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Voters, Armed with Facts, Should Decide on Amendment 8

September 5, 2018 - 11:00am

Multiple Florida papers have editorialized that Amendment 8, the education amendment, should be removed from the ballot, taking the position that voters are not smart enough to understand what they are voting on.

I have a higher opinion of my fellow Floridians and believe they should have a chance to decide. The State of Florida has requested the Florida Supreme Court quash a lower court order and approve Amendment 8 for placement on the November ballot. The State’s appeal will be heard by the Supreme Court Wednesday afternoon. In fact, the Florida Channel is scheduled to televise.

But let’s get to the real issue. None of these media outlets reached out to me or other supporters to verify facts or offer balanced voices. They, and the group suing the state, the League of Women Voters of Florida, oppose empowering families to choose the education setting that best fits their child. They fear Amendment 8 because it does not preserve the status quo.

We should absolutely celebrate the success of our traditional public schools. Thanks to our many excellent administrators and educators, they have made tremendous strides since the turn of the century. And as innovation and choices have grown in Florida, traditional public schools have improved. But I don’t believe the rules that school districts operate under, codified 50 years ago in the Florida Constitution, are relevant in today’s Florida. Those antiquated rules are holding us back.

We need innovation. We need diverse learning models for our incredibly diverse student population. Florida -- under its current, outdated laws -- cannot realize this for students unless we cut the red tape. Once out in front on education innovation, Florida is falling behind other states that do not share our state’s constitutional barriers.

Other aspects of society are changing at light speed, but education remains mired in the Woodstock era. Amendment 8 facilitates a necessary evolution of education. Imagine our colleges involved in K-12 education, overseeing public schools that graduate students not only with high-school diplomas, but college degrees. Imagine public schools of excellence in high-demand fields such as science and engineering. Imagine these schools available online to all students in Florida. Imagine residential public schools where students and teachers from any county could come for a semester and gain hands-on experience from some of the state’s best engineers in Central Florida, magnetic engineers in the Panhandle or aerospace engineers on the Space Coast.

Those with a mission to preserve the status quo have created unwarranted confusion over what Amendment 8 will do, instilling fear in both fans and foes of school choice and presenting a narrative of an entirely state-run charter school scenario and that of an explosion of new charter schools. What they don’t tell you is that Florida is one of only six states in the country that limits public school oversight only to school districts, and their fear-based scenarios are not supported by evidence in other states.

It is wrong for the opposition to limit the Amendment 8 debate to charter schools, when the proposal is about opportunities for innovation well beyond charters. The mischaracterization has gone to extremes. One Treasure Coast paper stated – since correcting the mistake – that should Amendment 8 pass, local school boards will basically have no say in the charter school process; that authority would go to the state. That is flat out false. This misunderstanding has permeated the media, causing alarm and confusion among members of local school communities. 

Amendment 8 does not in itself change the current manner of establishing public schools in Florida, nor does it require the Legislature to so. Districts will still operate, control, and supervise the free public schools they establish, as is the current practice. 

Currently, school districts hold a monopoly on the operation, control and supervision of all public schools. Amendment 8 could provide the flexibility for authorizers other than the district to partner with new public schools. Amendment 8 is intentionally non-prescriptive. The free public schools that could be established through this policy could be magnet schools, specialty high-schools that help students hone skills leading to high-paying jobs or new schools not even considered.

What else does Amendment 8 do? It creates eight-year term limits for school board members, to bring fresh faces and ideas to education. I was proud to include this policy, as a sitting school board member. I have witnessed the danger of stagnation on our school boards. It also prioritizes and protects civic education, to help students become informed, engaged citizens.

While I am confident Amendment 8 will be on the ballot this November, I hope reporters will embrace both sides as they write about this issue. And to the grownups blocking opportunities at every turn, please remember that the window of time for a student to receive a high-quality education is small. They only have one childhood. Amendment 8 will give more children in Florida the opportunity to succeed.

Constitution Revision Commissioner Erika Donalds is a mother of three school-age children and CPA serving on the Collier County School Board. She is the main sponsor of Amendment 8 on the Constitutional Revision Commission and is the founder of 



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If their intentions were in any way honorable, they would have separated the amendments out and allowed each voter to vote on each amendment, solely on its merits, if any... The fact that they packaged these with some that might appeal to educational advocates w/o ever even mentioning Charter schools, shows the true disingenuous intentions of this sham committee...and of this clearly partisan hit piece...

A similar scam to the utility lead solar amendment with misleading language. Fact is most of the amendments have serious problems shows how incompetent the CC was, repubs are trying to fool the people of Florida. And we'll see you in November. Keep this up and it'll be very bad for repubs as people are tired of it and pissed.

Exactly. These CRC Amendments have misleading language and are grouped with non-related issues to favor passage.

We should understand where Ms. Donalds is coming from and then we will understand what this Naples Tea Party member is all about. It's about Charter schools and privatization of public education via Betsy DeVos and their never ending quest to privatize the whole country. These are evil people who need to move to a far away island, somewhere in the Pacific..

Let's be clear here! If you want to arm voters with the facts - you should let them know that this amendment is tantamount to a Trojan Horse - It clearly carries a significant change to how education is governed in the "belly" of an amendment that attempts to manipulate the voters by including Civic Literacy and School Board terms limits in the language. The amendment does not clearly let the voters know that local elected officials that are responsible for managing education in their districts will be cut out of the review/evaluation process relating to local charter schools. Let's also be clear - even though Ms. Donald's supported the amendment - it is significant who voted no when it was up from Final Consideration - Who vote NO? The current Commissioner of Education Voted against putting it on the ballot! - The current Chair of the State Board of Education voted against putting it on the ballot! Another current member of the State Board of Education - Tom Grady voted against putting the proposal on the ballot. And former State Board of Education member Mr. Martinez vote against putting it on the ballot. Who's advice to I trust - not the writer of the article! Vote No on Amendment 8 if by chance the Supreme Court doesn't knock it off the ballot - They should! It's misleading and a gross effort to manipulate the voters.

Most Charter schools are a sham to build buildings on taxpayers dime, taking all the school money as public schools got zip for new schools and little to keep the old buildings for...………..They have no rules hardly and won't be tested to find out if they are actually teaching...………...Another is religious schools the state has no business supporting...…………..And this bill gives the oversight to the state and allows county school money to be spent with no control at all...………...Ever notice how repubs are for local control until they get into power? Balancing the budget until they get into power?...………..Time to vote the special interests, far right idiots , corporate flacks out.

I had a difficult time understanding the writer of this article, so I did some looking around. Firstly I question this Constitution Revision Commission, how easy is it for these people to be bought and sold? The article starts off with "Multiple Florida papers have editorialized that Amendment 8, the education amendment, should be removed from the ballot, taking the position that voters are not smart enough to understand what they are voting on." The first thing that comes to my mind is, if I am not smart enough understand the purpose of the amendment, I should not be voting on it, also not paying any increases that this amendment might entail. ---From this link I found the actual amendment --- >>>>Which led me to this pdf--- ---From what I can tell it deals mostly with term limits for the governing boards, thus allowing new and possibly changes in the existing system. I would vote yes!

Clearly, MANY voters are "not smart enough to know what they are voting on"! Witness Trump and Scott actually winning elections and others (like DeSantis) currently running on their coat-tails. Plenty ... PLENTY ... of politicos DEPEND ON LOW-INFORMATION VOTERS for their victories!

Thank God for you and your unbelievable over sized brain. You must share your wisdom with those of us unworthy of what you speak! How dare us vote without the wisdom of a clown like you to set us straight.

I will say the same for obummer & hitlery voters! We Trimp voters voted Trump to take in the status quo elitists!

What a stupid, ignorant person you are and your writing and ideas prove it!

IF "Amendmentr 8" it makes it to the "Start Gate",... I'm 'FOR' it; AND IF it "Limits" of "School Board Members tenure",...I'll be wishing I could vote "more than once" ! ANYTHING that "LIMITS" pandering pettifoggers (OF ANY "STRIPE") ... I'M FOR !

Said by Cbreeze, our resident accidently admitted racist when he confused what blog he was on and said his true feeling.

"jerry", our long outed "illiterate moron"...

The dismantling of public education is yet another assault on American institutions that have historically bound our nation and its citizen together with shared experiences and values. No nation can dismantle its basic institutions and thrive. Universally supported public education is a critical American institution that needs to be preserved and protected. I honestly appreciate there are other views but my life-long study of history tells me that a shared commitment to our nation and its values derives in large measure from shared experiences - beginning with education.

Remaining focused on a strong public education system does not translate into wanting a have a bad education system. From what I have observed, many alternative education systems are not producing well-rounded students who have a comprehensive understanding the nation's history, civics, our government institutions or an acquired understanding about successfully working and living with others. For all civilizations certain institutions have a way of bringing people together through shared experience. Public education is one. Civic engagement through voting, serving on juries and participating in community activities is yet another. I am not saying it is perfect, but dismantling public education or diminishing it, has negative consequences well beyond reading, writing and math scores. We're about helping support the creation of good citizens.

Unfortunately public education for anyone but upper middle classes dismantled itself beginning with new math and onward.

Awesome response!!

Spoken like a member of the too long ENTRENCHED Public Education System,..which is LOOONG overdue for an overhaul of "ALL FACETS"!!!! Florida has always been a "runner up" in educating our kids in the progressive atmosphere that has been pervasive in the system for far too MANY decades !

But, you also know that the latest and greatest Republican politicos say "Privatize it!", "Privatize it!", "Privatize it!"

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