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A high school student has now added his voice to the growing chorus opposing HB7069. Jonathan Suarez is a Junior at the School for Advanced Studies in Miami-Dade County, Florida. He wrote his own letter to Governor Scott urging him to veto HB 7069.

His letter was published in full in the Washington Post today:

“The part of this bill that causes the most insecurity to me, as a student and so many others is how little time was allowed  to properly debate and discuss this massive 278-page bill, a fact that caused Senator David Simmons – a Republican who favors most of the provisions in this bill – to vote against the bill. The process and little time given for the public and other senators to properly read the bill compromises the integrity of our own political process. Democracy requires adequate debate and anything less is just plain wrong.

Please do not allow the Florida legislature to deprive our already underfunded public schools of needed funding. Public schools serve 75% of all students in Florida and provides millions of poor Floridians their only chance at success. Handing over public funds to private corporations, that have not proved they are better at educating children will destroy not only public schools, but school communities. Florida has already documented tens of millions of dollars lost to charter school mismanagement and fraud, with no way to recover those losses. That’s a loss to my education and to the education of every public school student.”

Since May 8, when HB7069 narrowly passed in the Florida Senate, just about every public education stakeholder has voiced serious concerns, calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto the bill. While the outcry from educators and grassroots parents has been authentic and loud, some proponents of the bill are being paid to promote it, while others stand to profit. Those opposed include the Florida Association of District Schools Superintendents, Florida School Boards Association, individual school districts, Florida Education Association, the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida PTA and numerous other parent advocates across Florida.  Today, the First Amendment Foundation joined the opposition, for the bill’s utter lack of transparency and for skirting the legislative process.

As of today, even though the state’s main budget has been submitted to the Governor, House Speaker Corcoran and Senate Majority Leader Joe Negron have still not submitted HB7069. Once the Governor receives it, he will have 15 days to veto it. If he does nothing, it automatically becomes the law, even without his signature. So what’s the hold up? Here’s today’s update on the GOP’s delay tactics

A list of the worst of this bill can be found here.

We urge you strongly to send your own appeal to Rick Scott urging him to veto HB 7069.

Postcard:
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Call: (850) 488-7146
E-mail the Governor

From student, Jonathan Suarez:

“When I read the bill I was shocked at how bad it actually was. I discussed it with teachers in my school and they agreed. I’m aware of the impact this will have on millions of children and those who need the most help in our society. I figured maybe I can’t do much, but I can add a student voice to help balance the voices of those who would support this bad bill.  Hopefully, the Governor will hear us.”

Jonathan’s complete letter:

 

Dear Governor Scott,

As a student at the School for Advanced Studies in Miami-Dade Public Schools, I took notice of the education bill passed in the Florida legislature this week: HB7069. I read the bill and discussed its effect on the future of millions of children’s education with teachers and my community.  All my teachers have voiced their fears and concerns about the bill.

My public school’s merit and accomplishments are in no small way a result of the great teachers who help shape our minds every day. Yet, many of these passionate individuals barely make a living wage and any raises are minimal. There is a severe teacher shortage in Florida and HB7069 fails to address this dire public concern. The bill expands the “Best and Brightest” bonus program, however those bonuses are determined by how teachers performed on their high school SAT/ACT exams – rather than their actual performance as teachers. The solution to dealing with the teacher shortages and concerns about their performance is to increase salaries and properly evaluate their teaching, so that more trained individuals can be confident that the teaching profession can offer them a successful career and a way to support their families. Teachers and their unions have spoken out against this bill. The legislation can claim that this is their attempt to bypass unions and reward teachers directly, but they fail to acknowledge that unions are the teachers – and they don’t support HB7069.

Next there is the issue of “Schools of Hope” – A plan to attract for-profit charter corporations from out of state to set up shop in neighborhoods with failing schools. Why would we want to send Florida tax revenue out of Florida? HB7069 would set the schools up in these areas and would provide them one hundred and forty million dollars in funding. These funds would be given to charter schools so they can construct schools, hire teachers, train teacher, and recruit students.

Why not simply use those funds to help established, but struggling public schools to pay for improvements, such as infrastructure, better funded after-school programs, new books or technology, and all at a lower cost than it would take to start a new charter school, which has profit as a goal. 

From personal experience, charter schools are NOT the solution to the problems in public education.

I attended International Studies Charter High school from sixth to tenth grade before transferring into School for Advanced Studies. During my time in this charter school, I observed the truth that arises from the fact that charter schools are businesses first. I saw teachers getting replaced by less experienced teachers after teaching for years simply because their salaries became too expensive; the cafeteria being turned into classrooms after lunch because the school wanted to bring in more students to increase profits; and the struggle my peers and I went through walking miles home because the state doesn’t require charter schools to provide transportation and, therefore, they did not, as it was viewed as an unnecessary expense. HB 7069 is supposed to offer hope to poor families, but poor families can’t afford transportation for school.

Poor families. These are the ones who will suffer the greatest harm from this bill. Millions of children throughout Florida and the United States are given opportunities through Title I funds in public schools. These programs provide structure to fragile schools that educate multitudes of children suffering from poverty. Under HB7069, the threshold for which schools will qualify for Title I funds would be lowered, which will result in many public schools receiving less money at the district level. This would result in the loss of millions of dollars to programs that offer a glimmer of hope to children living in the harshest conditions.  We, as fellow citizens, have an obligation to help provide children in need with the necessary resources to succeed in life.

Many kids fall behind in school, not because they don’t work hard, but due to homelessness, economic instability, or serious family issues. These children would either typically not be allowed into charter schools or would be dismissed because the cost of helping them to catch up threatens profits. With their schools deprived of the necessary funds to help them realize their potential, poor and struggling children will be left to go the underfunded public school, a block away from the new charter school. Starving neighborhood schools of needed resources so families see no options but charters is not a valid “choice.” That is the reality of the charter schools that would be funded by this bill: it is not about choice, it is about profit. 

The part of this bill that causes the most insecurity to me, as a student, and so many others is how little time was allowed  to properly debate and discuss this massive 278-page bill, a fact that caused Senator David Simmons – a Republican who favors most of the provisions in this bill – to vote against the bill. The process and little time given for the public and other senators to properly read the bill compromises the integrity of our own political process. Democracy requires adequate debate and anything less is just plain wrong.

Please do not allow the Florida legislature to deprive our already underfunded public schools of needed funding. Public schools serve 75% of all students in Florida and provides millions of poor Floridians their only chance at success. Handing over public funds to private corporations, that have not proved they are better at educating children will destroy not only public schools, but school communities. Florida has already documented tens of millions of dollars lost to charter school mismanagement and fraud, with no way to recover those losses. That’s a loss to my education and to the education of every public school student.

HB7069 has some merit to it. There are aspects to the bill that would offer recess to kids, but it also exempts charter schools from providing recess. Do charter operators not want recess for their students? Bright Futures funding was increased, but only for top performers. This will limit many students with learning disabilities from pursuing a college education. It should be increased for all students. Recess and Bright Futures come at the expense of every public school student, current and future.

I ask you respectfully, Governor Scott, please do justice by the students, teachers, and future children and educators of this beautiful and amazing state of ours and line item veto the parts of this bill that will hurt the future of millions of students and millions to come, or veto the bill so that legislators can start over. Florida can and must do better than this. We are counting on you.

Sincerely,
Jonathan Suarez, Proud student
School for Advanced Studies, MDCPS
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