Rebuttal to Kathleen Reynolds: Getting the facts straight about school board forum

Keith Flaugh
Special to the Sun Times

(Editor’s note: This is Keith Flaugh’s reply to a guest commentary by Kathleen Reynolds published online on Tuesday, April 12, about the upcoming Southwest Florida Citizens Alliance-sponsored “meet the candidate” forum on Thursday, April 14, starting at 7 p.m. at the Marco Island Presbyterian Church.)

Keith Flaugh

Ms Reynolds is certainly entitled to her opinion, but it is also important to get the basic facts correct without using false innuendo, intimidation and hyperbole.

Ms Reynolds’ opinion: “Collier County schools is at its zenith in terms of academic growth and program development”

Fact: Florida annually spends $20.6 billion on k-12 education which is the second largest item behind healthcare in the Florida $80+ billion dollar annual budget. Collier County Public Schools annually spend $1 billion. This is $22,000 per student per year compared to Lee County at slightly over $14,000 per student per year and charter schools like Marco Island Academy and Mason Academy that spend slightly over $7,000 per year (with terrific results).

Fact: Look at the real public school results-NOT the proprietary self-serving story put out by public school grading system here in Florida. ACT test scores for Florida when compared to all 50 states show Florida students have steadily declined from 34th in the nation in 1994 to now 45th in the nation in 2015, (Source: ACT website database) and SAT tests nationally are the lowest they have been in 10 years (Source: Washington Post “SAT scores at lowest level in 10 years, fueling worries about high schools”)

Fact: U.S. News and World Report does an annual rating of the best 2500 high school in the nation based on national test scores (not the proprietary FCAT and FSA). In 2014, Collier County High School students had a reading proficiency of only 54 percent, a math proficiency of only 62 percent and a college readiness of only 31 percent. Yet the Florida grading system claims most of our high schools are “A” schools. (Source: http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools ). Furthermore, the Florida Depart of Education just released an NEAP report that only 26% of Florida 8th graders are proficient in math, (Source: “NEAP Reports only 26 percent of Florida students proficient in Math”)

Ms Reynolds’ opinion: The SWFL Citizens Alliance 25Q issue based questionnaire is a series of “extremely complex and potentially politically volatile questions”… “Meant to embarrass the candidates.”

Fact: All candidates are invited and every candidate has the opportunity to explain their YES or NO answer. We have two to three very creditable moderators and community leaders for each of our School Board, Legislative and County Commission forums this primary season. Moderators are asked to source up to 1/3 of the questions from our questionnaire (moderator choice); up to 1/3 of the questions entirely on their own and at least 1/3rd from the audience, provided with 3x5 cards. Students will usher the event and collect the audience cards to give to the moderators.

Fact: SWFL Citizens Alliance has two questionnaires – a 25Q issued-based questionnaire and a Constitutional Survey. These were developed to help voters “vote informed” on real substance rather than slick sound bites. You can see the questions at http://floridacitizensalliance.com/liberty/collier-county-information/. After final candidate qualification June 20th, we will turn the 25Q issued based questionnaire into a voter guide so you can compare all the candidates’ documented answers to your own views on these issues and hopefully “Vote More Informed”

Fact: SWFLCA has hosted similar forums in 2012 and 2014. In 2014, we hosted 4 Collier school board forums and all 9 candidates filled out the questionnaire. We then created a voter guide for the voters. This also gave the citizenry a vehicle to hold those elected accountable to their positions. Attendees loved the Yes or No Format. Some candidates embrace it and other don’t like to be pinned down!

Ms Reynolds’ Opinion: “Oh, did you know that Collier County Public Schools are gleefully teaching your children pornography” and promoting “potential book burning”

Fact: A citizen watchdog committee made up of parents, tax payers, and business people reviewed over 60 Collier County textbooks and have documented the “porn”, religious indoctrination, political indoctrination and revisionist US History in our schools. Similar watchdog groups in 6 other Florida counties have since documented many of the same materials (not surprising because they mostly buy from Pearson PLC). Pearson is a British Company who has bought up and now owns over 80 percent of all k-12 instructional materials delivery in the US. Supporters of our Alliance from 11 counties went to Tallahassee 5 times this legislative cycle and gave copies of our report to all 160 Legislators. As a result, a recent record 25 legislators sponsored and co-sponsored bills we help draft to return control of curriculum to each School District/community. These companion bills were killed in the House and Senate because Pearson and other lobbyist groups convinced the k-12 Committee Chairs, Senator Legg and Representative O’Toole, to kill them without a hearing. Check their donor records and follow the money to see why they did this!

Fact: This is not about book burning or banning books. It is about allowing all of the community to be involved in using our tax dollars in the age-appropriate selection of materials; allowing the “Classics” in literature; requiring the instructional materials are balanced; demanding historical factual/accuracy; and NOT indoctrinating young minds with political and religious bias.

Bottom Line: Come to the forums and you decide if they help you vote better informed.

SWFL Citizens Alliance does have a set of strong values that include Economic Freedom, Individual Liberty, Optimism, Virtue and Honesty, Community, Courage and Language Matters documented at http://floridacitizensalliance.com/liberty/about-us/

You certainly don’t have to agree with us but we believe that knowledge of each candidate’s position on these issues, their principles and values has been missing from the public discourse and the result: “The mess our country is in today!”

Keith Flaugh is a Marco resident, retired IBM executive and advocate for “www.FloridaKidsDeserveBetter.com”