While Betsy DeVos does away with protections for our country’s children, and continues to push forward on her billionaire’s mission to leave the world a better place for herself when she dies, the Orlando-Sentinel has done an explosive bit of journalism on private education in Florida. Writers Leslie Postal, Beth Kassab, and Annie Martin have put together the first part of what promises to be an infuriating look into the swamp of privatization in Florida’s education system. According to the investigation, private schools in Florida have received $1 billion dollars in scholarship money, while not having to promise much of anything—including hiring teachers with college degrees. And that’s just the tip of the rapidly-melting iceberg.
The limited oversight of Florida’s scholarship programs allowed a principal under investigation for molesting a student at his Brevard County school to open another school under a new name and still receive the money, an Orlando Sentinel investigation found.
Another Central Florida school received millions of dollars in scholarships, sometimes called school vouchers, for nearly a decade even though it repeatedly violated program rules, including hiring staff with criminal convictions.
Meanwhile, more and more Florida children need and receive such scholarships—and private schools are reaping those benefits. And like most private institutions where making money is at the top of the list of things to get done, education interests fall very far by the wayside.
One Orlando school, which received $500,000 from the public programs last year, has a 24-year-old principal still studying at a community college.
On top of this, those schools need not worry about any of the academic “standards” that public schools fail, including building codes, or proof that schools claiming the ability to handle “special needs” students have staff trained in handling those actual special needs. Sadly, many parents don’t realize that they’ve been had until it is too late, and once they do there is very little recourse for them because these schools are private, y’all.
Upset parents sometimes complain to the state, assuming it has some say over academic quality at these private schools. It does not. “They can conduct their schools in the manner they believe to be appropriate,” reads a typical response from the Florida Department of Education to a parent.
And Florida is one of the prime states that Betsy DeVos is touting as part of her sweeping national reform agenda. There’s a reason our current president and his education reform minions want people to mirror what’s happened in places like Florida and Texas: they’ve had such an easy time of scamming millions of people out of their money and their dreams, with little or no legal ramifications. And as the Orlando-Sentinel piece points out, there are times when the laws in Florida do attempt to add meaningful caveats to the scholarship monies sent to private schools. However, these laws are undercut but the systematic lack of legal follow-through.
Scholarship laws also require private schools to hire only employees who pass criminal background checks, but they do not require the state to routinely check those records.
In recent years, while investigating other problems, the education department caught at least eight schools with staff members who had criminal records. One Osceola school was forced to fire its P.E. teacher and coach when the state discovered his record. But the man now works about a mile away, at another private school that takes scholarship students.
Parents want what is best for their children, and the conditions for many parents and their children are desperate. Con artists like Trump and DeVos and Gov. Rick Scott are parasites, only desperate to stay alive until they find another host to leech off of.