established in a 1956 law signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, is “In God we trust”. The 1956 law was the first establishment of an official motto for the country, although E Pluribus Unum (“from many, one”) was adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782 as the motto for the Seal of the United States. Many Americans are atheists which means they don’t believe in a god. In America, theists and atheists can live in harmony.

SS.1.CL.3.2 Recognize that the United States and Florida have Constitutions.
 Students will define a constitution as an agreed-upon set of rules.

Change “Students will define a constitution as an agreed-upon set of rules.”
To: Students will define our Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

SS.3.CL.1.2 Describe how the United States government gains its power from the people.
● Students will define popular sovereignty.
● Students will recognize what is meant by the consent of the governed.
● Students will identify sources of consent (e.g., voting and elections).
● Students will recognize that the United States republic is government by the “consent of the governed” and government power is exercised through representatives of the people.

Delete this:
Government power is exercised through representatives of the people.
Add this:
Elected representatives who abuse their power can be removed from office during an election, impeachment and recalls.

SS.3.CL.2.5 Recognize symbols, individuals, documents and events that represent Florida.
● Students will recognize the Great Seal of the Florida as a symbol that represents the state.
● Students will recognize William Pope Duval and William Dunn Moseley as individuals who represent Florida.
● Students will recognize the Declaration of Rights in the Florida Constitution as a document that represents Florida.
● Students will recognize that Florida became the 27th state of the United States on March 3, 1845

I don’t see what this has to do with civics. Delete this benchmark.

SS.4.CL.2.3 Identify ways Florida citizens can show respect for their state.
● Students will recognize ways for showing respect for Florida (e.g., cleaning up litter, showing care for wildlife, keeping waterways clean, putting flags on veterans’ graves, cleaning graffiti from public spaces and tending public gardens).

Instead of “state”, it should say community.

SS.4.CL.3.3 Identify the United States as a constitutional republic.
● Students will identify a constitutional republic as a symbol of the United States.
● Students will recognize that Florida has a representative government.

Change “constitutional republic” to “democratic constitutional republic.”
References:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/13/is-the-united-states-of-america-a-republic-or-a-democracy/
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/yes-constitution-democracy/616949/
Add:
As a republic’s most unique feature, a constitution, enables it to protect the minority from the majority by interpreting and, if necessary, overturning laws made by the elected representatives of the people. In the United States, the Constitution assigns this function to the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. The Constitution was meant to foster a complex form of majority rule, not enable minority rule. American constitutional design can best be understood as an effort to establish a sober form of democracy. It did so by embracing representation, the separation of powers, checks and balances, and the protection of individual rights

SS.5.CL.1.4 Discuss arguments for adopting a republican form of government.
● Students will identify Federalist and Anti-Federalist arguments supporting and opposing the ratification of the United States Constitution.
● Students will explain what is meant by a representative government

Add: Students will explain what it means to be a democratic republic with checks and balances to keep the majority from abusing the minority and to keep the elected representatives from abusing their power.

SS.7.CL.1.3 Explain the influence of religion (Hebraic and Christian) on America’s founding ideas about law and government.
● Students will recognize ideas contained in the founding documents (e.g., due process of law, equality of mankind, limited government, natural rights, the rule of law) have origins in religious texts.
● Students will identify “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as God-given rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
● Students will explain what is meant by the phrase “all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…” as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
● Students will describe how religious ideas (e.g., due process of law, equality of mankind, limited government, natural rights, the rule of law) influenced America’s Founding ideals and documents.

Delete this benchmark. Religion should be taught in the home and religious institutions. Keep the schools nonsectarian so everyone feels welcome. Please make every neighborhood school GREAT. Let people get their version of religion at their home and religious institution.

SS.7.CL.3.10 Analyze the effects of landmark Supreme Court cases on law, liberty and the interpretation of the United States Constitution.
● Students will recognize landmark Supreme Court cases (e.g., Marbury v. Madison; Dred Scott v. Sandford; Plessy v. Ferguson; Brown v. Board of Education; Gideon v. Wainwright; Miranda v. Arizona; In re Gault; United States v. Nixon; Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier).
● Students will use primary sources to assess the significance of each United States Supreme Court case.
● Students will evaluate the impact of each case on society.
● Students will recognize and/or apply constitutional principles and/or rights in relation to the relevant United States Supreme Court decisions

The “e.g.” list doesn’t include them all.

SS.7.CL.3.13 Explain the advantages of capitalism and a free market system over government-controlled economic systems (e.g., socialism and communism) in generating economic
prosperity for all citizens.
● Students will recognize various economic systems (e.g., capitalism, communism, socialism).
● Students will identify the relationship between various economic systems and the ideal of freedom.
● Students will analyze scenarios describing various forms of economic systems.

Revise the benchmark. The simple terms “capitalism” and “socialism” obscure the fact we have some government controlled systems such as police departments. Also we have regulated capitalism not a complete free market system.

SS.912.CL.4.1 Discuss how liberty and economic freedom generate broad-based opportunity and prosperity in the United States.
● Students will differentiate between government systems (e.g., autocracy, democracy, monarchy, oligarchy republic, theocracy).
● Students will differentiate between economic systems (e.g., capitalism, communism, mixed market, socialism).
● Students will analyze the disadvantages of authoritarian control over the economy (e.g., communism and socialism) in generating broad-based economic prosperity for their population.

Add: Brainstorm solutions to the problem of poverty and wages too low to survive without some form of welfare.

Letters to the editor published 2020 and 2021

State legislators need to safeguard our tax dollars Published April 25, 2021
Charter schools need clawback provision Published April 10, 2021
All publicly funded schools should be required to meet the same high standards Published March 15, 2021
Ideas for charter school reporting Published February 13, 2021
Civics education in schools needs a boost Published February 25, 2021
Charter schools need clawback provision Published Feb 3, 2021
School sales tax needs clawback provision Published December 20, 2020
Oppose SB 484 Published January 15, 2021
Say no to SB 582 Published February 5, 2021
We need compassion and empathy from police Published October 13, 2020
Parks shouldn’t be named for human traffickers Published Sept 9, 2020
Mayor needs to put teeth Into his mask mandate Published August 14, 2020
Published June 18 but no title–it was about Mayor Curry using our tax money to bring Trump here
Legislature should not require sharing funds with charters Published Feb 25, 2020

Can public sentiment persuade our school board to deny charter school applications?

My public records request revealed that no capital outlay funds were returned after the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) showed seven Duval Charter schools as closing between 2015 and 2020. No capital outlay funds were recouped in spite of the Florida statute 1013.62 that says:

(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)(d) and (e). In the case of a charter lab school, any unencumbered funds and all equipment and property purchased with university public funds shall revert to the ownership of the state university that issued the charter. The reversion of such equipment, property, and furnishings shall focus on recoverable assets, but not on intangible or irrecoverable costs such as rental or leasing fees, normal maintenance, and limited renovations. The reversion of all property secured with public funds is subject to the complete satisfaction of all lawful liens or encumbrances. 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.

Action item:  Write your elected state representatives and ask why they didn’t put more protections in place before they voted yes on HB 7097 in 2020 forcing us to give part of sales surtax to charter schools on a per student rather than a needs based formula. Clearly more protections were needed since no capital outlay funds were returned (according to the public records request) when charter schools closed. The legislature forced us to give our sales tax dollars to charter schools on a per student basis with HB 7097.  It begins on line 1301 of HB 7097:

(b) The resolution must include a statement that … the revenues collected must be shared with eligible charter schools based on their proportionate share of the total school district enrollment.

 https://flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2020/7097/BillText/er/PDF

Would public sentiment give the school board the strength to deny charter school applications for charter schools that don’t clearly lay out the plan for returning our sales surtax dollars in the event the school closes?

The newly approved KIPP charter school has requested to be a feeder school so it doesn’t have to wait the two year probationary period to get our sales surtax money. My understanding is the school district has the ability to deny that request. If they approve the request, then all other schools will get a smaller percentage of the sales surtax money since the allocation is based on a percentage of the school’s enrollment to total enrollment.

According to a DCPS website $922,541.99 is the sales surtax share for the charter schools in 2021 so far. I hope going forward the website will give us more information. I assume that number is the dollar amount for January to March since sales tax returns are normally filed quarterly and the sales surtax began January 1st of this year.

Please encourage your elected school board representative or sales surtax citizen oversight committee member to demand that the school district make the website report this information:

  • How much of our sales surtax money did each charter school get?
  • What provisions are in each charter school contract that will allow the school district to recoup the funds, the equipment, and the facility purchased with our sales surtax dollars if the charter school should close?
  • Date the charter school closed if it isn’t still open or the date it quit receiving funds
  • Reason the charter school isn’t receiving funds other than a closing. Examples are listed in Florida Statute 1013.62 and include financial problems or inadequate student achievement.
  • How much, if any, of our sales surtax dollars was recouped when the charter school closed?

My public records request asked why the seven Duval County Charter schools (that had been receiving state capital outlay funds) quit receiving them.

Many other charter schools closed before they had been open 2 years, which is the usual probationary period before a charter school can receive capital outlay funds under 1013.62. The two KIPP schools in the list of seven charter schools that closed didn’t exactly close; they merged with another KIPP school. I wonder why. Was it so they could more easily share money? Was it because merging them protected them from losing funds due to a bad grade? According to Florida Statute 1013.62, the capital outlay funding will stop for a couple of reasons including not meeting these requirements:

2. Have an annual audit that does not reveal any of the financial emergency conditions provided in s. 218.503(1) for the most recent fiscal year for which such audit results are available.

3. Have satisfactory student achievement based on state accountability standards applicable to the charter school.

The other five charter schools on the list are shown as closing for various reasons including financial insolvency and declining enrollment.

The public records department of the Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) made me pay $151.44 before they’d look for the information. Don’t you think the information should be readily available? The Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) abdicated responsibility even though it was the state legislators that forced these dollars to be given to charter schools with inadequate safeguard provisions within the state law. The FLDOE responded to my public records request:

The Duval County School Board serves as sponsor of charter schools and would be the appropriate resource for information on school closures in the county. You may contact Mr. Eugene Hays, Director of Charter Schools, Duval County School at hayse@duvalschools.org to find the reasons the listed charter schools closed.

I continue to wish the school board or citizen sales surtax oversight committee would create better safeguards for our sales surtax money that is going to charter schools that may close. It’s a travesty that the state legislators passed HB 7097 in 2020 forcing us to give our sales surtax to charter schools without proper safeguards.

The dollar amount being reported on the FLDOE website (as shown below) as received includes PECO funds which (I think) in some years the state legislators gave it all to charter schools and none to the neighborhood or magnet schools. These are the seven charter schools I asked about:

2012-2019
total $ rec’d school #
318,575160601   KIPP VOICE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (closed 2017)
515,118161341   MURRAY HILL HIGH SCHOOL (closed 2015)
21,161165531   VALOR ACADEMY OF LEADERSHIP MIDDLE SCHOOL (closed 2016)
149,650165581   KIPP JACKSONVILLE K-8 (closed 2018)
22,327161381   SOMERSET EAGLE HIGH SCHOOL (closed 2016)
279,440165501   Somerset Preparatory Academy (closed 2015)
418,464161181   SIATECH (SCHOOL FOR ACCELERATED LEARNING AND TECHNOLOGIES, INC) (closed 2020)

The Florida statutes 1013.62 (4) say capital outlay funds can only be expended by charter schools for these reasons:

   (a) Purchase of real property.  (b) Construction of school facilities.  (c) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of permanent or relocatable school facilities. (d) Purchase of vehicles to transport students to and from the charter school. (e) Renovation, repair, and maintenance of school facilities that the charter school owns or is purchasing through a lease-purchase or long-term lease of 5 years or longer. (f) Payment of the cost of premiums for property and casualty insurance necessary to insure the school facilities. (g) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of driver’s education vehicles; motor vehicles used for the maintenance or operation of plants and equipment; security vehicles; or vehicles used in storing or distributing materials and equipment. (h) Purchase, lease-purchase, or lease of computer and device hardware and operating system software necessary for gaining access to or enhancing the use of electronic and digital instructional content and resources; and enterprise resource software applications that are classified as capital assets in accordance with definitions of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, have a useful life of at least 5 years, and are used to support schoolwide administration or state-mandated reporting requirements. Enterprise resource software may be acquired by annual license fees, maintenance fees, or lease agreement. (i) Payment of the cost of the opening day collection for the library media center of a new school.

I asked the FLDOE:  Is there any provision to pay the taxpayer back if the building is sold?

​They answered:
​Section 1013.62 (4) F.S. states, “If a charter school is non-renewed 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. The reversion of such equipment, property, and furnishings shall focus on recoverable assets, but not on intangible or irrecoverable costs such as rental or leasing fees, normal maintenance, and limited renovations. The reversion of all property secured with public funds is subject to the complete satisfaction of all lawful liens or encumbrances. 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.”

I asked the FLDOE:  Do related party rules apply so that our sales surtax money can ONLY be used (directly or indirectly via lease payments to a related party) on items mentioned in 1013.62(4)? In other words, can related parties use our sales surtax money to repay loans? It seems that charter schools are setting up related party entities to skirt the rules of 1013.62(4) that bar capital outlay funds from being used to repay loans.  Is that legal?

​They answered:​
Capital outlay may be used to purchase, construct or lease a facility. The sponsor ​[the school district] ​has fiduciary responsibility as it holds the contract with the governing board of the charter school.

Don’t those answers give you the impression that the elected school board and the school district have some ability to deny charter school applications in order to protect our sales surtax money? If you answer yes to that question, please write your elected school board member. Public sentiment might give the school board the courage to act to safeguard our sales surtax money in spite of what the state legislators have done.

Action item:
Write your elected school board member (or maybe all seven school board members) and ask:

What protections are in place to recoup our sales surtax dollars WHEN a charter school closes? Please deny any charter school applications whose charter contract doesn’t clearly lay out the charter school’s plan to allow the school district to recoup the sales surtax dollars and the assets it purchased when the charter school closes.

You might ask how that can be done when the sales surtax money may be used to make lease payments to an organization that is related to the charter school? That raises this question: are charter schools setting up shell companies to skirt the rules? If yes, what can be done about their effort to defraud the taxpayer?

References and other articles of interest

As for a breakdown, Florida schools did earn perfect scores as far as accountability. That’s because the publicly-funded charter schools must abide by Florida’s Sunshine Law with open meetings and records, and the schools are subject to audits. But the state gets slammed for allowing for-profit entities to run charter schools and for allowing charter school boards to contract with private management contractors. NEA leaders, meanwhile, say the poor performance of charters nationwide shows how the concept has ultimately failed to meet expectations.

https://floridapolitics.com/archives/296109-nea-issues-florida-failing/

Governments at all levels have failed to implement systems that proactively monitor charter schools and hold them accountable. A 2016 report from the Center for Popular Democracy documents waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of charter school funds, totaling more than $216 million.

https://www.nea.org/resource-library/state-charter-statutes

For the last two decades, Florida has been a laboratory for school choice policies: alternatives to public education like privately-run charter schools and taxpayer-funded scholarships to private institutions. Diane Ravitch argues that’s not something to celebrate or emulate. Ravitch is a historian, advocate and former assistant education secretary under Republican President George H. W. Bush. She once believed charters, vouchers and standardized testing could improve public school education. “I came to realize that the privatization movement was a continuation of a decades-long campaign by right-wingers who hated public schools, which they derisively called ‘government schools,’” she wrote of her personal evolution in her new book, Slaying Goliath: The Passionate Resistance to Privatization and the Fight to Save America’s Public Schools. “I renounced my own past views and determined to expose the well-funded smear campaign against American public schools and their teachers,” she wrote.

https://www.wlrn.org/education/2020-01-27/in-new-book-national-education-historian-calls-florida-model-of-lawlessness-and-greed