By making me aware of a bill they wanted the Florida Legislature to pass, they showed me how they want to change public education in Florida. As I wrote here and here, I didn’t like what I saw.
Fortunately, their bill didn’t get the necessary support in the Legislature. According to an April 3 post on their website, “Given the current status of the bills, we are formulating a new action strategy. We will have the first new action item ready on or about Monday April 6th.”
As a result of their efforts, I’ve learned some things progressive voters like me should know.
Florida Citizens’ Alliance
Florida Citizens’ Alliance (FCA) is “a coalition of citizens and grassroots groups working together through education, outreach and community involvement to advance the ideals and principles of liberty.” Their “initial focus has been protecting our 2nd Amendment “Right to Keep and Bear Arms” here in Florida…”
“We have just begun expanding our scope to take on a second critical issue with the addition of the “Stop Common Core” initiative….
“Overall, the mission of the Florida Citizens’ Alliance is to provide tools and support for a decentralized county-by-county effort to empower citizens who are interested in preserving their individual liberty to work together within their communities and counties to advance a rebirth of Liberty in Florida.”
FCA’s supporting organizations include 17 groups with “Tea Party” or “TP” in their name, and the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition.
SWFL Citizens’ Alliance
FCA’s local affiliate SWFL Citizens’ Alliance (SWFLCA) similarly describes itself as “a coalition of citizens and grassroots groups working together through education, outreach and community involvement to advance the ideals and principles of liberty.” It says:
“We hope to develop a dynamic partnership with all groups seeking to inspire a rebirth of liberty in Southwest Florida. In our role as a coalition, we value working together while supporting and encouraging the initiatives of local groups in their communities.”
SWFLCA’s supporters include the Libertarian Party of Collier County, Stop Common Core Florida, Collier 912 Freedom Council, and more.
Their political agenda
FCA believes that “The vast majority of governance should be through local governments and sovereign states. We, the people have a much better chance of influencing government at the local and state levels, so it is critical to ensure that these levels of government retain the power to protect their citizens by limiting the federal government and its ubiquitous overreach of powers.”
Keith Flaugh, founder of both FCA and SWFLCA and a frequent public speaker at Collier School Board meetings, actively lobbied for the anti-Common Core bill.
SWFLCA hosted a series of Collier School Board candidate forums before the 2014 elections, and later reported that “many Florida School Board Candidates won election or re-election after publicly opposing Common Core (rebranded as the Florida Standards) or opposing the accompanying high stakes testing regime.”
The list of winners includes at least one School Board member from each of 28 of Florida’s 67 counties, including, from Collier County, Erika Donalds and Kelly Lichter.
Donalds is one of FCA’s Founding Directors & Advisors, an organizer of the Collier 912 Freedom Council, and a founding member of Parents R.O.C.K. (Rights of Choice for Kids).
Lichter is a member of SWFLCA, Secretary of the Collier County Republican Party, and founder and President of Collier County’s Mason Classical Academy Charter School.
Both Donalds and Lichter signed the “Contract with Collier County, Florida, Voters,” pledging to make “major reforms” to the way our School District operates.
According to the Naples Daily News, the two “represent hard-line conservative views. Both have been vocal about their support for school choice and disdain for federal- and state-mandated learning standards. On the dais, their views have resulted in a divided five-member board, where votes usually come down to three against two. Donalds and Lichter often are in the minority.”
FCA’s lobbying effort
FCA uses grassroots email marketing to assist in its lobbying effort. Check out the list of email blasts the group has issued in the past few months, which includes:
- 01/21/15 – Common Core? We Can Do Better!
- 03/15/15 – Bills to Stop Common Core Will Die THIS WEEK Without Your Help
- 03/30/15 – Common Core and FSA Testing Bill Scheduled for April 1 Senate Vote – It MUST Be Stopped!
What progressive Collier County voters should know
It’s important for progressive Collier County voters to know that these ideologically-motivated groups are out there, and what they want to do.
It’s important to know that the contentious behavior associated with our School Board meetings since November is likely to continue. The two conservative Board members affiliated with these groups have a bully-pulpit from which to publicize their positions and recruit supporters to their cause, and they’ve been effective at getting local attention.
Like-minded candidates will no doubt run for the two School Board seats up for election in 2016. If they win just one of the two seats, they will control the Board.
This isn’t just happening locally. It’s happening across the state and across the country. A quick Google search of “anti-common core school board” resulted in 3.6 million hits.
Many Collier voters – perhaps many of your friends – don’t pay attention to what’s happening with our schools. They don’t monitor School Board meetings. They aren’t aware of the ideological battle under way.
Help me raise their awareness now. We can’t wait until the August 2016 primary elections. There’s too much at stake.
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