Both House Speaker-designate Steve Crisafulli's Florida Today op-ed and the email sent to Jeff Solocheck at the Tampa Bay Times are emblematic of the low esteem the State of Florida has for the role of parents and the U.S. and Florida Constitutions. Here is a piece of the Tampa Bay Times column:
"Creating an opt-out process would negatively impact our students, teachers, and schools," the Merritt Island Republican said via e-mail. "Students who opt-out would not be eligible to receive a high school diploma or a Bright Futures Scholarship. In addition, an opt-out process would make it impossible to provide raises to our teachers and would cost schools state and federal funds."
Of course, all these provisions are set by the Legislature, and they did not always exist.
He added, "According to the Florida Constitution, the state has the paramount duty to provide a high quality public school system. Without an accountability system for all public school students, the state cannot ensure that children attending our public schools have the opportunity to receive a high quality education."
Perhaps Rep. Crisafulli needs a refresher in understanding on the following issues:
The Supreme Role of Parents in Education - That parents have the right to direct the care, education, and upbringing of their children has been part of American jurisprudence since the nation's founding and part of legal tradition for thousands of years. That notion has been affirmed in many Supreme Court Cases such as Pierce vs. Society of Sisters, which says:
"The child is not the mere creature of the state: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."
The state and federal governments do not know better than parents. Florida needs to let public school parents and students have the same choice in testing as private and home schooled parents.
Current Statutes Already Allow Parental Opt-Out or Alternatives - As outlined in my policy paper on testing, there are plenty of alternatives in statute for the mandatory tests that are required for promotion to fourth grade and graduation from high school. Crisafulli appears to contradict himself because in his email, he says that students won't graduate, but In the Florida Today op-ed says, "Even at these critical junctures, students have multiple opportunities and ways to demonstrate proficiency." He needs to decide which it is. The only place where things are ambiguous relate to state mandated End of Course exams other than Algebra I, which need an alternative test or portfolio option, or better yet to be eliminated.
The Rights of Duly Elected School Boards in Florida The speaker-designate mentions the Florida constitutional duty for the state to provide a "high quality public school system." While true, he leaves out Article IX, section 4b which says, "The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein." (Emphasis added). All of these state mandated standards and tests are a clear violation of this provision. Before the federal mandates of 1994, schools and districts were accountable to parents who could vote out board members, attend private schools, home school or move. They didn't have to be accountable to the state or federal governments.
Increasing Federal Intrusion Crisafulli raises loss of federal funding as a concern. The word "education" appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. The Tenth Amendment to that document says "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Our state should not be following these unconstitutional federal mandates to give academically unhelpful , invasive, expensive tests based on academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate and psychologically manipulative national standards. These tests are required under the unconstitutional No Child Left Behind Act and the illegal and unconstitutional, conditional waivers to NCLB. This federal standards and testing paradigm is making elected legislatures and county school boards almost irrelevant in setting education policy all for a mere two percent of the entire state budget or about just under seven per cent of the state education budget. The state gave up five times more than $1-1.5 billion to protect state sovereignty and its fiscal health from ongoing unfunded liabilities by giving up the Medicaid expansion for Obamacare. Florida needs to do in education what it did in health care.
Utah Has Enacted a Parental Opt-Out Bill If Florida is not courageous enough to cut the strings on federal education funding, they should be encouraged that the State of Utah enacted legislation affirming parental control by allowing parents to opt out of tests without penalty to students, teachers and districts without danger, at least so far, to its NCLB waiver.
The rebellion is building as evidenced by the Lee County vote to opt out of all standardized testing, even though they rescinded it, their new vote to clear the districts testing calendar, the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards resolution to opt out of high stakes testing, the Florida School Boards Association similar pending resolution, the Gainesville kindergarten teacher's refusal to give standardized tests in kindergarten, and other efforts across the nation. There is much that Florida can do to regain sovereignty and autonomy, protect its children, and restore parental rights. It only needs the courage to do so.