Florida Charter Thievery And The Worst Legislature In The USA

Florida's elected Tallahassee-dwellers have pretty much dropped all pretense; under Governor Desantis (feat. above), the goal is to completely demolish public education, with no more cover story than to insist that the resulting privatized system is still a "public school system." Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

Florida's elected Tallahassee-dwellers have pretty much dropped all pretense; under Governor Desantis (feat. above), the goal is to completely demolish public education, with no more cover story than to insist that the resulting privatized system is still a "public school system." Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.

Florida Charter Thievery And The Worst Legislature In The USA

By Peter Greene | Originally published on Curmudgucation | Follow on Twitter: @palan57 | Author of Curmudgucation: What Fresh Hell.

By Peter Grene

Imagine. You live on the 300 block of your city, and your neighborhood is starting to look kind of run down, mostly because the city has redirected a ton of your tax dollars to the neighborhood on the 400 block. You try to fight city hall, but that's futile, so instead, you get the neighborhood together, and you collect money from amongst yourselves to upgrade sidewalks, clean the streets, refurbish the curbs, and just generally fix the place up. And then the city sends a message-- "That money you just collected? You have to give some of it to the neighborhood in the 400 block."

Congratulations. You live in Florida.

Florida's elected Tallahassee-dwellers have pretty much dropped all pretense; under Governor Desantis, the goal is to completely demolish public education, with no more cover story than to insist that the resulting privatized system is still a "public school system." I have seen better gaslighting from a fourteen year old saying, "I did not throw that pencil at Chris" even though he watched me watch him do it.

The Tampa Bay Times offers some background:

Let’s check the record. For years, Republicans who control the Legislature have attacked teacher unions as the enemy and complained about under-performing public schools while starving them of financial resources. They would not let local school districts keep additional tax revenue created by rising property values. They gave them little or no money for construction and renovation. And last year, they increased base spending per student by a grand total of 47 cents.

Florida has been systematically starving its public school system, so some districts took the most logical step available to them-- they levied taxes on themselves to raise teacher salaries, replace programs that were cut, and basically use their own local money to reverse the problems caused by state-level neglect. They stepped up to solve the problems the state caused.

Last week, Florida GOP legislators pooped out a proposal to stop all this locally controlled self-reliant bootstrapping (because, you know, conservatives hate local control, self-reliance, and bootstraps, apparently, now). The bill, proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee led by Rep. Bryan Avila, R-Miami Springs, says those local districts must hand over some of those tax dollars to charter schools or the state will just cut their state funding even more.

This is just nuts on so many levels. In addition to pissing on the conservative values of local control and self-reliance, this also thumbs its nose at one of the traditional arguments for charter schools-- that competition will make public schools up their games. I'd call bullshit on that point, except that's exactly what happened here-- with their ability to compete hamstrung by Tallahassee tightwads, these local districts found a way to be competitive, including competing for teachers in the midst of Florida's well-deserved and completely predictable teacher shortage.

This is legislative thievery. This is as if lawmakers bought their own restaurant and then imposed a tax on all other restaurants so that no matter where you eat out, the legislators' restaurant gets paid.

Tallahassee isn't even trying to be sneaky. The message is clear; they want charter schools to get the money, and public schools to get the shaft.

Meanwhile, the tax increases were passed for very specific amounts earmarked for very specific purposes, and if charters get to take a cut, the full amount of money won't be there, leaving local authorities to figure out, once again, how to overcome the state's inflicted financial challenges. And don't get any smart ideas about other taxation avenues; the state wants local sales taxes to now be approved by a two-thirds vote rather than simple majority.

It's thievery, and it's one more step toward the goal of turning Florida into a state with no public education system, but plenty of education-flavored opportunities to make a private fortune out of public dollars. And it would just be a mark of shame for the state alone, were Florida not Betsy DeVos's idea of how a privatized, voucherized is supposed to be set up.