2018 Legislative Session – What do we want from Public Education?

The first week of the 2018 legislative session in Tallahassee begins January 9. Do your representatives know what your priorities are for education? As elected officials, they have a civic duty to represent their constituents, so it’s important that we communicate with them about what’s important to us.

It can be difficult and time consuming to stay on top of all of the bills that come and go during session, but you can still let them know your stance on some of the main topics that may come up, in order to better inform their decision-making.

  • Privatization/School Choice
    Many politicians are working to privatize education in order to pave the way for more charter schools and voucher programs that fund private schools. While providing parents with a choice can be a good thing in some circumstances, it should not be done at the detriment of meeting the needs of traditional public schools that are educating a majority of children in our state. Charter schools, as well as private schools that accept vouchers funded with public dollars, should be held to the same standards of financial and managerial accountability as public schools. They should also be required to accept and provide an appropriate education to all students. A recent national study from the American Federation of Teachers indicates that parents prefer to have well-funded traditional public schools with adequate resources, rather than expansion of school choice.
  • School Funding
    Along with privatization comes the redirecting of funding away from traditional public schools and to “choice” programs. This leaves our schools with unmet resource needs, including aging facilities, outdated and overcrowded classrooms, as well as other safety issues. Florida is currently ranked  42nd in the nation in public school funding, and some politicians want to take even more funding away.
  • Accountability
    Parents continue to push back against the flawed test-based accountability system that affects the learning environment of our children. Yet, the state continues to move forward with this test and punish system. Our public schools have too many tests, and those tests are being used for the wrong reasons. The high stakes (including school grades, teacher evaluations and graduation requirements) must be removed! Assessments must be shorter, and the results must be used for learning purposes only. Teachers should not be evaluated based on student test scores (nor on other standardized measures of progress), and schools should not be labeled and graded based on test scores. Click here for an outline of what parents want from tests that can easily be shared with legislators.
  • Florida Standards (aka Common Core)
    With the passage of the federal ESSA legislation in December 2015, states are no longer required to use a global set of standards, nor can the federal government coerce states to use certain standards. The requirement is simply that states have “challenging academic standards.” This paves the way for Florida to revise our Standards to be more developmentally appropriate.
  • Tech in ED (aka Competency-Based-Learning, or CBE)
    Several districts in Florida are piloting a CBE program, which promises to bring personalized learning into the classroom. This can be beneficial as long as it’s done well. However, the state is pushing that this personalization be accomplished by using computers, essentially turning teachers into facilitators that watch students rather than teach them. Student learning should be based on hands-on educational opportunities taught by humans, not sitting at a computer all day. Click here to see how Lake County has pulled out of the CBE pilot program.
  • Local Control
    Legislators continue to slowly chip away at local control of educational decisions, with the objective of making more decisions at the state level. The problem with this is that many at the state level are too far removed from the individual, unique needs of each local community. With politicians having a wide variety of experience in many issues, many of them make decisions about education with no prior education experience. By moving control back to locally elected school boards, these decisions are more likely to be made by people with education experience who are better in touch with the community’s needs.

To identify your House representative, click here and enter your address. To identify your Senator, click here. You can then visit their individual web sites to find their email address (sometimes it’s a form on their site), as well as their phone number. You can also click here to identify other state leaders who need to hear from the people they represent.

Thank you for taking the time to speak up for public education!

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