Florida Republican Legislators Continue Its Efforts to End Local Control of Schools

The Okaloosa County School Board held a workshop that involved all community stakeholders in considering a proposal to change high school starting times. In the end the board voted not to do so.  Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson said that the new start times would cost the district $1 million because it would need additional buses.  Not good enough for Rep. Matt Gates (R-Fort Walton Beach) . Two weeks later he filed a bill to mandate new start times for the state’s high schools.

Such shenanigans which to end local control of schools nothing are nothing new to Florida republican legislators. In 2011,  Sen. Steve Wise (R-Jacksonville) filed a bill which would have ended the salaries of the state’s school board members.  In June 2012, then state school’s commissioner let the cat out of the bag when speaking to school board members in Tampa. In response to the state association’s resolution against high stake testing, Robinson let this one go:

They can express their opinion,” he said. “But let’s also remember the local school board’s obligation is to implement the laws approved by the Florida Legislature; to implement the regulations approved by the state board.”

Gaetz obviously agrees with Robinson. Georgia republican lawmakers went after some school board members that turned down a Charter Schools USA application with a redistricting threat.

This year’s charter school smooch comes in the new law that standardizes all contracts between charter schools and local school boards. Read this from Tampa Tribune reporter Anastasia Dawson:

The Pinellas County School District is working with others across the state in hopes of plugging the growing leak in public school budgets that comes each year with new charter school laws and legislation. To start, school board members gave school attorneys the go-ahead last week to look into filing a lawsuit against the state over a new law that would create a standardized operating contract for charter schools next fall.

School boards are required to allow a charter school to open if it meets the requirements outlined in the contract the two parties negotiate. In the past, the boards have been able to write their own contracts with their own requirements. But next school year, when every contract will be the same, it could be more difficult to deny a charter school, Pinellas school board member Rene Flowers said. With the possibility that more state funding could be tied directly to students, it also means school districts could lose money as more charter schools move in.

“We’re going to go into negotiations with our hands tied,” Flowers said. “I feel like we’re already competing with these big businesses for dollars for our students’ educations, and this just further limits our ability to really be discerning and conscientious.”

Gaetz and his allies aren’t acting like conservatives. They want to centralize power in state capitals where they can assure that big campaign donations from the education for profit industry continues to flow their way. It’s never been about kids – or school choice for that matter. Just power, control and cash.


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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