I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
At this evening's meeting of the Escambia County School Board, an expenditure will be made totaling $21,766.00. In the scheme of a District with a $600Million + yearly budget, this number does not seem, on its face, to be that significant.
But how many books would this buy for students? How many field trips would this amount cover for students? How many athletic fees would this cover for students that are impoverished? I think this is a big number.
And this amount is significant because it represents almost 80% of the School Board's yearly office budget, with the remainder going to travel and a minimal portion going to office supplies. This $21,766.00 expenditure is going to pay annual "dues" to the Florida School Boards Association.
I strongly believe, as do many others, that individual constitutional officers like school board members should be able to determine whether or not to send their portion, on a pro-rata basis, to an organization like FSBA. I want to opt-out of this expenditure and return my portion to our district's general fund; Sadly, the current system for funding advocacy groups with taxpayer money precludes individual choice in this for individual school board members. Subsequently, organizations like FSBA conscript false legitimacy by claiming they represent all school board members when in reality those of us that choose to, cannot opt out. The legislature should fix this so that like all other constitutional officers (Sheriffs, School Superintendents, Supervisors of Elections, etc.) we can make an individual determination regarding the funding of "advocacy" groups. This, in turn would force such groups (FSBA) to be more responsive to the minority views of their members, lest they lose the funding. Such a change would also foster competition, which is always beneficial.
So here is the problem with this expenditure:
Over the last several years, the relationship the FSBA has had with our elected legislature and Governor has become strained (and that is using a polite adjective). Three years ago, then President-elect of FSBA (and current President of the organization) Patty Hightower and I sat in the office of a Tallahassee Senator, at that moment in time the second most powerful and influential man in Tallahassee, right behind Governor Rick Scott. In that meeting, this senator looked Patty Hightower right in the face and said "Of all the organizations that come here to see me, I can think of none, not
one, that is less effective than the FSBA." On my recent trip to Tallahassee last week, the trip to where I spoke to more than a dozen influential lawmakers and countless staffers--the adjectives used to describe FSBA are getting even more colorful than three years ago.
They've lost credibility, and they've created ill-will among many lawmakers.
Before that, FSBA was feckless when another Senator from Jacksonville arbitrarily cut the salaries of School Board Members.
Before that, FSBA, showing deference to unions and special interests, strongly supported class-size caps--even though many believe the class-size mandate has kept us from being able to significantly raise teacher pay--and such caps had nothing to do with student achievement and everything to do with politics and adult economic interests.
And to top it all off, the FSBA has joined forces once again with unions and Tallahassee special interests to turn their backs on children and once again put politics and adult economic interests ahead of everything else. When FSBA joined with the FEA and NAACP to sue the state over a tax-credit scholarship that benefits nearly 70,000 poor, minority Florida students and their families-- Including more than 1000 from Escambia County alone--- that was the last straw for me and many other like-minded, conservative school board members throughout Florida.
We're tired of sending our money to an organization that puts special interests ahead of students and wants to maintain an adversarial relationship with legislators in Tallahassee.
We're tired of paying this exorbitant membership fee to an organization that does not represent the values of our constituents--the majority of whom support parental school choice.
So tonight I will be on the bottom of a 4-1 vote, and $21,766.00 of Escambia County taxpayer cash will be sent to the FSBA. It is high-time that the way individually elected constitutional officers allocate their portion of an organization's advocacy budget gets reformed--who knows, maybe tonight and tonight's vote will be the catalyst to make this happen!