By Cindy Hamilton and Sandy Stenoff

For the past five years The Opt Out Florida Network (which began as Opt Out Orlando)  has posted on many topics that we felt impacted our public schools.

More than anything, we have advocated for authentic, actual teaching and learning in public schools. At the most basic level, that cannot happen if children and teachers do not feel safe, and in some case, are not safe.

We have been fiercely critical of legislation and policies that threaten our public schools, teachers and students. As reformers have adjusted their strategy to public education activists’ pushback against their harmful “reforms,” we activists have had to adjust our strategy as well. We have created and supported actions, along with our many partners, and we work very hard to be certain that our research and shared content is factual, accurate and verifiable.

Some of the policies or issues that we have either supported or opposed, but have always discussed, include NCLB, Race To The Top, Arne Duncan, John King, Betsy DeVos, Jeb Bush, FLDOE, Foundation for Florida’s Future, Bill Gates, Walton Foundation, Koch brothers, ALEC, ESSA, education reform, teachers unions, third grade mandatory retention, high stakes attached to testing, testing culture, false accountability, alternative testing, funding inequity, racial inequity, defunding, defunding via mandates, VAM, Common Core State Standards, age appropriate curriculum, recess, data-mining, digital curriculum, CBE, class placement, SEL assessment, the monetizing of education via testing, privatization thru forced public school failures, charters, vouchers, the school to prison pipeline, zero tolerance discipline policies, the re-segregation of schools, opting out of tests – and the murder of children in our public schools.

Every one of these topics has appeared on our pages and in our group discussions. Every one of them impacts our students in public schools. We will continue to celebrate and support the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and across the country, as they lead the way by framing their own movement to secure their schools as a safe place of learning (Never Again MSD on Facebook and Twitter).

“On social media, and on live television, the victims of the Parkland shooting were not playing their parts. They were not asking for privacy in their time of grief. They did not think it was “too soon” to bring up the issue of gun control.”  – Emily Witt, The New Yorker (2/17/2018)

We stand with the courageous, angry and grieving students and hope that they will continue to “not play their part” as they advocate for real change and say to the powers that be,

The Opt Out Florida Network is a team of dedicated volunteers, spread out across the state of Florida and many of us do this work together every day at great cost to our families. We are so very proud of the dedication and support we receive from each other in this work.

Opting out of state-mandated testing has always been just one action to take in advocating for public schools. Parents can and should take many different actions to effect real change at the classroom, school, district and state levels. And that is what it will take for us to return public school classrooms to safe spaces of real teaching and learning – MANY different actions.

The Opt Out Florida Network supports all parents in being fully informed about all aspects of their child’s education and in their rights as parents to choose how best to advocate for their children in public schools.

As we look ahead and move forward, we will be taking a hard look at new ways to disrupt data collection as well as ways to protect our public schools from privatization. We know that our priorities may sometimes differ.

While we are respectful of the right of each to differing opinions, we will not waver in our resolve to defend our public schools. We realize that some won’t agree with our point of view. That’s okay! There are many other places to get opt out information.

To learn more about why The Opt OutFlorida Network was founded, how we advocate for public education and what we stand for, please read: