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Why school board chairman wants voters to stand up to lawmakers

I’m chairman of the Palm Beach County School Board. But on House Bill 7123, I’m speaking as an individual to alert you to what’s happening in Tallahassee.

Voters in Palm Beach County should be incensed about what’s going on in our State Capitol.

Last week, the Florida House of Representatives passed HB 7123. The bill which contains language that would force school districts to share, retroactively, voter-approved funds with charter schools.

The Florida House passed this measure, despite calls from many stakeholder groups not to override the will of the voters.

This bill now sits with the Florida Senate for consideration.

This is a problem because the School Board of Palm Beach County was explicit with the referendum language placed on the November 2018 ballot. It asked voters to raise property taxes in support of non-charter district schools.

As a result, more than 72 percent of voters in Palm Beach County, representing over 380,000 people, approved the measure as written.

The November 2018 ballot in Palm Beach County was crystal clear:

“Shall the School Board of Palm Beach County have authority to levy 1.00 mills of ad valorem millage dedicated for operational needs of non-charter District schools to fund school safety equipment, hire additional school police and mental health professionals, fund arts, music, physical education, career and choice program teachers, and improve teacher pay ‪beginning July 1, 2019 and automatically ‪ending June 30, 2023, with oversight by the independent committee of citizens and experts?”

An independent committee of citizens and experts will enforce oversight of how this money is spent at district-operated schools. But referendum funds shared with charter schools will not be subject to the same oversight.

This directly contradicts the promise made to voters as part of the District’s ballot language.

The actions of the Florida House indicate elected officials do not care about the will of the voters. Where are their ethics?

For over two centuries, the will of the people has been the governing force, not a dictatorial government that ignores them.

To quote the words of President Theodore Roosevelt, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”

Do something. Raise your voice. Call your state senators. Tell the Florida Senate to be more respectful of the rule of law in this country. That’s not demonstrated by the Florida House when it passed HB 7123.

Remind the Florida Senate that government serves at the will of the people – it is not their master, but their servant.

By Frank A. Barbieri, Jr., Esq.

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