It's not always best to multitask but there are so many pressing issues at play that affect our daily lives that we must find a way to effectively address them or prepare ourselves for the ghastly aftermath. The Florida Legislature will deal with HB873 very soon. You should know that passage of the proposed legislation will continue the decimation of public education AND adversely affect disposable income of taxpayers.
Please pay attention to this message from the Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs. Call, email and tweet the legislators listed below. Ask them to vote NO on HB873. Thank You.
How the Passage of House Bill 873 Would Affect Our Schools and Your Local Property Taxes
FEBRUARY 29, 2016
If passed by the Florida Legislature, House Bill 873 (Education Funding), sponsored by Miami-Dade's own Representative Manny Diaz, Jr. and co-sponsored by fellow Dade Delegation member Representative Erik Fresen, will dramatically affect what happens to the property taxes you pay for building, renovating, and maintaining local school district facilities. An amendment to the bill, filed by Representative Fresen and approved by the House Appropriations Committee, requires school districts to share a portion of these local taxes with privately-operated charter schools.
Over the past few years, charter schools have consistently received more state funding for capital outlay than traditional public schools. In both 2011-2012 and 2012-2013, for example, charter schools were allocated $55 million in state PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay) funds, while traditional public schools received $0. In 2013-2014, charters were allocated $90.6 million, and traditional public schools $6 million. The totals in 2014-2015 were $75 million for charter schools and $53 million for district schools. This year, both charter schools and traditional public schools have each been allocated $50 million--despite the fact that district schools vastly outnumber charter schools.
Most of Florida's traditional public schools are well over 50 years old, and the long drought in state maintenance and construction funds has forced school districts to face a difficult choice: delay addressing basic needs, such as repairing and replacing roofs and air conditioning units, or raise local property taxes to cover necessary expenses.
If HB 873 passes, part of our local property tax dollars will be siphoned off to charter schools for the lease, construction, or improvement of privately-owned facilities. Remember that in too many instances where charter schools have closed, the public has been unsuccessful in recovering taxpayer dollars spent on capital improvements: the Associated Press has estimated the cumulative loss at $70 million.
We need to act NOW!
Please email, call, or tweet TODAY!
Ask House Speaker Crisafulli and your local Representative to VOTE NO on HB 873
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR SPEAKER CRISAFULLI AND MIAMI-DADE HOUSE MEMBERS:
If you're not sure which House member represents you, please enter your address here.
Additional late breaking Education Bills update:
The Senate Appropriations Committee passed two omnibus education bills on 2/25, after attaching large amendments, sending the two bills to the Senate floor.
Senate Education Budget Committee Chair, Senator Don Gaetz, filed a 59-page, strike-all amendment to SB 524, which, while proposing measures to prevent charter school capital funding from flowing into private investors' pockets, also includes controversial issues like the "Best and Brightest" teacher bonus plan. SB 524 was previously a 3-page bill dealing with state university performance funding.
Senator Gaetz also filed an 85-page strike-all amendment to SB 1166 (Education Funding), with proposed revisions that include open enrollment for public school students (students can attend any school in the state that has availability) and high school athletics (opening public high school athletics to students who attend charter and some private schools).
We know that you are your student's best advocate.
Nancy Lawther, VP of Advocacy and Legislation Mindy Gould, Advocacy Chair Eileen Segal, Legislation Chair Miami-Dade County Council of PTAs/PTSAs
Shirley Person, Miami-Dade County Public Schools language arts teacher who refused to allow her son to participate in Florida state standardized testing, will not administer the Florida State Standards Assessment. Her reasons are two-fold. She is opposed to the language and stipulations as set forth by the Florida Department of Education in the "Testing Administration and Security Agreement."
The agreement mandates that teachers include teaching certificate numbers along with their signatures. Teachers are also required to agree to stand for two to six hours while engaging in constant surveillance of students engaged in testing. In addition, Ms. Person is opposed to the mandates that forbid teachers to look at the tests, share information about the tests, or allow students to share information about the tests.
According to Ms. Person, "These mandates are extreme and unrealistic. This covert nature of testing that does not allow educators and students to discuss the tests and does not allow teachers, students, and parents to view the graded tests is indicative of ethics violations, systemic racism, and a hidden agenda that serve to undermine students, teachers, and public education."
Emerging Religious Voting Bloc Turns-Out on Issues of Racial and Economic Justice
Orlando, Fla. – In an unpredictable political climate, people of faith working with Faith in Florida held 50,279 live person-to-person conversations about faith and voting with African-American and Latino voters. Those conversations focused on voting rights and drivers licenses for immigrants, which are two of the most important issues on the agenda of African-American and Latino voters. Faith in Florida’s grassroots volunteer voter contact program highlights the growing power of religious voters who are committed to racial and economic justice.
“Republican and Democratic candidates ignore at their peril the emerging bloc of religious voters who voted their values on voting rights, immigration reform and affordable health care for all,” said Jerry Peña, Faith in Florida’s Executive Director. “Faith in Florida Get Out the Vote turned out 50,279 voters demonstrating that religious institutions that preach justice and redemption also have the ability to use sophisticated tools and targeting to move large numbers of people to the polls who might not otherwise vote."
As part of the Let My People Vote electoral program with the PICO National Network, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country which held more than 500,000 live conversations in key states, Faith in Florida’s electoral program focused on the mobilization of African American and Latino faith voters whose voices have been ignored in the past.
Churches across the state participated in registering and turning out their members, Souls to Polls events and phone banking and canvassing their neighborhoods. Over and over, volunteers delivered the message to voters that their lives, voices and votes matter.
“This election shows the power that people of faith can have when they stand up for their family, neighbors and coworkers, and signals a growing moral tide in American politics that can’t be stopped.” Said Rev. Alvin Herring, PICO’s National Deputy Director. “PICO National Network and other faith groups were able to mobilize a unique coalition of pro-working family religious voters, whose voice will only continue to grow in 2015 and beyond.”
Coral Gables, FL (July 8, 2014) – “All Aboard Florida remains on schedule to start construction and deliver passenger service between Miami and West Palm Beach with a stop in Fort Lauderdale by the end of 2016. Construction on Phase 2, which will connect Central Florida with the major South Florida markets, will commence immediately following the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement. This phase will deliver passenger service to Orlando by early 2017 and will coincide directly with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s plans to build the Intermodal Station and Automated People Mover.” – Michael Reininger, President and Chief Development Officer, All Aboard Florida
"When completed, this private sector initiative will be a great asset to the infrastructure of our state and county, particularly as we are working to create an integrated transportation network in Central Florida. We continue to work closely with the All Aboard Florida team and support their efforts to deliver this greatly anticipated transportation alternative." –Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs
"The City of Orlando remains committed to connecting our residents to jobs and opportunity throughout our region and state with increased transportation options like All Aboard Florida’s proposed passenger rail service. The implementation of Phase 1 (Miami to West Palm Beach) gets us one step closer to connecting Orlando and Miami with a new and better way to travel around the state. We applaud their efforts to make this significant investment in our state’s transportation future." – City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer
“The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority continues to coordinate closely with All Aboard Florida as they pursue their environmental approvals and break ground on their stations in South Florida. We are currently involved in the planning stages for the intermodal transportation facility which will accommodate All Aboard Florida's intent to bring intercity passenger rail service to Orlando International Airport,” says Phil Brown, Executive Director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.– Phil Brown, Executive Director of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
As a Florida native, I have always considered it odd when people that I have encountered from other regions of the country have insisted that Florida, while geographically southern, is not similar to its “Bible Belt” southern brethren as far as culture and customs are concerned. Such observations stem from the fact that since the early 70’s, Florida has become a tourist attraction due to Disney World and many of its other theme parks and with the upswing in immigration from Latin America and the Caribbean over the past 50 years, the image of Florida as something other than its Confederate and Jim Crow past is a direct result of savvy marketing.
But make no mistake, Florida is the “south,” and like the more infamous states of Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi, states in which federal troops had to be dispatched to foster integration in the years following the United States Supreme Court’s Brown vs Board of Education decision, Florida, too, was defiant— if not slow as molasses—with respect to complying with the US Supreme Court’s mandate that its schools desegregate “with all deliberate speed.”
In 1885, barely a decade after the Compromise of 1877 led newly minted President Rutherford B. Hayes to pull federal troops from the south after only 11 years of Reconstruction, Florida, like its southern brethren, held a constitutional convention to re-establish control for its former Confederate leaders while also divesting blacks of the political power that they had enjoyed during their first decade of freedom. The new Florida Constitution, by its tenor, served as a legal contradiction when considering its words “We, the people of the State of Florida, grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, in order to secure its blessings and to form a more perfect government, insuring domestic tranquility, maintaining public order, and guaranteeing EQUAL CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS TO ALL, do ordain and establish this Constitution….Article XII—Education: White and colored children shall not be taught in the same school, but impartial provision shall be made for both.”
By inscribing such a constitution, Florida was at the vanguard of what would become known as “separate but equal.” Two years later, in 1887, what would later become known as Florida A&M University was founded in Tallahassee, the state’s capital, to educate black students. By 1896, when the United States Supreme Court held that “separate but equal” was a valid legal concept in its Plessy vs. Ferguson decision, FAMU, for the next seven decades, would be limited to serving black students exclusively and while separate, there clearly was a long and tortured history of disparate funding, sub-standard books and materials and poorly maintained if not cramped facilities.
By the time the US Supreme Court was preparing to decide the Brown case in 1954, Florida had already seen legal challenges to its segregated public college system in the form of Virgil Hawkins’ petition to enter in the law school at the University of Florida (UF), the state’s flagship school that was the incubator of state political and judicial leaders during Jim Crow. Florida’s leaders, like its southern brethren, recognized that while its system was separate, it was far from equal and in a clever attempt to perhaps stave off an outright push for integration, a building flurry ensued across the south, including Florida, and in 1951, the state established a law school at FAMU in hopes of providing an “equal” program to the state’s all-white public law school at UF. Writing a concurring opinion in the Virgil Hawkins case, Florida Supreme Court Justice Glenn Terrell wrote “I might venture to point out …that segregation is not a new philosophy generated by the states that practice it. It is and always has been the unvarying law of the animal kingdom, the dove and the quail, the turkey and the turkey buzzard, it matters not where they are found, are segregated: place the horse, the cow, the sheep, the goat and the pig in the same pasture and they instinctively segregate…and when God created man, he allotted each race to his own continent according to color, Europe to the white man, and Asia to the yellow man, Africa to the black man, and America to the red man, but we are now advised that God’s plan was in error and must be reversed.”
Justice Terrell’s morally vapid words, while not holding greater sway than the Brown mandate, certainly provided insight into how Florida would remain defiant as far as integration through the 1960’s. UF did not graduate its first black student until nearly a decade after the Brown decision; Florida State University (FSU), originally a college for women that became a co-ed school following World War II to accommodate the large numbers of white males returning from war who wished to obtain college degrees per the GI Bill, was similarly racially segregated and graduated its first black students in the late 60’s as well.
Still, once integration became the “law” in America, such did not mandate the closure of any of the state funded Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) including FAMU. By the 1970’s, students of all races were eligible to enroll at FAMU the same as at UF and FSU, but the issue during this period for many of the public HBCU’s, including FAMU, was whether the individual states should eliminate them all together as a purge of the state’s recent segregationist past. In 1968, Florida’s Board of Control, which provided oversight for the state universities, closed the FAMU Law School and opened a new one at FSU. The law school closing was only the beginning, as it was during the 70’s that FAMU faced relentless calls for its complete merging with FSU. It was only through the indefatigable efforts of former FAMU Presidents Benjamin L. Perry and Dr. Walter Smith, Sr. that the same was averted. Still, during the middle of President Smith’s tenure, the disparate funding aspect of FAMU as opposed to FSU was manifest in a major way during the 1979-80 football seasons when FAMU’s Bragg Stadium was in need of repairs. FAMU was allowed to use FSU’s Doak Campbell Stadium—built and maintained at the time in large measure by public funds—but the football team was not allowed to use FSU’s locker room and was forced to get dressed on the bus and conduct halftime on the side of the field. These and other slights only raised the stakes during the early 1980’s when FAMU President Smith sought to obtain a full engineering school, one that would further its mission as a Land-Grant college under the Morill Act, a designation that it only shared in Florida with UF.
According to a blog written by Smith’s son Walter II this past weekend, FAMU had offered engineering programs since 1949 and was best situated for a new stand-alone school but FSU, seeking the same, made a similar petition. The compromise that was struck was that the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering was developed and for the past 30 years, despite years of mistrust and at times frustrations between the two schools, the same has graduated a large number of talented engineers and been a stalwart program for both schools.
Understanding this background, it was only logical, then, that FAMU graduates and supporters were apoplectic last week when the Florida legislature, under the leadership of would be FSU president (and alum), State Sen. John Thrasher, pushed through legislation that would provide funding for a separate FSU College of Engineering. While such only awaits the signature of Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott, which is all but assured, the reality is that as it currently stands, the primary issue going forward is whether the state should compel FSU to build its new school in a city other than Tallahassee where the now FAMU Engineering School sits. This would be consistent with precedent that where feasible, neither school duplicates professional programs in the same city, a precedent that found the FAMU College of Law, when established again in the early 2000’s, to be located in Orlando so as not to compete with FSU Law School despite the fact that during this time, FAMU was in the midst of a marvelous run as far as academics under the leadership of then President Frederick Humphries, which included designation as Time/Princeton Review’s College of the Year—the only Florida school to receive such designation.
A second issue is that the building which currently houses the joint engineering school that will soon be FAMU’s alone is in desperate need of millions of dollars in repairs. Essentially, FAMU taking sole ownership of the building is no favor, rather, it is an albatross that if not effectively and fully handled by the legislature, will open the state to litigation that could ultimately find multiple millions of dollars pouring into FAMU—period. Over the past two decades, in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Maryland, HBCU’s, following protracted litigation, have found federal courts holding in their favor as far as the funding slights and buildings being in disrepair. The US Supreme Court, in its United States vs. Fordice decision, held that Mississippi’s segregated university system, as late as the 80’s, led to disparate funding and duplication of programs that while seemingly “race neutral on their face, they substantially restrict a person’s choice of which school to enter.” Similar litigation from Maryland in 2012 led United States District Court judge Catherine Blake to rule that “Maryland has violated the constitutional rights of students at Maryland’s four Historically Black Institutions by unnecessarily duplicating their programs at nearby white institutions.”
What does this mean for the current FAMU-FSU issue?
Clearly, there is nothing at this time that will prevent the Florida legislature, through its recently passed budget, from going forth with its plans for a new FSU Engineering School. What must be decided going forth, however, is whether FAMU stakeholders will file suit now in hopes, perhaps, of seeking to enjoin the decision based upon the same’s violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as applied to Florida through he 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This route would not likely yield fruit, however, because the most clever aspect of attaching the funding through the state’s budget as opposed to some separate bill to create the same is that Florida, as a sovereign state, has a right to pass its budget free from federal interference. That said, the legal attack will likely center upon what happens next from the legislature on two fronts; first, with the engineering building in need of millions of dollars in repairs, and with Florida having a budget surplus, how much money will be allocated to the modernization and upkeep of said building? Similarly, with FSU receiving 13 million dollars to establish its new school, will similar dollars be allocated for the hiring of new faculty that will replace the FSU Engineering professors who will move to the new school? How much money will be allocated to develop the programs that are specific to the FSU side of the current joint school and how much will be needed to hire professors and obtain the necessary equipment to ensure that the stand alone FAMU Engineering School will have the same program offerings? Any balk by the state on any of these funding issues will subject the state to the same litigation as done in Fordice in Mississippi as well as in Maryland.
Still, with the current tenor from FSU being one that its Engineering school, too, be located in Tallahassee, litigation along the issue of duplication of services would likely result in a favorable ruling for FAMU supporters in Federal Court as the same would hinge upon the very duplication of offerings that is at issue in the Maryland case.
Now, where this issue becomes fraught with concerns for FAMU stakeholders is in understanding that FAMU’s continuing mission, which includes educating many first in family college types and the enrollment of profile admits or students who desire to enroll in school but who have lower grade point averages and/or test scores, whether any future court may conclude that if the two schools are allowed to exist separately in Tallahassee and at the same funding clip, that the FAMU School of Engineering be held to the same admission standards as the FSU and UF Engineering Schools. By writing this I do not mean to suggest that current FAMU Engineering students do not meet such requirements, nor do I suggest that FSU or UF engineering students all meet or exceed high admission standards. Most of the men and women that I have known over the past three decades who graduated from the FAMU side of the joint Engineering School had their picks of prestigious colleges; but still, FAMU stakeholders should be wary going forward that the next step in this seemingly never ending battle of proving the worth if not viability of our public HBCU’s is in combatting the concept, albeit misguided, that they are not prepared to competitively compete with their traditionally white brethren. I submit that in the past, any competitive disadvantages have been a direct result of overt and covert racism within the system and that when said racism is removed, said school, invariably, will flourish as they always have if not greater once the proverbial racist foot is removed from their proverbial necks.
About the Author: Chuck Hobbs is a trial lawyer and award winning freelance writer. A native of Tallahassee, FL, he is a graduate of Morehouse College, Florida A&M University and the University of Florida College of Law. Hobbs is also a great man of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated.
We are aware of an amendment filed on Tuesday evening by Senator John Thrasher that would create a second college of engineering in Tallahassee at Florida State University. The FAMU Board of Trustees opposes this move and considers this an unplanned act, which has been void of discussion and input from the current leadership of the two universities, the university Boards of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors. This action sends the wrong message to the citizens of Florida and other interested parties about how the legislature and academic institutions should interact.
This nation cannot afford to revisit separate, but unequal policies when the collaboration of our two institutions through the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering represents a successful venture for the State of Florida between two research institutions. This long-term collaborative program has received high praise for addressing the underrepresented student populations in engineering disciplines. It is a model program that is an example of the best our higher education entities can produce through partnership.
The Florida Board of Governors has made a concerted effort to reduce duplication of academic programs throughout the State University System. A second engineering school in Tallahassee with competing programs would compromise the integrity of what is an established, successful venture.
Proposing such an abrupt change without any discussion of the aforementioned factors with all parties involved is alarming and not in the best interest of our State University System or the citizens of Florida. As an alternative, we request that the legislature provide additional support to the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, which has produced successful graduates for both Florida A&M University and Florida State University since 1982.
JET Magazine has followed the Jordan Davis tragedy since the very beginning. With the verdict now in, we are relieved that some justice will be served. However, we are extremely disappointed that the jury was unable to convict Michael Dunn on all five of the charges. It is our hope that the retrial will occur, Michael Dunn will be found guilty of first-degree murder and a message will be sent to this country about the consequences of reckless, indifference towards the lives of African Americans. At this time, we send our thoughts and prayers to the entire Davis family as they continue to seek closure on the untimely death of their only child. JET Magazine intends to continue to report these issues to our audience and bring awareness nationwide in hopes that our service will propel Americans to stand up for justice for all.
Gov. Rick Scott thinks Florida’s Stand Your Ground (SYG) law is just fine. In spite of growing protest, requests for a Special Legislative Session and threats of boycotting Florida. NAN is spearheading a prayer vigil and rally in Miami and in 99 cities throughout the United States today in light of the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman trial..
The governor has met with the Dream Defenders, an organization of young people, many college students, who are staging a sit-in at the Capitol. The Dream Defenders waited days for Gov. Scott to meet to discuss the issue. Miami’s Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and president of the Miami-Dade Branch, traveled to Tallahassee to show her organization’s support for the efforts of the Dream Defenders. A call for direct action has been issued for Floridians to contact their legislators and ask for a Special Legislation on SYG.
Stay tuned as the energy behind this issue shows no sign of diminishing.
URGENT TODAY! THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE IN FLORIDA IS A RISK!
A State Senate committee will vote on Medicaid expansion in Tallahasse today during their 1 - 3 pm hearing! We need support from two Republicans in addition to all Democrats on the committee to pass any motions for recommendations. Senator Anitere Flores sits on that committee and we need her vote!
Call Senator Anitere Flores TODAY at (850) 487-5037 and tell her to vote yes on Medicaid expansion
You know what’s at stake. By accepting federal dollars to extend Medicaid health coverage to 1 million Floridians we save lives, help the economy, lower health costs for families and businesses and protect the health of all Floridians.
Call Senator Anitere Flores TODAY at (850) 487-5037 and tell her to vote yes on Medicaid expansion