Vote “NO” on Sarasota school tax: It won’t help the children, never has and never will

Sarasota County, Florida residents may now vote early on a Sarasota County school district tax. A resident of Sarasota County sent out an email stating:

Election Day March 25 is a week away but you can say NO early. Originally, this was supposed to be a temporary tax but they repeat it every 4 years in a special election that cost taxpayers $500,00 because a low turnout insures a win for them.

Governor Scott & the FL Legislature increased millions for funding for schools and each teacher was given a $250 debit card for school supplies.

The 6,000 employees of the Sarasota Schools will be voting YES to take more of your money…..It’s time to tell them NO!  I plan to do that today and I ask you to join me.


Front row: Todd, Zucker, Brown. Back row: Goodwin, Kovach

This special election is how the Sarasota County School Board gets what it wants by suppressing the vote with an off cycle election costing property owners $500,000 that could be used for school programs. It has worked before and these school board members like it because they can now raise teacher salaries with historically no impact on student performance.

Sarasota resident Nick Catsakis writes:

A few years ago, the first time the school tax referendum had been held it was resoundingly defeated. That had been in a General Election in November, as is natural, when large numbers of citizens turn out to vote on multiple Federal, State and local candidates and on several other issues.

The schools then figured out a way to outsmart taxpayers and finally get the school tax passed by scheduling it in a Special Election in March when very few people go vote. While the voter turn out in November that rejected the tax had been 64 per cent of registered voters in the County, in the last Special Election held in the month of March, it was only a pitiful 14 per cent, with virtually the only ones voting being the schoolteachers in force, everyone else on the schools payroll and employees of construction, suppliers and contractor businesses that live off the school budget.

The problem with our schools, like everything run by government, is not lack of funding which has been increasing at a far faster pace than the increase in the number of pupils or the cost of living. The problem is that wasteful spending is wildly out of control and without accountability, such as on a myriad of procurements that are totally unneeded and are even discarded unused, or on unnecessary administrative staff and more and more consultants.

How’s about $40 thousand for basket ball loops that open and close electronically to prevent use after school hours: or $8 thousand electronic “activeboards” in each classroom which are so complicated many teachers never learned how to use them; or trading-in new school buses still under warrantee for even newer, huge ones that never run anywhere full capacity, with every conceivable luxury option onboard such as electronic GPS for the driver’s use? One wonders how businessmen can talk School Board members into such frivolous spending of taxpayer dollars. Perhaps it is funding School Board candidates’ electoral campaigns that afford them influence over how taxpayer dollars are ultimately spent. And the teacher union is a financially and politically a formidably influential force.

I can’t believe our schools are broke and need voters to extend once more the “temporary”, emergency school tax while they are constructing such palatial campuses as the new Venice High with a huge, state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center, reminiscent of New York’s Lincoln Center, and the brand new campuses at Riverview, North Port, multiple Sarasota Technical Institute campuses, Lemon Bay under construction and elsewhere.

I will go out to vote “no” on the school tax referendum this March and I urge other taxpayers to also do the same so we can outvote all those teachers that will be voting. If the tax is rejected, my property tax on my home will come down.

The School Board is “all in on Common Core.” This property tax money will be used to help implement it.

Dr. Karen Effrem, President of Education Liberty Watch, writes,”Look at the abundant evidence that the testing company for the Florida contract are fully Common Core aligned.  The recent news stories by the East Orlando Post and WUSF show that the testing contract, AIR (American Institutes for Research), are developing the test for SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium), which is the other federally funded, federally supervised national testing consortium testing the national Common Core standards.  In addition, AIR bills itself as “one of the world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.” This is more evidence that psychological teaching and testing is part of Common Core and the standards, by whatever name they are deceptively being labeled that are taught and tested in Florida, despite the concerns raised in the governor’s executive order.

In addition- The data protection bills going through the legislature will protect student data privacy while relying on the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a fallacy.

TRUTH: Again, information is being presented that is misinformed, ignorant, or knowingly deceptive. As we have documented since last year during the fight over SB 878, the infamous data mining bill, any “FERPA exceptions” render proposed data protections completely meaningless.  There is an entire section of the FERPA regulations titled “99.31 Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information?” that is explained in detail in our response to the deceptive letterto Arne Duncan signed by 34 chief state school officers, including Pam Stewart, trying to give the impression that individual student data will not be given to the federal government, when both PARCC and SBAC clearly admitthat it will be.  To be meaningful, any data protection bill must not be based on the non-existent protections in FERPA and must prohibit psychosocial teaching, testing and data collection.

If you wish to contact the Sarasota County School Board members and tell them what you think about the tax or their support for Common Core here are their email addresses and phone number. Three are up for reelection in November 2014 – Zucker, Brown and Goodwin:

School Board
Phone: (941) 927-9000 ext. 31147

To Email all 5 School Board Members:

Jane Goodwin Chair

Frank Kovach Vice Chair

Shirley Brown

Caroline Zucker

Dr. Carol Todd

UPDATE: The following Letter to the Editor appeared in the Sarasota Observer on March 20, 2014. The vote on the school tax referendum is on Tuesday, March 25th.

Schools have enough

Sadly, the citizens of Sarasota are, once again, being hornswoggled by the Sarasota County School Board and teachers’ unions.

Despite having $500 million to run the Sarasota County public schools, the school board is asking voters to continue funding a $45 million-a-year, one-mill property tax. The election is Tuesday, March 25, with early voting underway now.

We should all support high-quality education for the good of our children and the future competitiveness of our country. But our public-school students already enjoy a high budget per student, and the generous pay and benefits of their teachers are already more than those of their private-sector counterparts.

Despite this, the school board and union representatives threaten dire classroom cutbacks, but say little about reducing expenses outside of teacher costs. Why are there fewer than 2,500 teachers in classrooms, out of almost 5,000 school employees?

The teachers’ unions are the T-Rexes of government-employees unions. Most public-school teachers and other government employees are forced to belong to unions, and a portion of their dues is earmarked for political contributions, over which they have no choice or control.

These coerced political contributions are then used by the union bosses to buy politicians, who then support policies favoring the unions, not the students. Example: Better education is one of the best ways to help promising young students out of poverty; poor families overwhelmingly support school-choice vouchers; politicians cynically oppose school vouchers because of opposition from teachers’ unions, the largest contributors to politicians.

Sarasotans have seen the values of homes decline about 30% in recent years, while our property taxes have not. Nor have the budgets or employment rolls of the various parts of our local government.

Let’s be clear: The teachers’ unions have huge influence over the school board. Our property taxes and special assessments are now about a $1 billion annually, with more than half earmarked for public schools. That’s for a population of only about 375,000 citizens. That’s almost $14,000 per student per year. Enough should be enough.

What’s more, let’s forget the substance of the argument and focus instead on the election process. Instead of holding this referendum at a regular November election time, the school board conducts this election in the spring when turnout typically is lower than in November elections. Four years ago, less than 18% of voters approved the tax.

The school board will say that everyone can vote, but if the school board believes in democracy, it should be encouraging voting by observing the conventional November schedule. While the school board will say the $45 million is well spent, the real issue is how the entire $500 million is being spent.

What can be done about this? One, voters can reject renewing the tax. Then, replace the school board with members who care about students, not unions; and hold these election when the turnout is greatest.

Arthur Urciuoli

Nokomis, Florida