Here’s a bit from this morning’s column by the Tampa Bay Times John Romano:
Theoretically, the role of a state legislator is simple.
You are in Tallahassee to look out for the people back home. Special interest groups, lobbyists, political parties? In a perfect world, that’s just drama and noise.
And yet here we are, just about a week before the Legislature is in session, and already lawmakers are climbing back in the sack with charter school business interests.
We are told we need more charter schools. We need to make it easier to create charter schools. We need to throw more state money at charter schools.
Yet no one is bothering to explain why.
And, even worse, no one in Tallahassee seems concerned about the amount of taxpayer dollars being taken out of public schools and put in the pockets of for-profit charters
Romano points out that legislators justification for charter school expansion is now limited to “choice’ and that parents are “demanding” more choice. He also cites that Florida’s success record is worse than the national average. One in 8 charter schools fail across the nation, but in Florida it’s 1 in 4.
The support from Florida’s republican legislative body of the for-profit charter school industry has advanced from fishy to dishonorable. While brushing aside ethical lapses and sketchy success, Florida legislators are poised to pass a bill which allows big charter schools to takeover – for free – unused buildings belonging to a school district. And parent trigger is back, too. Even more corruptible that last year’s bill, it allows charter school funded entities to agitate and divide communities into taking over a public school through a gerrymandered signature campaign.
Not everyone is fooled. In an interview with StateImpact, Dr. Rosa Castro-Fienberg was extremely critical of the spirit and intention of these pieces of legislation. On behalf of two civil rights groups, Feinberg said this to reporter Gina Jordan:
“A scant majority of parents at a school should not be able to divest the taxpayers of valuable school property that was paid for and belongs not to them alone but to all the residents of the district and state. That is not school reform, it is legalized theft. “We are also concerned about limitations in civil rights available to parents, teachers, and students in charter as contrasted with traditional public schools. Those rights are constricted in privately managed schools.”
The myth of the number of parents demanding choice was dispatched a few weeks ago when charter school lobbyist Jim Horne and former charter school lobbyist turned state agency chief Michael Kooi got caught with egg of their face. Corporate-funded interests are taking a new tactic now and are presenting a collection of paid flacks are a faux school choice movement.
And yes, the for-profit charter school industry will again be exploiting their students again this year in another Tallahassee School Choice rally on April 3rd. What better way is there to make the case for charter schools than to take kids out of school for a day, outfit them in matching yellow shirts and stash them behind a bunch of self-serving politicians for a photo-op?