Dereliction of Duty

Introduction

In 1998, the Florida Constitution was amended, calling for a “high-quality system of free public schools” and stating that education was a fundamental value of the people of Florida.1 Recently, during his State of Education address, Florida Governor Jeb Bush proclaimed that in terms of education, the state has “emerged as a model for the rest of the nation…[and is] leading the nation in innovative and common sense reforms.” 2

In reality, however, Florida has consistently been failing its commitment to public education at the expense of its school children. Since 1998, Florida has continued to rank near the bottom in terms of adequately funding its public schools. By 2003, according to Education Week’s annual report card, Quality Counts, Florida ranked 46 out of 50 states and received a grade of D+ for adequately funding its public schools.3

Despite these failings, according to a Palm Beach Post editorial, Florida’s Department of Education, following the lead of the governor and state legislature, "has reversed its priorities, giving special attention to every type of school except the traditional public school that teaches the great majority of Floridians."4 Florida’s heedless rush to privatize education has severely compromised the quality of its public education. In fact, the state’s short-sighted public policy threatens to leave many children behind and fails miserably to live up to its own constitutional commitment to provide an equitable and quality education to all school children.

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