AN OPEN LETTER TO RON DESANTIS

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AN OPEN LETTER TO RON DESANTIS

Ron DeSantis speaks at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

Ron DeSantis speaks at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

“Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC by 2.0 Generic

Ron DeSantis speaks at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

“Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC by 2.0 Generic

“Ron DeSantis” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC by 2.0 Generic

Ron DeSantis speaks at the 2018 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.

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Sign the Petition

Dear Governor DeSantis:

Most of this letter’s signatories aren’t eligible to vote, and if they are, they likely supported another candidate for governor. But, it’s also fair to say that many of us have been pleasantly surprised by some of your actions since taking office. From your environmental reforms to your proposal to expand teacher salaries, your policies have already created measurable improvements in the lives of Floridians.

While the education system will certainly benefit from changes to teacher pay, another one of your plans may seriously threaten the success of Florida’s students. Depriving public schools of millions of dollars in favor of state spending on school choice vouchers would harm the vast majority of schoolchildren—including those who end up being granted the scholarships to attend private schools.

Despite the prevailing stereotype of private schools as superior learning environments to public schools, there is “scant evidence” that this is the case. Although there are many private schools that offer great educational opportunities, these schools are outnumbered by those that relish in mediocrity.

Their for-profit models, whereby owners can pocket funding instead of investing in their students, coupled with their shocking lack of regulation means private schools are often unacceptably poor in providing knowledge and resources to students. That includes some schools that currently participate in Florida’s existing private school voucher system.

Unlike public schools, private schools in Florida are not required to follow the state’s academic standards, distribute standardized tests, hire teachers with bachelor’s degrees and state certification, publicize budgets, report graduation rates, or meet school building codes. They are, however, allowed to infuse curriculum with religious dogma and political opinion, which many schools take advantage of to teach false or biased material to impressionable children.

Of about 2,000 private schools participating in Florida’s voucher program, just 27 were inspected in 2015. Only four met the minimum requirements to receive scholarships.

Some schools hire teachers with criminal convictions, mislead parents about programs for special needs students, or falsify results of safety inspections and continue to receive money from vouchers. The Orlando Sentinel reports that others “disparage religions other than Protestant Christianity and cultures other than those descended from white Europeans,” which is even more alarming considering that 60 percent of voucher recipients are black or Hispanic.

In private schools, some students are taught that humans lived with dinosaurs, that the civil rights movement was an encroachment on the “harmony” that existed between blacks and whites by “power-hungry individuals,” or that communism is something to be aspired to.

Instead of our school’s dance recitals, philharmonic concerts, and sports programs, this is what taxpayer money would ultimately support.

While some may argue that these are isolated incidents, no child should ever have such an atrocious educational experience. And sadly, underachieving private schools appear to be the norm.

In Louisiana, a study of students participating in a voucher program found that public elementary schoolers who transferred to private schools showed drastic dips in both reading and math comprehension. Kids who started at the fiftieth percentile in math found themselves at the twenty-sixth percentile one year later.

A Department of Education study examining a voucher program in Washington, D.C. found similar results. Those who qualified for the vouchers but remained in public schools performed significantly better than their private school peers in math.

A full examination of data from voucher programs by Stanford University Professor of Education Martin Carnoy is consistent with the findings from these two studies: Private school vouchers do not improve students’ education.

Then why push for them? The basic reasoning is that the more freedom parents have to decide for their children, the better. But when a parent’s choice comes down to an inadequate private school and an underfunded public school, that freedom is worthless. And when a child’s education is placed in the hands of someone who thinks dinosaurs lived with humans, their intellect and opportunity may never recover.

In defending your support for school choice scholarships, you have pointed to the number of minority students who make use of them. But, if you really want to serve disadvantaged minorities and low-income students, taking money from public schools is not the way to do it. Research has shown that with higher public education funding, poor students are more likely to graduate high school and earn higher salaries afterwards.

Already, students deal with a severe shortage in state backing for public education, and the plan you put forward to raid the budget for private school vouchers would take more than $110 million from our public schools.

Florida’s 2.8 million public school students deserve better. They deserve better than a state ranking of forty-fourth for per-pupil spending in public schools. They deserve better than to see their friends whisked off to private schools with money that could have bought them a new computer. Or a textbook. Or a classroom. Or a meal.

For some students, local public schools are their only options, even if they were to be offered vouchers for private schools. Transportation obstacles, enrollment issues, and information barriers prevent many parents from finding feasible alternatives to the nearest public school.

If you still want to guarantee parents’ ability to send their children to whichever subpar school they desire, fine. We realize that it may be difficult to renege on a campaign promise or disappoint your base.

We ask, instead, for a compromise. We refuse to believe that you are anything less than a man who wants only the best for Florida’s children. Your time in Congress shows your willingness to take a principled stand despite personal costs, whether it be your support for the No Budget/No Pay Act or your refusal to accept a Congressional pension and health insurance plan.

Florida is the state with the fourth highest GDP, yet it spends less than almost every other state on public education for each student. We can afford to do more for the children who will one day lead our nation.

For every taxpayer dollar spent on private school vouchers, we propose that the same amount be added to the budget to fund Florida’s public schools. This way, public schools and their students can receive the resources they desperately need, and Betsy DeVos can continue heaping praise on Florida’s education system.

We hope that you listen and do what’s right for the next generation of Floridians, as we hope your children—Mason and Madison—will continue to shine as they follow in their father’s footsteps.

Sincerely,

         Jarom Gordon

Jassem Abdallah

Sara Abdo

Isabella Adia

Kevin Ahern

Kyle Ahern

Aelly Alwardi

Christopher Anthony

Samarah Antoine

Brendan Arp

Emma Artero

Hannah Baldwin

Lexis Barbieri

Sasha A. Bass

Vanessa Benitz

Gina Bernstein

Ainhoa Bezerra

Rebecca Boss

Krista Brochu

Garfield Govanny Brown

Eden Brown

Jaime Brustein

Christian C.

Katelynn Carroll

Eliza Cave

Mailon Cedeno

Nirmit Chandan

Kavyasree Chigurupati

Alice Chong

Natalie Cohen

Megan Conrad

Ashley Cozad

Joseph Cuenco

Sophia Dawson

Sophy DeMoya

William Dhana

Rachel Dippolito

Connor Ehrich

Jonathan Estilien

Amanda Ferber

Cade Ferguson

Sebastian Fernandez

Priscila Fernandez

Corey G.

Cora Gancarz

Amanda Garcia

Hannah Gardner

Emma Garrett

Alissa Gary

Annemarie Gerlach

Annick Gilles

Cassie Glover

Shelby Godfrey

Kailee Goldstein

Adam Goldstick

Valentina Gomez

Julia Gonnello

Cameron Gordon

Christian Gordon

Julia Guerrero

Jordan Haft

Grace Handel

Caleb Harris

Myca Harris

Sean Horan

Sophie Huber

Amina Idrisi

Jennifer Jia

Mike Johns

Haley Johnston

Brendan Jordan

Addie Joslin

Morgan Jourdin

Arman Khoshbin

Carsten Kjaerulff

Isabella Kjaerulff

Noelle Knowlton

Asha Kollannur

Joshua Kopit

Lindsay Kuperman

Anna Lackovic

Madison LaRocque

Michael Laurito

David Liu

Dorothy Lu

Natalie Macadar

Kassidy Maki

Raunak Manchanda

Sofia Manocchio

Kaia Martino

Naomi van Es Maury

Trey Mazza

Tommy McCabe

Emma McCue

Kylie McKenna

Katherine McNamara

Marisa Mellone

Sonya Mikolutskaya

Sasha Monaco

Jean Montesinos

Mackensey Moore

Jacob Moses

Asher Moss

Kyle Murphy

Anamaria Navarrete

Sylvia Ng

Maily Nguyen

Maxine Nguyen

Shina Nguyen

Stella Oaks

Shweta Pandit

Lauren Perez

Mariah Perez

Monica Perez

Michael Pincus

Jenelle Pollock

Jules Popiel

Isabella Ramirez

Rayne Ramlal

Emma Ratchford

Hannah Reynolds

Sophia Roberts

Carolina Robinson

Giovanna Romano

Gianna Romano-Hall

Drew S.

Karmelysa Sabin

Annabella Saccaro

Schneider Saintil

Bennett Samuels

Deven Seedial

Aviva Senzon

Megan Shah

Sonya Shokhina

Mark Shteyman

Shea Siben

Julia Sivco

Leah Sloan

Sasha Smith

Elena Snyder

Ariana Soodeen

Emma Soto

Jackson Spellman

Annika Stevens

Adrianna Suarez

Milan Tangirala

Angie Thari

Adrianna Tucciarone

Aneri Vakil

Leedia Valler

Barrett Vargas

Robby Vargas

Franco Vidal

Julia Villa

Maya Voorhees

James Walter

Daniela Walters

Miles Wang

Alexandra Watson

Derion Williams

Sydney Williams

Autumn Wong

George Wu

Hannah Xie

Madison Yan

Philip Ye

Sade Young

Sofia Zarazua

Skyler Zur