Florida Schools’ Chaos Is Worse Than Reported

There’s increasingly broad coverage of the mess Florida legislators are making of Florida education. Education Week has run a dozen major stories in July alone, and the Washington Post just added its voice under the headline “Florida’s education system—the one Betsy DeVos cites as a model—is in chaos.”

The stories in these and other journals have focused mainly on two recently enacted laws. The first (HB 7069) requires public school districts to share capital funding, in addition to operating funds, with charter schools. It’s already resulted in a lawsuit filed by one school district, challenging the requirement as a violation of the state constitution, and other school districts are expected to join the suit. The second law (HB 989) allows any district resident, not just parents of students, to challenge any instructional material being proposed for use in a district school—for any reason, however off-the-wall. Since use of the challenged materials may be subject to injunction pending the outcome of a hearing, the net effect of the law may be nothing short of sanctioned censorship-by-wackadoodle.

But the chaos is actually going to be worse than what will result from these two laws alone—because there’s a third recently-enacted law (SB 436) that’s aimed directly at nullifying church/state separation in public schools by disingenuously claiming to “safeguard” students’ and teachers’ rights to express their religious beliefs while in public schools. In case you’re wondering, this is not aimed at protecting Muslim students from harassment. Nor is it aimed at securing equal visibility for annual observances like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, Tet, and so forth in addition to Christmas.

What is it aimed at? Remember where Florida’s educational patron saint, Betsy DeVos, got all her experience with education: Christian private schools in Michigan. Florida’s educational chaos is aimed at creating the kind of Biblical-scale Chaos from which only one kind of Order can emerge: More charter schools (many of which, in Florida, are already self-identified as “Christian”) and an enormous voucher-like “scholarship” program to funnel public tax dollars to private schools (also heavily “Christian” in Florida).

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