April 29, 2022

Valerie Strauss: How Florida Gov. DeSantis is trying to destroy public education

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At the Washington Post, Valerie Strauss catalogs the many moves Ron DeSantis has made to gut public education in the Sunshine State.

DeSantis and his like-minded compatriots make no secret about wanting to privatize public education — arguably the country’s most important civic institution. Their “school choice” movement means expanding alternatives to public school district. They include charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately managed — as well as voucher and similar programs that use taxpayer money to pay for tuition and other costs at private and religious schools. These schools can legally discriminate against LGBTQ and other students and adults.

DeSantis’s appointments to his administration reveal his attitude about public education. On April 21, he nominated state Sen. Manny Diaz (R) — who works at an affiliate of Academica, a for-profit Miami-based charter school management firm — as the state’s new education commissioner. Diaz will almost certainly be approved by the Florida Board of Education.

Diaz — who is chief operating officer of Doral College, a private college owned by Academica — has been instrumental in the legislature in expanding charter school growth. Florida, where charter schools have virtually no oversight, has seen a raft of financial scandals related to the industry.

Ten days before appointing Diaz, DeSantis’s administration appointed Esther Byrd, an office manager at her husband’s law firm, to the Board of Education. Byrd has on social media expressed sympathy with QAnon beliefs and offered a defense of those “peacefully protesting” the confirmation of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021, when the U.S. Capitol was overrun by a pro-Trump mob. She has alluded to “coming civil wars.” According to the Florida Times-Union, she and her husband, state Rep. Cord Byrd (R), flew a QAnon flag on their boat.

DeSantis also appointed to the Board of Education radiologist Grazie Pozo Christie, a senior fellow for the Catholic Association who wrote an article a few years ago saying the best thing parents can do for their children is to take them out of public schools.

Read the full piece here.

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