Fedrick C. Ingram, answers five questions about what Florida Education Association would like to see for our schools and our children.

What should parents and our communities know about our schools?

I want you to know that the members of the FEA — the teachers, the bus drivers, the paraprofessionals, office staff, cafeteria workers — are utterly devoted to your kids. They love what they do, and the success of our students means everything to them.

What’s on the FEA wish list for Florida’s kids and public schools?

The FEA wants — we insist — that lawmakers properly fund our neighborhood public schools. Every child in Florida should have the option to attend a well-funded neighborhood public school — with a roof that doesn’t leak and an A/C system that works, with qualified teachers and staff, and where our students have the resources they need for success.

What about private schools and charters? Those appear to be hot topics for our political leaders this year.

We absolutely respect the right of every parent to map out the right educational path for his or her child. As a parent, you must be able to do what you believe is best for your kids.

What the FEA opposes is shortchanging the students at our neighborhood public schools to fund private schools and for-profit charters. Private school vouchers — what the state calls tax-credit “scholarships” — and charters drain taxpayer dollars from the neighborhood public schools that educate the great majority of our kids.

Inequity is baked into the whole voucher proposition, and it’s baked into the idea of so-called “education savings accounts.” If getting a good education means buying education, people with a money advantage will always do better.

Politicians in Florida have been pushing to privatize public education for more than two decades. If we continue down that path, we will have an education system that is more warped by money and privilege than it is now.

What are the advantages of neighborhood public schools?

Neighborhood public school operates under clear rules and defined educational standards, respects students’ civil rights and protections, and is required to hire qualified teachers. That is certainly not always true outside the public system.

You have a voice in your neighborhood schools through an elected school board, and you can have a direct impact on how these schools are run. Private schools and charters are not under your local school board. Charter schools operate with public money, but they are controlled by private boards that are not elected, and members may not even live in the community or state where the school is located.

Any closing thoughts for our readers?

We want you to know that your neighborhood public schools are worth fighting for, and they need your support. Even if you choose a private school or charter for your child now, we ask that you stand with us on principle and support our neighborhood public schools — with your voice and through your actions. Our public schools fulfill America’s promise to our children — of leveling the playing field, of giving everyone the knowledge and opportunity to succeed. Any plan that shortchanges those schools is the wrong plan for our kids.

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