Eileen Roy: For-profit schools coming

Published: Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 10:53 p.m.

Make no mistake, there is a determined, coordinated effort to dismantle public schools. June Girard’s Jan. 2 Speaking Out (“For Profit Virtual Schools A Bad Deal for Kids”) is right on target in exposing the machinations to privatize public education. The plan is to allow venture capitalists to step in with for-profit virtual schools, cut the costs of traditional public schools, and make bundles of cash ... education on the cheap at the expense of children’s education.

Who cares that these virtual schools may have a poor or non-existent track record, or that virtual school teachers often have hundreds of students each? While “attending” virtual school, many students have no adult supervision. Profit, not educational excellence, is the motive.

The Florida Legislature in the past two sessions has passed a flurry of bills to distract educators and parents by requiring every student to take and pass a college prep curriculum to graduate high school, eliminating teacher tenure, requiring end-of-course exams for every subject taught (without providing funding), and requiring every student to take at least one virtual school class to graduate.

This on top of a 30 percent cut in per pupil state funding for local public schools; a reduction of $1,400 per student over the last four years. While public schools are scrambling to comply, privatization schemes continue apace without much public awareness.

At the same time the Legislature is handing down these unfunded mandates for public schools, it is expanding a system of corporate vouchers for private schools. Taxpayer money is used to give corporations tax breaks if they will give an equal amount in scholarships for students to attend private schools; an end run around the Florida Supreme Court ruling outlawing vouchers.

These private schools have no accountability. They are not required to give the FCAT, have any particular curriculum, have any prescribed length school day or school year, have a media center, or employ certified teachers. Yet the sponsor of this bill boasts that he wants to offer this scholarship to every student in the state. The writing is on the wall.

Alachua County has excellent schools and the district is rated an A by the state. Public schools have made this country great. Are we ready to scrap them? Greed is at work to do just that.

Parents, take note. If we allow for-profit charter schools, for-profit virtual schools, and corporate vouchers for private schools to replace public schools that have served us well, we are indeed fools.

Eileen Roy is a member of the Alachua County School Board.

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