Setting the Record Straight on Amendment 8
CONTACT: Allison Aubuchon, APR
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Setting the Record Straight on Amendment 8
Three Education Policies Fuel Innovation and Opportunity
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Aug. 16, 2018) – On the November general election ballot, Floridians will have the chance to vote on amendments to the State Constitution, a process which only happens every 20 years. Proposed amendments are developed with input from Floridians and drafted and approved through Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) process.
Amendment 8, known as the education amendment, would create eight-year term limits for Florida school board members to bring fresh faces and ideas to education. It would also remove outdated red tape, making way for student-centered public education possibilities, and it would prioritize and protect civic education to help students become informed, engaged citizens. Each policy impacts innovation and opportunity for Florida education. They were grouped logically through the CRC process, in the same way other amendments throughout Florida history have been grouped.
The non-profit organization 8isGreat.org, created to promote the proposed amendment’s passage, is encouraged by its broad support and is working to help correct the record following misinformation from groups fundamentally opposed to educational choices for Florida public school students.
“The promise of a high-quality education means improving opportunities as our state changes,” said Collier County School Board Member Erika Donalds, the main sponsor of Amendment 8 on the Constitutional Revision Commission and Founder of 8isGreat.org. “It is our responsibility to the next generation to help public education work for every student it serves. Amendment 8 offers policies that will help ensure Florida is bringing fresh ideas and opportunities into education, and it empowers our students with a civics knowledge that will serve them for life.”
Amendment 8 will read as follows on the ballot, Nov. 6, 2018: “SCHOOL BOARD TERM LIMITS AND DUTIES; PUBLIC SCHOOLS. — Creates a term limit of eight consecutive years for school board members and requires the legislature to provide for the promotion of civic literacy in public schools. Currently, district school boards have a constitutional duty to operate, control, and supervise all public schools. The amendment maintains a school board’s duties to public schools it establishes, but permits the state to operate, control, and supervise public schools not established by the school board.”
“Florida has come so far in offering education options to families, leading the nation, and this amendment helps ensure we do not stagnate,” added Donalds. “It opens the door to more possibilities for our students. Hoping our children can play catchup later in life is not an option. We need to do everything in our power to offer each child a high-quality education.”
More on Amendment 8:
Amendment 8 Creates School Board Member Term Limits:
Eight-year term limits mean more innovative thinking on school boards as new members are elected.
The amendment will allow more people an opportunity to serve as citizen legislators on school boards. Term limits reduce the power of incumbency and make elections more competitive through open-seat races. While school board members can put term limits on local ballots themselves, no school board in the history of Florida has given voters the choice to “term limit” them.
“The reason I offered the term-limits portion of the proposal as a citizen suggestion (Proposal 43) was because school board member races need to be competitive campaigns, and the power of incumbency is too great to overcome,” said Shawn Frost, Indian River County School Board Chairman and 8isGreat.org Executive Board Member. “We don’t need career politicians, out of touch with parents and entrenched in special interests, making decisions for our students.”
Amendment 8 Makes Way for Education Opportunities:
Innovation has helped Florida create an environment of robust school choices, helping to meet individual student needs.
As innovation and choices have grown in Florida, traditional public schools have improved. The graduation rate is now at an all-time high despite increasing academic standards. School grades continue rising despite more rigorous grading criteria. As students from most other states have stagnated on the highly regarded National Assessments of Educational Progress, Florida students continue to improve. Florida has many excellent district-run schools, public charter schools and the Florida Virtual School.
Further innovation in Florida education is hindered by outdated laws.
The rules that school districts operate under, codified 50 years ago in the Florida Constitution, have not kept up with today’s Florida. Diverse learning models are necessary for our diverse student population. Amendment 8 gives the State of Florida the flexibility to establish new public education opportunities, so that our system of free public education can be more innovative and adaptive for students as we progress through the 21st Century.
Amendment 8 is intentionally non-prescriptive.
Fresh ideas and diverse opportunities for innovation are essential to creating a system of public education that works for every student. There is a misconception that this amendment is about charter schools. The free public schools that could be established through this innovative policy could be magnet schools, collegiate high schools such as vocational and technical high schools created by state colleges for students who want a fast track to a well-paying career, or new schools not yet considered.
The Treasure Coast Technical College which recently opened in Indian River County is one example – it took several district school board elections and a public referendum to bring about this welding-and-construction-trades opportunity for students. In the future, with the passage of Amendment 8, the Legislature could give flexibility for state colleges to offer high school diplomas and valuable career and technical certifications without the political roadblocks often created by school boards.
There are also existing public schools in Florida, Florida Virtual School, university laboratory schools and the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, that would be made constitutional under Amendment 8 – these schools are examples of innovation serving students for unique reasons or seasons.
Districts would still operate, control and supervise the free public schools they establish, as is current practice.
Currently, with a few exceptions, county school boards have the sole constitutional authority to establish and control schools within their borders, such as a magnet school, authorizing a charter school and even creating local virtual schools run by districts. While current constitutional language prohibits the state from operating, controlling or supervising free public schools, Amendment 8 cuts this red tape to facilitate the necessary evolution and improvement of education.
Amendment 8 does not in itself change the current manner of establishing public schools in Florida, nor does it require the Legislature to so. If Amendment 8 passes, the Legislature could choose to enact legislation to create an alternative process to establish public schools and allow other entities besides school districts to operate, control and supervise those public schools. These changes would require an act of the Legislature and approval by the Governor.
Amendment 8 boosts the ultimate form of accountability: Parental choice.
Public schools of choice cannot be successful without parent support. Approved free public schools, as schools of choice, would have the added accountability of parents who could remove their children at any time if they are unsatisfied with the school and could return their child to their zoned school.
“Many believe that a well-established pattern throughout history tells us that the most important basic unit of government is the family,” added Donalds. “When a Florida family decides in their living room that their child deserves an educational opportunity, it shouldn’t be vetoed by out-of-touch bureaucrats in a boardroom. The power to decide a child’s educational future belongs with the family – when those who know a child best and love a child the most make decisions, it’s the epitome of local governance and local control.”
While it remains for the Legislature to decide the specifics, the most reasonable expectation is that any approved free public schools will be included and subject to Florida’s statewide accountability system where students take the same examinations and receive school grades as do all free public schools whether they are neighborhood, magnet, charter, virtual or yet to be named.
Public school dollars would still follow the student.
Amendment 8 only addresses the operation, control, and supervision of free public schools. Funding would follow the child to the free public schools chosen by the parent, which in the future could be established by another entity in addition to the local school district.
Amendment 8 Codifies Civic Education in Florida Schools:
It prepares students to become informed, engaged citizens.
While the prioritization of civic literacy could be established by the current Legislature, a future Legislature could likewise de-fund and de-emphasize civics education. By enshrining our commitment to preparing students with a great civics education in our constitution, Florida can help every citizen play an active role in their government.
8isGreat.org is a non-profit organization created to promote the passage of proposed Florida Constitutional Amendment 8. 8isGreat.org was formed and is led by Collier County School Board Member Erika Donalds, the main sponsor of the proposed Amendment on the Constitutional Revision Commission. Along with Commissioner Donalds, 8isGreat.org executive board members include Indian River County School Board Chairman Shawn Frost and Duval County School Board Member Scott Shine. To learn more, visit https://www.8isgreat.org/.