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The Florida Education Association is the Abusive Parent in Florida’s Public-School Family

September 21, 2018 - 12:00pm

Imagine a family with 10 kids: Nine biological and one adopted.

After a couple years, the parents and siblings start to regret their choice to adopt him. He works hard, gets good grades, but there’s a problem: He’s growing! Not like a kid who ate magic beans, but he’s eating more of the family’s food, using up valuable space in the family van, and asking for access to the family computer (which they’ve denied).

The parents decide to take a little cut from his allowance and require that he shop for his own clothes and pay for his own transportation. As a tradeoff, they allowed him to stay out later. After all, he’s got to work a night job to bring in some of his own money. The boy accepts the requirements and continues to impress onlookers with his success in school and his frugality.

Of course, part of his motivation is the threat of being kicked out of the family if his grades slip or if he can’t sustain himself financially.

Despite his success, the family starts complaining about his allowance, arguing it could be divided up among the original nine. “He’s draining our allowance funds!” they cry. “Why are mom and dad prioritizing him over the rest of us?” they demand. “He’s getting rich off our money!”

In the real world, only 10 percent of Florida students attend charter schools. They’re the one adopted sibling in a public-school family of 10. The hostile school board members and superintendents aligned with the Florida Education Association’s anti-charter campaign are the abusive parents. In newspapers and blogs, political campaigns and school board meetings, they paint charter schools across the state as a giant money-eating monster that’s staring down every child attending traditional schools.

That portrayal is fiction.

Like the allowance disparity in that fictional family, charter schools get less money to educate kids and are largely on their own to find a building for the school. That’s why sometimes you’ll see charter schools operating in unusual places, like an empty section of the largely abandoned Centre of Tallahassee mall where my son goes to school.

A 2017 report by Florida Taxwatch found that charter schools get about $3,000 less per student. And still, the well-organized, well-funded anti-charter voices complain that charter schools are bleeding them dry, being prioritized over traditional schools, and only out to get rich at the expense of the kids who go to their schools.

When I reminded someone on Twitter that most charter schools are managed by nonprofit organizations, she told me they just take their extra money to “build their empire.” 

But if charter schools are building an empire that gets amazing results for kids, then, heck, yeah -- let’s help them build it bigger!

If charter schools don’t get good grades, or if they become financially unstable with that smaller allowance, they get shut down, or “kicked out of the family.”

The haters foolishly cite the occasional charter school closure as evidence they’re a drag on public funds, but they miss the fact that if traditional schools were held to the same financial and academic standards, we’d see many of them shutting down as well. 

That bit about using the family van and computer are based in reality, too!

In Leon County, all families with kids in public schools get a free license to Microsoft Office 360, that is, unless you’re a charter school family like mine. And just this year, they denied our charter school access to the computer system the county uses to hire teachers. 

Our school has also been told that soon they won’t be allowed to park their buses or refuel at the district’s bus lot.

Despite being outnumbered in the public school family, underfunded, and squeezed out of district perks, charter school students in Florida, especially minorities, outperform their traditional school counterparts.

Charter schools are public schools, by law. They are tuition-free and open to the public. The schools are in such high demand that enrollment decisions have to be made by lottery and those who don’t make it are added to waiting lists.

Families want these schools because, for one reason or another, the traditional school they’re zoned for doesn’t meet their needs. Instead of trying to crush the little guy, school board and district leaders should stop perpetuating a sibling rivalry and stop picking a side. They should be fair and do everything possible to help all kids succeed, because in the end, we’re all part of the same family of public schools.


Lane Wright lives in Tallahassee with his wife and three children and serves as director of policy analysis at Education Post, a national nonprofit.


So tired of the bashing of Florida Public Schools and Florida Public School Teachers. Public schools educated me and I have three higher degrees. Public schools in the US have made us GREAT. We need to stand up for our public school system in Florida. We cannot keep bleeding the money so that we can privatize our school system the way that we have privatized our Medicaid system and tried to privatize our prisons. This allows taxpayer dollars to make certain people rich. NO. I am running for FL Senate in District 26 www. Vote Catherine Price on November 6th.

...AND I'm tired of SO VERY MANY INCOMPETENT TEACHERS..! (I'll take bets that YOUR "three higher degrees" have "AFFIRMATIVE ACTION" 'written' all over them (don't forget to pay your "Union Dues"...)!!!!!

Florida's "Public School Buildings" are among the finest: Rather, It's the sub par Teachers and Administrators who FAIL our children IN SO MANY WAYS !

"Those that can't do,..Teach; Those that can't teach,..Teach Gym; Those that can't teach gym,.. Become FEA Union Representatives (A more "toothless"&"useless" group, if there ever was one..! )...(Witness Florida's ever failing and politically manipulated " education standings...)

Far more accurate is Repubs are the abusive parents of Public Schools who last yr gave the whole building, maintaining budget to Charters that have no accountability...………….Now our schools have to deal with things like fixing A/Cs, roofs, increased security, etc without any or little money to do them...………...But November is coming and Tallahassee is going to be roiled as everyone says enough of repub rule as they have went bat sh-t crazy putting up racist idiots like DeSantis, behind by 6 points...………….And your treatment of women is going to doom you as decent people everywhere just say no more.

You know what would be great, if we shut down underperforming public schools and fire the teachers the way they shut down charter schools!

93% of all Charter schools are closed by their own management companies, NOT the school board...mic drop.

Ahhhhhhh,...BOO-HOO ! feel SOOOOO bad for "Charter schools"......N-O-T ! ! !

Ah, CBreeze. Democrat anarchist troll.

Apparently you don't know Cbreeze. He is a far right repub racist Trump chump troll, trying to be funny.

"jerry", you're ALWAYS funny,... wiithout even trying...

Florida's public school system is currently ranked 29th out of 50 states. High school graduation rate: 80.7% (14th lowest) Public school spending: $9,737 per pupil (11th lowest) 8th grade NAEP proficiency: 26.1% (math) 30.3% (reading) Adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.6% (19th lowest) Adults 25-64 with incomes at or above national median: 42.9% (3rd lowest) Florida’s public schools receive some of the lowest funding of any state school system in the country. The state allocates only 2.7% of its taxable resources to school funding, well below the 3.3% average funding across all state school systems. Partially as a result, annual per-pupil education spending is only $9,737, or about $2,800 less than the typical spending nationwide.

In lifetime stats, 90% of Charters have failed and closed. 40% of Charters close within 10 years. 5% close within the first year. Those are facts and in a word, unacceptable. What you fail to realize in your diatribe about school boards lacking oversight of Charters is that most Charters are closed by the management company itself, NOT the school board. They don't have to give a reason, they just walk away, take the funding paid up to that point, and reopen in another county, just the costs of doing business. The kids are the ones who are left holding the bag and the tax payers. All the up front costs and contractual costs are gone, never to be recouped. That falls directly to the tax payer. Only a small percentage of Charters are closed by school districts, why? because of the ridiculous rules the legislature has enacted to let them off the hook. They have to be given a written corrective action plan. They are only required to make modest progress to remain open. Charter Schools have no commitment to anyone other than their profit margin (even not for profits), which brings me to the next reality you make no mention of. Students are not Charter schools number 1 priority, money is. School boards have to account for every penny they spend in writing. It is the law. Charters? Nope. Charters do it for less because they have no transportation, food service, mandatory IEP guidelines, safety laws, legally required oversight, physical education requirements, district funded sports, arts budgets, technology mandates, etc., etc., etc. The biggest thing you avoid in your argument about the benefits of Charters is public schools have to take all students in their catchment area (other than the small percentage expelled or moved to alternative schools). You have to apply and be accepted into a Charter school. Guess what? They don't take failing kids, kids with parents who won't commit to involvement both financially and personally. Bottom line, they run a rigged game and still fail while cherry picking their members. The last thing and probably the biggest failure of your argument is that failing public schools are primarily the responsibility of the local school board. It is the biggest misconception in the whole failing school argument. Schools do not take tests, kids do. If a kid refuses to do home work, study, learn, etc. The school can contact the parent, but if the parent refuses to intervene or participate, which is often the case in struggling school areas, the school still has to try to reach and teach the child and they are still tested whether they learn or not. They cannot cherry pick the kids, they get what they get. Charter school kids should do better on tests because they get to hand pick them and if they pick wrong, can still kick them out. That is the real problem behind failing schools and the rigged Charter school game, and that is the rest of the story...

Your letter is so full of BS that I don't even know where to start. ALL of your "facts" are wrong. Where do you get your information? Do you work for the teachers' union? I suppose if you tell the big lies long enough, people will not only believe them, but start repeating them as well. You need to get out to the charter school sites and find out what is really going on.

Bill, if you think “the rest of the story’s” facts are wrong, can you counter them? Simply calling something BS doesn’t make it so. Those facts all correlate with what I have been reading through the years. The Orlando Sentinel had a special report called “Schools Without Rules”, people need the truth.

Well said.....thats how you drop the Mic!!!

This article is a waste of space here.

I am a property owner in Gilchrist county. The schools in this county perform well, unlike those in surrounding counties, where property owners pay ridiculous school taxes to feed bloated administrations. Having never had children, I am not fond of paying for someone else's kids, however I'd be a screaming Mimi if I lived elsewhere and paid for under-performing schools, let alone, choking out any opportunity to provide decent education outside a failed system. Take a look around at what Florida schools have churned out, for decades! The first year of post-secondary ed is devoted to teaching basic skills not grasped during 13 years in the public schools. Complete waste of taxpayer dollars!

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