Education advocates speak out against proposed amendment to Florida's constitution

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Education advocates are speaking out against a proposed constitutional amendment passed by the Constitution Revision Commission Monday.

Courtesy: MGN Online

The amendment would create two parallel school systems in the state.

In the state capital, there's an ongoing debate among school board members over whether to allow two new charter schools to move in.

"We don't believe there's a need. We believe it's a waste of taxpayer dollars," said Superintendent of Leon County Schools Rocky Hanna.

If the proposed constitutional amendment passes, that decision could be put in the hands of a state agency, not local elected officials.

Hanna says the proposal is hidden in the amendment, which also includes requiring civics education and a six-year term limit for school board members.

"Oh, by the way, we're also looking to take away local control. These charter decisions at the state level as opposed to the local school level," said Hanna.

The amendment would authorize the creation of a state entity that could authorize the creation of new schools. It would operate separately from the current school districts.

"Well, the question then, of course, of concern is if you have two systems how do we know that each will be funded equitably?" said Senator Bill Montford who's also with the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

The existing public education system would have to share state funding with the new one, possibly thinning out an already tight budget.

"We're going to have to start looking at eliminating programs, especially those in art, music, science, mental health counselors and all the things we need to provide for the good of the whole," said Hanna.

And because the change would be in the constitution, it would be difficult to undo.

"They're trying to amend the constitution to defund and have for the next 20 years a policy that will gut our public school systems," said Fedrick Ingram, the Vice President of the Florida Education Association.

Some members of the Constitution Revision Commission tried to unbundle the proposals, but it failed.

Come November, the amendment will need 60 percent voter approval to pass.