Saturday, August 18, 2018

Florida education proposal tagged as Amendment 8 (sound familiar?)

The Florida Constitution Revision's already controversial education proposal is quickly gaining its own social media tag based on its anticipated spot on the November ballot — #Amendment8.

If that sounds familiar to education advocates across the state, it should. Eight years ago, they waged a heated campaign for a different Amendment 8 also focused on schools. That year, lawmakers asked voters to ease the state's K-12 class-size restrictions.

The question failed to meet the 60 percent threshold.

This time around, Amendment 8 has three pieces to ponder: School board member term limits, a civic literacy requirement, and expanded state powers to establish local schools outside a school board's control.

In a hint of the campaign to come, several organizations hammered the CRC and its key sponsor, Erika Donalds of Collier County, for the content and the bundling of the three ideas even before the panel formally agreed upon the language.

And Donalds has now responded in kind. Using the venue of the Miami Herald op-ed page, she invoked the branding that supporters are expected to stick closely to as they aim to convince voters.

"The Florida Constitution Revision Commission had a profound responsibility: We had to legislate for the next generation," she wrote. "We worked to adapt a document drafted in 1967 for the state that will exist in 2037."

The future could hold all sorts of educational innovations, Donalds argued. Yet the constitution hinders the Legislature from implementing those without school board backing, and many boards have political agendas that could stand in the way, she continued.

"Like most Floridians, I believe in local control. But local control should never trump individual rights — including the right of parents to access the best possible schools for their children. Parents should hold the ultimate local control," Donalds stated.

Local control vs. school choice could make for a feisty debate as powerful players from both sides of Florida's education world go all out on Amendment 8. It is, in fact, already upon us.

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