By George Miller, 1-11-23
Florida Citizens Alliance Founder/Managing Director Keith Flaugh recently provided a very informative presentation to Nassau County residents on objectionable FL public school performance, curricula/materials and what to do about it. The latter included exerting pressure on FL legislature and school boards and utilizing alternative education options.
His key points:
- Florida public schools are performing way below the state’s own “dumbed down” standards: 75% of the 2.8 million students fail to meet the standards for reading, writing and math.
- These schools have objectionable materials in their curricula and supplemental materials.
- Parents should get kids out of government schools, but he realizes that many can’t or won’t and is helping there, too. “The system is irredeemable.”
- Teachers’ unions are a big enemy of curriculum reform and exert a high degree of control due to their large numbers, positions and pressure/financial resources. He described teacher union leadership as “Marxist” and the schools as “a union-driven government monopoly.” “Public schools have a Socialist worldview.”
- The state offers 5 scholarship programs (known elsewhere as “vouchers”) to help parents fund alternative education.
- Florida Citizens Alliance provides very useful resources to help parents. It has grown exponentially but needs more donations and volunteers to do even more, to support initiatives such as the Faith, Family and Freedom program.
In the words of event host Deb Boelkes of We the People:
To We the People – Thanks to all who attended our meeting on 1-9-23 where we heard from Keith Flaugh of Florida Citizens Alliance. It was yet another intense eye-opener about how much progress remains to be made to improve the situation in K-12 education. As one of our attendees wrote me this morning in response to Keith’s presentation, “This was very disturbing.” Indeed, it was. The picture of where we are at as a state is NOT pretty. Rest assured that the education of our kids is going to be a major focus for our meetings this year. There is clearly much to me done, as there is perhaps nothing more important to our nation than ensuring our kids are educated as patriots who will respect, protect, and defend freedom, justice, liberty, and our inalienable rights for all future generations.
This would be a very long article if we reported everything Mr. Flaugh said, so we hit the high points and direct you to additional resources.
Schools are failing students
So, again, Florida public schools are performing way below the state’s own “dumbed down” standards: 75% of the 2.8 million students fail to meet the standards for reading, writing and math. Florida is about in the middle of the states in rankings, which have mostly been dumbed down also. The USA was in the top 10 worldwide 35 years ago and is now way down.
Nassau County did only somewhat better than the state average:
These numbers provide insight beyond the Nassau County School District’s claim to be number 2 in the entire state. But it would require an analysis of scope, methodology and sources to reconcile this, since it seems to involve different sets of metrics. I have asked Mr. Flaugh for and received a digital copy for publication of the report and sources on how this report was put together.
Flaugh cited the introduction of Common Core, curriculum changes and elimination of phonics as some more recent things that have helped cause worse results in the schools. Deficient reading affects all other aspects of education. Remedies are too little and too late, such as a $500/year reading tutoring scholarship. He said Common Core in FL is being replaced, but it will take years to replace the textbooks. FLCA was invited to help rewrite Civics standards.
He very much likes what Governor DeSantis is doing and says that FLCA has had some influence on his administration’s policies.
FLCA did information requests (FOIA) to 25 county school districts legally demanding info about school textbooks/materials information. Half illegally refused to respond. Some said, “if you don’t like it, sue us,” he reported. Eventually, they cobbled together enough information to do a report on school materials “pornography”, so that both parents and the Florida legislature could see what was going on (in some cases, literally), to motivate action on this.
Flaugh showed us their Florida Pornography in Schools report (access HERE) which helps overcome denials and “conspiracy theory accusations. It gives parents an additional bludgeon to use with the schools and legislature.
FLCA was instrumental in initiating a “Harmful to Minors” bill. which he said was killed by Senate and House leadership. He said that was all about the money.
Mr. Flaugh told us that FL has the third highest sex trafficking rate in the USA.
FLCA also pushes a number of Recommendations for all Florida School Boards that can we implemented now without waiting for Tallahassee (listed below or click link for a downloadable, printable digital copy):
FL State K-12 Scholarships
Flaugh mentioned 5 state K-12 scholarship programs (known elsewhere as “vouchers”) to help parents fund alternative education (private or homeschool), which include:
- Tax credits for scholarship donations, by income level
- “Family Empowerment, by income
- McKay Scholarship, “Unique abilities” and disabled, up to $10,000/yr., from state General Education Fund.
- Reading scholarship, remedial reading tutoring, up to $500/yr.
- HOPE Scholarship, for those who have been harassed, up to $8,000/yr., no proof standard (more info below)
We’ll give you more details from the FLCA website on this most interesting one (click for downloadable, printable copy):
About The Hope Scholarship
Every parent wants a rewarding, effective and safe learning environment for the children. Sadly, bullying happens and every incidence of bullying matters. Florida Statute 1002.40 recognizes that no student should suffer from bullying!
Get help for your student by immediately reporting the incident to the principal. Any incidence of ‘battery, harassment, hazing, bullying, kidnapping, physical attack, robbery, sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual battery, threat or intimidation, or fighting at school, at a school sponsored activity, riding on the school bus or waiting at the bus stop should be reported right away.’
NOTE: “harassment”, “threat” and “intimidation” are very expansive in terms of their defined scope!
Once a parent reports the incident, it becomes the school’s responsibility to solve the problem to their satisfaction. At the same time, the school must notify the parent of the 2 Hope Scholarship options: a transportation stipend to move their student to another public school or a scholarship to move their child to a private school.
The school will likely investigate the incident, but the student’s eligibility for a Hope Scholarship is absolute and does not depend on the outcome of any investigation. Additionally, Chancellor Oliva’s March 1, 2019 letter sent to every superintendent makes it very clear that that the student is eligible simply by reporting the incident.
“PLEASE NOTE THAT THE LAW DOES NOT REQUIRE SUBSTANTIATION IN ORDER FOR THE DISTRICT TO NOTIFY THE PARENT OF THE PROGRAM, and any district that is adding this requirement is in violation of the statute and administrative rule and will be dealt with according to the law.”
More info: 1-833-FL4-KIDS
Flaugh mentioned that Hope scholarships pay up to $8,000/year, depending on circumstances. He did warn that government money nearly always comes with conditions, strings- “shackles,” as he called them. So, conceivably, homeschools, which are now largely unregulated, could fall under government regulation and even testing protocols, which inevitably drive curriculum, to “teach to the test.”
The FL Education Dept. website mentioned these K-12 scholarship programs: https://www.fldoe.org/schools/school-choice/k-12-scholarship-programs/
Biblical Worldview in Schools- PEERS Trend
Overall, the U.S. has been dropping in “Biblical Theism” worldview, which means using the Bible to inform all aspects of life, per Flaugh. He said a self-test has been given to thousands of students and teachers in public and private schools and the results are not encouraging to Bible-embracing people of faith. A chart he provided showed public schools dropping from 40% to about 50% over the last 23 years and traditional Christian schools plunging from 50% to 10% over the same period. While this is deeply concerning to people of faith, it is actually desirable to those who would transform our society totally to secularism. But meanwhile, homeschools went upward, from 40% to 50% while “Principle Approach” schools went from 70% to about 73%.
About Florida Citizens Alliance (FLCA)
Per Founder & Managing Director Keith Flaugh, FLCA has both 501C3 and 4 components. It focuses exclusively on Florida K-12 education, with an emphasis on exposing and addressing public school deficiencies and improvement opportunities. It incorporates civic action and even utilizing legal resources to achieve its goals. The goal is a quality education for all students, who do not necessarily need to be in government schools to accomplish this- in fact, Mr. Flaugh actually recommends getting kids out of them and into superior home or private schools.
Its stated mission is to improve Florida’s K-12 education by uniting and empowering teachers, students and parents.
FLCA’s overall approach has three “pillars”:
- Uniting parents and community leaders
- Providing alternatives
FLCA offers additional education alternatives through its “Liberty Scholar” program: Liberty Scholar – Florida Citizens Alliance
Through their participation in the Faith, Family and Freedom initiative, options for K-12 days schools, mini’s, micro’s, pods, one-room schoolhouse,. learning centers, and Home Education (or hybrids). High-quality, vetted partners are: My Father’s World (MFW), Classical Conversations (CC), Freedom Project Academy (FPA) and Foundation for American Christian Education (FACE). This initiative will be implemented through their state Program Director and “Ambassadors.” 175 partnerships are planned for 2023-24.
KIDS FIRST team members are local FLCA representatives who communicate, organize, and advocate our mission of student choice and liberty. With your help, we can reach communities across the state and guarantee parents a voice in the education conversation. FLCA needs your help to fulfill our mission of educating and empowering parents, teachers, and students. A KIDS FIRST member is a volunteer. We encourage that our volunteers work no more than 5-10 hours per month.
FLCA 2023 Legislative Agenda
Real Solutions That Improve Student Learning!
1. Authorize Universal Education Savings Accounts for all Florida K-12 students and expand parental choice options and eligibility Family Empowerment and Hope Scholarships to home education.
2. A Harmful to Minors materials bill to strengthen Florida’s Obscenity chapter 847 for Minors; to prevent exposure to pornographic and sexually explicit material. These materials harm children and potentially groom them to be trafficked.
3. Expand 2022 HB 1557 to include pre-k, grades 4-8 and find a way to prohibit District Counselors and psychologists from circumventing HB 1557
4. A strong Opt-In bill putting parents in control of their child’s education. Among other things such a bill would allow parents to prevent their children from being exposed to sexually explicit materials being used in the classroom or recommended on any k-12 reading list.
5. Give voters in Florida School Districts the lawful ability to recall school board and elected Superintendents.
6. A state requirement that every school district must have a supplemental materials policy that requires any material used in the classroom to adhere to FS 1003.42, FS Chapter 847 and FS 1006.28, FS 1006.283, and all Florida Child Abuse Statutes (FS Chapter 827).
7. Expand technical education and apprentice opportunities for high school students.
8. Legislature to create a “whistle-blower” program to be administered by the Dept of Education Inspector General that protects the anonymity of district teachers and parents from district retribution.
9. Installing video cameras in public school classrooms, at sporting events and at school sponsored meetings on school property.
FCA is actively recruiting volunteers, donors and at least one paid staffer: https://floridacitizensalliance.org/
George Miller is Publisher and Co-Founder of Citizens Journal Florida, based in Fernandina Beach. He is a “retired” operations management consultant, software and publishing executive and manufacturing management professional.