Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida Supreme Court wisely kills misleading charter school amendment

Voters should know what they’re voting on, which is why the Florida Supreme Court was entirely correct to strike the deviously worded Amendment 8 from the Nov. 6 ballot. The amendment would have significantly expanded charter schools in Florida by letting the state rather than local school boards approve and control them, but the authors of the amendment lacked the candor to even mention "charter school" in the text.

The now-stricken amendment was originally placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, which squandered a chance that comes only once every 20 years to place clear, meaningful changes to the Florida Constitution directly on the ballot. But Amendment 8, like so many other amendments bundled by the CRC, was a mishmash of misdirection, combining disparate elements that should have been handled separately as single issues, which is what the Constitution already requires of amendments arising from citizens’ initiatives.

In this case, the sour charter school provision was dusted with some populist sugar in the guise of two other parts that would have required public schools to teach civic literacy and to set term limits for school board members. But make no mistake. The true — but unnamed — purpose of this amendment was to eliminate local school boards’ jurisdiction over charter schools, which are public schools sponsored by nonprofits and typically run by for-profit corporations. School boards are often more skeptical of charter schools than the Legislature and its charter and voucher-friendly members.

In August, Leon Circuit Judge John Cooper ruled that Amendment 8 should come off the ballot, because, in failing to use the phrase "charter schools," which he referred to as "the term voters would understand," the language "fails to inform voters of the chief purpose and effect of this proposal." In a 4-3 ruling last week, the Florida Supreme Court upheld that decision and kicked the question off the November ballot for good.

The word "charter" did not appear in the amendment text, title or summary. In fact, the cagey ballot summary simply said that the state would have permission to "operate, control and supervise public schools not established by the school board." Got it?

Erika Donalds, a prominent school choice advocate and a Collier County School Board member, was the CRC commissioner who pushed for Amendment 8. She now decries "activist judges" for striking it from the ballot. But all these justices did was eliminate a proposed amendment that was too clever by half in its obfuscation. In a tweet, Donalds railed against "defenders of the education monopoly," a misleading assertion given the number of charter schools and students attending private schools on vouchers. The Florida Constitution is crystal clear in the state’s obligation to its students, who are entitled to "a uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools." In contrast, Amendment 8 was written in code.

Those who so firmly believe in charter schools should be more than happy to let them appear on the ballot by name, not by subterfuge. That would be the forthright way to make the case. After all, many charter schools serve their students well, so why the reluctance to name names and let voters decide on the merits? Instead, voters were nearly left with no context to suss out the schools that shall not be named until the Florida Supreme Court made the correct decision on behalf of clarity and candor.

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Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18

Column: We’re measuring the economy all wrong

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., the official economic statistics — the ones that fill news stories, television shows and presidential tweets — say that the U.S. economy is fully recovered.The unemployment rate is lower tha...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

Editorial: Stalled U.S.-Cuba relations hurting Florida business

After an encouraging start, the breakdown in America’s reset with Cuba is a loss for both sides and for the state of democracy across the region. Havana and Washington are both to blame, but the Trump administration’s hard line with Cuba is out of sy...
Published: 09/12/18
Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

Lessons from Moonves’ ouster

If the swift departure of CBS Chairman Les Moonves has a bright side, it’s that a major television network took accusations of sexual harassment against its chief executive seriously enough to hold him accountable and obtain his resignation even at t...
Published: 09/11/18
Updated: 09/14/18
Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Editorial: Banks should not shut down campaign accounts for marijuana ties

Two banks have taken the retaliatory step of closing down the campaign account of a statewide candidate because she received contributions from the medical marijuana industry. Nikki Fried, the Democratic nominee for agriculture commissioner, has been...
Published: 09/10/18
Updated: 09/14/18