Where does your state senator stand on Amendment 8, the utterly shameless windfall for shady, foreign, for-profit charter schools developers and attack on community public education? Let’s find out together, shall we?
I’ve started a tracker, and I’m asking for senators to share their positions. Screen shot preview below.
I’ve been trying to get Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland to answer for days on Twitter. Crickets. Her opponent, Bob Doyel, is strongly against Amendment 8 because he’s a strong supporter of public schools and teachers. You can learn about and support Bob here, if you choose.
Stargel, of course, is perhaps the single most anti-teacher, anti-public education elected official in Florida. Every bad thing Florida has done to teachers and schools during her tenure has Stargel’s name attached to it, including Florida’s endless starvation budgets for schools. Let me tell you: of course, she supports this amendment. But thanks to the competitiveness of her race, she’s afraid to say it out loud. Let’s make her say it.
Political competition, tied to clear examination of a politician’s record, is a beautiful thing. That’s why we need to get every senator on-the-record with a position. (We need to do with it representatives, too, but someone else can lead that effort.)
So, if you want to help, call or write your state senator. Ask them: Do you support public education and teachers? Or do you support foreign for-profit charter companies trying to come here to make a buck off our kids with no oversight? Let me know what they say, preferably by tweeting me at @billytownsended or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As of today, only Gary Farmer, a South Florida Democrat, has confirmed his strong opposition to 8. But we’re just starting.
Amendment 8: the wealthy foreign charter developer enrichment act.
What is Amendment 8?
To answer that, let’s look first at who is funding the campaign to approve it. Here’s an invaluable story about that.
Nearly three-quarters of the money raised by the 8isGreat group has come from companies involved with charter schools.
Red Apple Development, a Fort Lauderdale company that has helped develop more than three dozen charter school projects in Florida, donated $10,000 to the amendment effort.
GreenAccess, a Jupiter company also involved in more than three dozen charter schools in Florida, donated $15,000.
Florida Overseas Investment Center, a Sarasota company, also made a $15,000 contribution to the amendment campaign, records show.
GreenAccess and Florida Overseas Investment are both involved in the EB-5 investor visa program, which provides a path to U.S. residency for wealthy foreign immigrants.
Under the program, the foreign investors can obtain a “green card” for themselves and their families if they provide at least $500,000 for projects, such as schools, that are tied to job creation.
It’s worth noting that these are not your local, non-profit operators, like Lakeland Montessori and Lake Wales Charter. These are big, for-profit operators looking to cash in. Why would rich foreign nationals trying to buy their way into America (while we terrorize desperate, poor toddlers at the border) see Amendment 8 as a golden ticket?
A moral fraud cloaked in moral fraud
Amendment 8 on the ballot seems bland enough, proposing eight-year term limits for all school board members and directing the Legislature to pass laws for “the promotion of civic literacy” among students. Oh, and then there’s this other little line that says county school boards “shall operate, control, and supervise all free public schools established by the district school board within the school district.”
I added the emphasis in that line, the italics. It’s what you call a snooker. Even conscientious voters who read more than ballot summaries of the constitutional amendments could easily miss its carefully cloaked meaning. You see, school boards already operate, control and supervise the public schools in their counties, but adoption of this amendment would seemingly limit their authority to only those schools established by each county government.
In other words, charter schools and other private operations, set up by companies that give big campaign contributions to governors and legislators, would be beyond the governance of your local, elected county school board members. Rather than justifying their qualification and necessity at the local level, where board members know the needs of children and teachers, the privateers could just go to the state level and get the go-ahead to set up shop.
Who thought this was a good idea?
The state’s Constitutional Revision Commission, which was appointed by U.S Senate Candidate Rick Scott Rick Scott, Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran, and Senate president Joe Negron. It is an extension of anti-education, anti-teacher, pro-corporate charter cash-in policies they pursued during their time together in the last two sessions.
The sponsor of the actual amendment is School Board member — and CRC appointee from Collier County named Erika Donalds — who has been trying to use the fleeting power afforded her by the Scott/Corcoran/Negron triumvirate to hurt community public schools as thoroughly and lastingly as she can.
She is part of a thing called the Florida Coalition of School Board Members. It is essentially a handful of School Board members — including Joe Negron’s wife, Rebecca — who despise public education and teachers. One of them, an unintentionally hilarious guy named Shawn Frost, announced to the world back in 2017 that FCSBM let me win my election. Really. Dude said, “we let you win.” Read this post to laugh, if you want.
Who was the FCSBM’s best buddy back in 2016, when they seemed to be ascendent as an anti-public education alternative to the Florida School Board Association?
Senator Kelli Stargel, of course. See this backstory. Quick excerpt:
The FSBA represents county school boards — not school board members —which is why its dues structure and membership aren’t based on individual people. County school boards vote on whether to join the FSBA, and majority rules.
But coalition members, with support from Republican lawmakers, argued they should have the choice of what professional association represents them. Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, took up the coalition’s cause this session, sponsoring a bill that would let school board members direct their dues to whatever organization they wished.
The bill also targeted the FSBA for participating in the tax-credit scholarship lawsuit. It would have barred the FSBA from using taxpayer dollars — i.e. the dues its members pay — from suing the state in the future.
Fake solar amendment 2.0
Like a lot of bad public/political operators, the FCSBM confuses shamelessness with cleverness.
They think it was clever to openly insult voters by pretending this amendment is about term limits for School Board members and Civics. [For the record, I don’t really care about term limits either way. On the one hand, they are a usurpation of voter rights. On the other, I can see, from my own observation, how they might be practically helpful at the local level. Personally, I can’t imagine doing this job at the pace I do it for more than two terms, but never say never. And everybody already takes civics. I have no idea what that’s even about.]
The League of Women Voters has already sued over the deliberately misleading structure of the amendment. Win or lose, the lawsuit helps to point out that this is a fraudulent attack on public schools, teachers, and communities.
Indeed, Amendment 8 is a lot like 2016’s fake solar amendment, which voters also came to see through and reject handily. I’m similarly confident that at least 40 percent-plus-1 of Florida voters will recognize this as a shameless, open insult to them. Even if you love for-profit charter schools, the stench of fraud that this amendment hangs on them is disastrous for your cause over the long term. If you’re a corporate charter-lover, you can decide if I’m concern trolling you here — or just telling you the truth. Here’s a hint: I’m doing both.
If you doubt me on the politics of fraudulently pushing for fraudulent charter schools, just listen to the deafening silence of Kelli Stargel.
Let’s not let her — or anybody else — get away with hiding. You, senators, own this amendment, until you don’t. Speak up.