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Will Amendment 8 destroy Florida’s public school system?

Note No Amendment 8

Will Amendment 8 destroy Florida’s public school system?

By Roger Caldwell

 

    On Florida’s upcoming November ballot, “Amendment 8” will be placed on the ballot for 2012 and challenge a long-standing ban on taxpayer funding religious institutions. This amendment is named “Florida Religious Freedom” and the wording of the measure is extremely ambiguous. Some political pundits and experts believe the wording of the amendment is to fool voters.

    There is a movement in the country, and specifically in Florida where advocates of parental choice support faith –based schools, and cultural-based charter schools. Many supporters of school choice believe that future educational systems must be customized to meet each student’s needs. The public education system is broken and many of our state’s leaders starting with Governor Scott are vocal proponents of parental choice and charter schools.

    This is nothing new, because there have always been Catholic schools and private schools that parents could send their children, but there was always a separation of government from religious faith and practice. Our founding fathers made it clear to write into organic law the total separation of church and state.

    Last year, Amendment 8 was thrown out by County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis for being ambiguous and misleading, but the amendment was quickly re-written by Attorney General Pam Bondi, and slipped onto the ballot for 2012.

    The new language of the proposal reads: “Proposing an amendment to the State Constitution providing that no individual or entity may be denied, on the basis of religious identity or belief, government benefits, funding, or other support, except as required by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and deleting the prohibition against using revenues from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination, or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

    After reading this statement numerous times, I was very confused with what our governor and his administration is trying to accomplish with this amendment. It is extremely vague and misleading, and it appears that any religious organization or religious individual can get funding from state taxpayers to start a religious school. With this confusion of interpretation, and if this amendment passes, Governor Scott can begin to advance his ideological agenda.

    Governor Scott believes that the large private for-profit educational businesses can deliver a better educational experience than the traditional public school system. These for-profit educational businesses receive a smaller amount from state funding, and they save the state thousands of dollars. Education in the state will not focus on excellence, but will focus on profit.

    Amendment 8 will continue to take money from the public school system and force more community public schools to close. More students will drop out of schools and there will be more failing schools in the public school system.

    There is something wrong when our legislatures disguise laws as “Religious Freedom” and in reality they advance a system that rewards large corporations and stockholders. Others believe that Amendment 8 will open the door for a voucher system, which will take money away from the public school system.

    Vote “No” on Amendment 8. Separation of the state and religion has made America the great country where everyone has the right to a great public education. The reason the majority of Americans can read and do math is because of the great public education system.

 

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    About The Author

    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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