This year, we saw the state of Florida launch a massive assault on public education. When the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the segregation of public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment and, therefore, was unconstitutional, states, municipalities, and school districts grappled with how they would implement — or circumvent — the ruling. The idea of using public dollars for privatizing education began to take shape.
This year, Richard Corcoran, the speaker of the Florida House, came to the threshold of a Miami-Dade County Public School, Poinciana Park Elementary, and declared it a “perpetually failing school” and that it will now be a “School of Hope” as mandated in House Bill 7069.
One would think that, as Miami-Dade public schools have performed to such a level that there were no F schools this year, funding for public education would increase to pre-recession levels or that HB 7069 and the idea of Schools of Hope would be unnecessary. Instead, Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill that would allow for unproven charter schools to take over perpetually failing schools.
As a Miami-Dade School Board member, former principal, and teacher, I know how difficult it is to teach and give guidance to students when they have been labeled failures. I can imagine how difficult it is to motivate teachers, parents, and community when their school has been an F for two consecutive years. I can only imagine how difficult it would be when the speaker of the House is outside the gates to declare failure rather than coming in to see how the constitutional requisite to fund public education is being implemented and if the allocation is enough. It would have been a great exercise to what it’s like to learn, teach, or think in an environment with challenges that other communities don’t face.
Again, Miami-Dade County Public Schools has no failing schools. I was especially proud of the work of Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho, his cabinet and staff, the principals, teachers, parents, custodians, crossing guards, and, most important —– the students.
I was especially proud of a few schools in particular: Charles R. Drew K-8 earned a B. The night before the students were to take the Florida Standards Assessment, two officers were shot across the street from the school. It was not until moments before school began that the scene was cleared up enough to allow the children in — many of who lived in the apartment building that was an all-night crime scene.
Frederick R. Douglass Elementary and Phyllis Wheatley elementary schools earned an A and a B respectively. Both are housed at Phyllis Wheatley because Frederick Douglass is being rebuilt. I am proud, too, of Poinciana Park Elementary School’s resilience.
However, the state of Florida does not issue trophies for performing well in spite of criticism. In this age of politics, it seems as though nothing is sacred or off limits. This year there was only one public school in the State of Florida that went from an F to an A — Poinciana Park Elementary. Our schools are already beacons of hope, and there is no one that can come in and do it any better.
Dorothy Bendross Mindingall represents District 2 on the Miami-Dade School Board.