The start of a new school year is an exciting time. We have some good news to report and some hard work ahead of us.
First the good news: FundEducationNow.org is a plaintiff in a lawsuit that charges that the legislature is not meeting its paramount duty as stated in Article IX, section 1 of the Florida Constitution to adequately fund and provide high-quality free public education that is safe, secure, efficient and uniform.
Several months ago the state filed a motion to dismiss this case. The good news is that Judge Jackie Fulford issued an Order Denying Dismissal this week. This action says that we, as parents have standing as a group, as individuals and as taxpayers and have the right to pursue our suit. Judge Fulford’s order says that the legislature is accountable for their actions. They do not have immunity. The constitution does have meaning. It must be followed. A “paramount duty” is just that.
Last year was the most acrimonious period in Florida political history. Parents and advocates fought hard to defeat SB6. We went to Tallahassee, met with legislators and sat through endless committee meetings where no parent was allowed to speak. We reported what we saw. Legislators blamed every objection to SB6 on the teachers union, but they knew it was us, the voters and parents who were speaking up.
Trust is the issue. After years of seeing public education get short-changed by the legislature, parents and voters no longer trust these lawmakers to put the kids first and implement thoughtful education reform. The impact of all of us: parents, advocates, teachers, superintendents, school boards and administrators working together to defeat SB6 was powerful.
Our work led Gov. Crist to appoint a Race to the Top committee that represents all of us to craft the second application which was accepted by every stakeholder. Unlike the first FDOE attempt, this application was successful. Cooperation and collaboration equals success.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. This year taught us many lessons. Chief among them is that our kids are counting on the adults to lead, fix this situation and make sure legislators follow the law.
As parents and advocates, we won’t stop until each member of the Florida Legislature realizes that their oath of office is a sacred vow to the people of Florida. Every elected official signs their name to this oath and pledges to uphold the constitution of this state. These men and women owe their allegiance to us, the people of Florida, not to a political party or the lobbyist with the biggest check.
Now, for the hard work: we’re not finished. A battle is brewing over Amendment 8 (class size). At this moment legislators are busy crafting a new version of Senate Bill 6. Elections are looming. Make sure you know your candidates before November. Casting a vote in ignorance is like asking a stranger to take care of your kids.
Stay tuned for the “Educated Voter”, a tool we’re creating to help you get to know the candidates better. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest information impacting your children your schools. Share our information with your friends. Together, we can do this. Our kids and our state are counting on us.