Florida’s Republican Legislators Still Don’t Get It


An agonizing problem for any school district is what to do with their at-risk kids. The state’s professional educators and elected school boards never stop looking for ways to help these children. For these often poor, homeless, with learning disabilities, frequent discipline problems and from fractured families, its been clear for some time that there aren’t any clear-cut solutions or silver bullets.

Polk county is considering seven charter schools dedicated to this difficult student population. One Florida lawmakers doesn’t like the idea and expresses herself in a manner which demonstrates the she and her colleagues are a big part of the problem. Merissa Green writes in the Lakelend Ledger:

BARTOW | State Rep. Kelli Stargel said Friday she doesn’t understand why the Polk County School District needs to create its own charter schools to serve at-risk students.

Stargel said she had a conversation earlier this year with Superintendent of Schools Sherrie Nickell, during which she expressed her reservations about setting up the seven proposed high schools.

Although taking struggling students out of the regular student population would probably increase the schools’ grades from the state, Stargel said she worries about the oversight of the so-called Step Up Academies.

The student population proposed for each of these charters would be too small to meet the criteria to receive a state school grade.

That means no student performance would be tied to teacher or administrator evaluations — a new mandate implemented last year by the Florida Legislature.

Stargel, R-Lakeland, is a member of the House Education Committee, chairwoman of the K-20 Innovation Subcommittee and a member of the Pre-K Through 12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

“Who’s going to follow the accountability of these schools?” she said.

“Who’s going to be accountable to these kids to make sure they are learning?”

Stargel’s two rhetorical questions  at the end demonstrates she fully doesn’t understand the ramifications of the laws she’s been voting for. Or maybe she does. Stargel knows these charter schools would  operate under the oversight of the Polk School Board. At least that’s the way it used to be before Stargel and her allies dismantled local control of charters through the establishment of a stacked appeals process.

Does Stargel even want the superintendent of Polk schools and the board to even been empowered to make the decision? If she agrees with ed commish Gerard Robinson she doesn’t. Robinson sees school boards as just instruments of  the laws Stargel and her republican allies pass. Perhaps Stargel assumes the decision on charter schools in Polk should be hers. So much for “local control of schools.”

Notice Stargel had to use “accountable” and “accountability” in two successive sentences to make her point. She apparently can’t handle the fact that the Polk charter wouldn’t fall underneath either of the suffocating mandates she and her colleagues have passing (School Grades and Teacher Evaluations). I wonder how many times Stargel has used the word “flexibility” in her ed policy mutterings.

Stargel’s showing just how detached she and her colleagues are from what’s happening in the state’s classrooms. Beating people over the head with rhetoric that always includes a version of the word “accountable” has worked for pols like Stargel for some time. But last week’s shove-back from school board members of 67 Florida districts  against Stargel’s narrow vision of accountability should serve as a wake-up call.

About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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3 Responses to Florida’s Republican Legislators Still Don’t Get It

  1. Edu says:

    So, when a school district wants to turn some of its own schools into charters (or create new ones), politicians worry about accountability and oversight. However, when a private entity wants to start a private school, it’s all about the “market.”

  2. DianeMarie says:

    Wow, it just never ends! Seven new charter high schools for “at-risk” children? Are they crazy? Even using existing empty buildings the added expense would be great and where are you going to find that many qualified people to teach “at risk” children? It would be cheaper to have one place and provide them transportation.

    Now to the real problems:
    1. We have NO educators sitting on any state legislative committees having to do with education
    2. I question the knowledge and oversight of the State School Board
    3. Charter schools currently in place are not being watched hence we have scandals all over the state, failing Charter schools ongoing for 1-2 years, non-certified teachers teaching in the Charter schools, legislators with financial interest in Charter school consortium’s voting on Charter school legislation and a Commissioner of Education who serves Jeb Bush and not the children of Florida any more than the a fore mentioned people to include our legislators.

    Would anyone like to bet the game played with the budget for Education had a lot to do with having enough funds to get everything in place for the Common Core Standards – not a better education for our children?

    These people “know not what they do? no do they care when it comes to our children. Money is not the answer unless we stop paying these exorbitant salaries to these college and university presidents, and some school board superintendents.

    Our children are being used as pawns in a very ugly game. Bill Gates and Jeb Bush – why not take all the money you are putting in Charter schools into fixing what YOU think is wrong with our public schools instead of creating an additional problem? Better yet, why don’t you get your noses and money the heck out of our state?

  3. DianeMarie says:

    By the way, was the report on the results of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-funded pilot program to develop effective teachers in Hillsborough County public schools ever published? I would love to see what the report considers $100K of Bill Gates money did for the children of that country because the FCAT scores do not show improvement to that tune of dollars!

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