SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS
Tuesday, December 12 4:30 P.M. Tuesday, January 16 4:30 P.M.
Tuesday, February 13 4:30 P.M.
all meetings are held in the Dr. Martin Luther King Administration Building unless noted
E-MAIL ADDRESSES FOR THE SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS AND THE SUPERINTENDENT
- Please take the time to email the school board members
- firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,
EVERY VOTE COUNTS
Make sure that your registration in Collier County is correct. If you want a Vote-by-Mail (absentee) Ballot sent to your home, contact:
Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office 3750 Enterprise Ave., Naples, FL 34104 239-252-8683 or www.colliervotes.com
LEGISLATIVE CONTACTS select the name to send an email
Kelly Lichter - Chair
Stephanie Lucarelli - Vice Chair
We were informed that newly elected school board member Jerry Rutherford will propose the following School Board Policy at the September 11 school board meeting:
"We, the School Board of Collier County, solely in the interest of protecting our students, and District from the harmful effects of the following ideologies, do reject the following as Anti-American, Anti-God ideologies whose net effect is to alter or abolish the Constitution of the United States of America, and damage our American Culture.
We, therefore, will identify the ideologies, their origin, their object, and why we reject them.
- Critical Race Theory
- Social Emotional Learning
- DEI Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
- BLM Black Lives Matter
- Gay Agenda
- WOKE "
Mr. Rutherford's proposal is based on the following:
"BRIEF EXPOSITION OF IDEOLOGIES
Most ideologies permeating America today have their roots in Communism, Socialism, Marxism and Secular Humanism. All are anti-American and Anti-God doctrines. I will give a brief definition of each:
1) Critical Race Theory began in the 1930s in the Frankfort School in Germany. It is based in Marxism. Its premise is that all white people are racist white supremacists, and oppressors of black people. White people should be removed.
2) Social Emotional Learning is designed to groom a global work force. It was started in 1994 by Eileen Rockefeller Gronwald and CASEL (Collaborative on Academics, Social and Emotional Learning.) Stephen Rockefeller added CSE, the Collaborative on Spirituality in Education. SEL is connected with CRT, and with
the Resolution at the General Assembly of the United Nations Sept. 19 2016, related to the '2030 Agenda' for Sustainable Development, with the goal of complete control of society by 2030.
3) DEI-Diversity, Equity and Inclusion These programs tout the values of Tolerance and Inclusion--but in reality serve as racist ideology and promote partisan political action. They are designed to replace the system of academic merit with a system of race based preferences which are demonstrably discriminatory, and which, in many cases, explicitly violate Federal law.
4) BLM B l a c k Lives Matter This was sparked by the killing of George Floyd by police. It was truly a bad situation, but people started riots, fires, destroyed
property, looted and committed other crimes. The Bill of Rights preserves the Right of the people to PEACEABLY assemble, which was neither engaged in, nor enforced. The problem of police brutality will never be resolved by violence and destruction.
5) ANTIFA is a leftist Anti-Fascist and Anti-Racist political movement in the US. It consists of a highly decentralized array of autonomous groups. While some Antifa activism is nonviolent, there are an assortment of tactics used, including Digital Activism, Doxing, Harassment, Physical Violence and Property Damage.
These tactics directly violate the Constitution. (Information adapted from a wikipedia article)
6) WOKE is an adjective derived from African American English Vernacular, meaning 'alert to racial justice and discrimination. Beginning in 2010, it came to
encompass a broader awareness of social injustice, such as sexism. WOKE has also been used as shorthand for some philosophies of the American left, involving identity politics and social justice, especially regarding the doctrine of white privilege, and including the proposal of slavery reparations for African Americans.
7) THE GAY AGENDA was written in 1987 by Marshall Kirk and Erastus Pill. It was called, "Overhauling Straight America." The object is to make all Americans to be like themselves. They have been 100% effective in achieving their objectives,
convincing parents, communities, courts, judges and national leaders to accept their ideology as the norm.
These ideologies are all connected in various ways, and their objective is to change the culture, rewrite the history of America, and, ultimately to either rewrite the history of America, and, ultimately to either rewrite or completely discredit the Constitution."
Documents obtained through public records request.
SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS
(IN NOVEMBER, THE SCHOOL BOARD VOTED TO SEND THIS ISSUE TO STAFF TO DEVELOP A POLICY. WE WILL POST MORE INFORMATION AS IT IS FORTHCOMING)
Traditionally in Collier County, school board meetings begin with The Pledge of Allegiance and a Moment of Silence. At least twice in the past few years, the proposal to begin school board meetings with an INVOCATION was introduced, discussed but not adopted. Apparently, the issue will be reintroduced.
We oppose INVOCATIONS at school board meetings. Two Federal Circuit Court decisions have indicated that INVOCATIONS at School Board meetings were not permitted:
Two U.S. circuit courts of appeals have expressly ruled that school board prayers are unconstitutional.
In Coles v. Cleveland Bd. of Ed., the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which encompasses Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, determined that school board meeting prayers are unconstitutional. 171 F.3d 369, 371 (6th Cir. 1999). The reasoning in Coles is particularly helpful in understanding the differences between prayer at school board meetings and other “deliberative” or legislative bodies. As an integral part of the school system, the court held that school board meetings are more like school-sponsored events than legislative meetings. The court relied on a variety of factors, including the fact that:
- Meetings are conducted on school property
- School officials conduct the meetings
- School-related issues are the focal point of discussion at meetings
- Students have an incentive to attend meetings since they cannot voice their opinion through the normal electoral process
- Students have an incentive to attend meetings since the subject-matter of board meetings directly affects them
- Students challenging disciplinary action must appear before the board
- Students are often invited to attend to receive honors or awards
- Students often interact with the board
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which encompasses Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, also struck down prayers at public school board meetings. In Doe v. Indian River School District, the court emphasized that school board prayer is analogous to other school prayer cases when it comes to protecting children from the coercion of school-sponsored prayer. 653 F.3d 256, 275 (3d Cir. 2011). In that case, the court also held that the school board meetings are in “an atmosphere that contains many of the same indicia of coercion and involuntariness that the Supreme Court has recognized elsewhere in its school prayer jurisprudence.” Id.
The court’s “decision [was] premised on careful consideration of the role of students at school boards, the purpose of the school board, and the principles underlying the Supreme Court’s school prayer case law.” Id. at 281. The court concluded that the school board prayer policy “[rose] above the level of interaction between church and state that the Establishment Clause permits.” Id. at 290.
DR. LESLIE RICCIARDELLI
COLLIER COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS.
Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli
Separation of Religion and Government a Local Issue
We call upon the School Board to challenge efforts to 'Christianize' our public schools
Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing
Interfaith Alliance of Southwest Florida
Far too many of the public comments made at the May 3 special meeting of the Collier County School Board reflected the desire to infuse Christian faith and principles into the public education system. Over 100 people signed up to speak in favor of one of the two finalists hoping to become the next CCPS superintendent. Advocates for the candidate who was not selected frequently expressed the view that what is wrong with the world is a lack of “traditional values,” a euphemism for Christian values often used by people who recognize that saying “Christian” might sound too narrow or specific — even when that is what they mean.
The Interfaith Alliance of Southwest Florida stands firmly for the separation of religion and government. Religious freedom is a foundation of American democracy, enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution. No one, including the government, has the right to impose religious beliefs on anyone else. As government-sponsored, taxpayer-funded institutions, public schools may not impose religious beliefs either directly or indirectly.
Even those who say they value religious freedom do not always understand it. They claim freedom — and privilege — for themselves and their Christian faith. Despite historical evidence to the contrary, they assert that America is a Christian nation and argue that the public schools should, for example, reinstate teacher-led prayer in schools. Although students’ own voluntary prayers have never been “taken out” of schools, at the CCPS Board meeting, one board member insisted that when prayer was “taken out” of public schools, SAT scores went down and have never rebounded. A community member advocated that one candidate should be selected as superintendent because he is Christian and an America First patriot. In an interview the candidate himself commented that many of today’s problems exist because so many people are “unchurched.”
The Interfaith Alliance of Southwest Florida is proud of our heritage: America is a nation founded on religious liberty for people of all faiths and no faith. We believe public education is a public good, an institution in which students of all faiths and no faith come together to learn what they need to know to be informed and responsible citizens—including how to live and work with people who are different from themselves. In the best public schools students are taught about diverse religions because that will help them to thrive in our diverse world, but they are never expected or even encouraged to believe or practice one particular religion. When school leaders create an environment that explicitly proclaims Christian values, assumes Christian practices, such as praying in the name of Jesus, or blatantly lifts up Christianity as the foundation of our nation, students and staff of other faiths are seen and treated as “less than” their peers. They may be subjected to bullying or simply excluded. This is not only immoral; it is also unAmerican.
The Interfaith Alliance of Southwest Florida celebrates the fact that our region includes people of many faiths — Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and more. We believe that religious and cultural diversity is essential in building vibrant communities. We believe that all people have intrinsic worth and are entitled to equal rights, dignity, and respect within our society and within our public schools.
We call upon the CCPS School Board to challenge any and all efforts to “Christianize” our public schools. We urge the Board to do everything possible to ensure that students and staff of all faiths and no faith feel equally welcomed, valued, and supported as members of the school district community. We invite all who share these positive values to join with us as we gather diverse faith voices to facilitate meaningful communication and collaboration across our differences.
Interfaith Alliance of Southwest Florida Steering Committee: Rev. Tony Fisher, Lisa Freund, Rev. Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing, Kristin Muschett, Rev. Dr. Barrion Staples
FROM AMERICANS UNITED FOR THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
THE REAL STORY ABOUT SCHOOL PRAYER
When the Supreme Court’s ultra-conservative majority ruled last year in AU’s Kennedy v. Bremerton case that a public school football coach could say a private, personal prayer on the 50-yard line after football games, I warned that religious extremists would misconstrue and exploit that opinion to advance their crusade of inserting coercive prayer and religion into public schools.
That’s exactly what’s been happening in states across America this year. Texas legislators have proposed a trio of bad bills that would require the Ten Commandments to be displayed in public school classrooms, allow religious chaplains to replace qualified school counselors, and allow public schools to schedule a period for prayer and Bible reading. At least five states have proposed bills designed to encourage public school employees to pray with students. We narrowly defeated a West Virginia bill that would have allowed intelligent design creationism in public schools. And we’re seeing those old Project Blitz bills popping up that would allow or even require schools to display “In God We Trust” and offer Bible classes.
The Supreme Court’s Kennedy opinion didn’t change the fact that the Constitution prohibits public schools from sponsoring prayer. This line has always been clear: Public school employees and officials cannot take advantage of their power and position to impose their personal religion on a captive audience of schoolchildren.
That’s why we welcomed updated guidance from the Biden administration’s Department of Education this week that reaffirmed this core tenet of public education: Public schools must be open and inclusive for students of every religion and none. This federal guidance centers the religious freedom of public school students, whose rights should always be the first priority for lawmakers, educators, parents and all of us who care about the vital role public education plays in our society.
At a time when Christian Nationalists and their political allies are attacking public schools from every direction, it’s more important than ever that we support public education. Like the separation of church and state, public schools are a key component of our democracy. In our “One Nation, All Beliefs” pledge, we specifically mention “ensuring public education welcomes everyone and respects the religious freedom of all students, and that public funds support public schools, not private religious institutions.”
FLORIDA NEEDS TO INVEST IN ITS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
According to data from the NEA, Florida is 48th in its support of public schools and 49th in average teacher salary.
We need to do better. Please share these numbers and pressure our legislature to do better.
2023 LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
Public School Funding
- Increase the Base Student Allocation and State Categorical Programs by at least 5% annually so that Florida achieves a ranking of at least #20 nationwide in PreK-12 educational funding by 2025.
- Prohibit any new unfunded mandates for public schools.
- Eliminate all taxpayer funding of private K-12 schools.
- Until taxpayer of private schools has ended, expand the Hope Scholarship Program to include an option for car buyers to designate their sales tax portion to go to public school funding.
- Cease all legislative reductions of Florida future revenues until Florida’s allocation to public school funding reaches the nationwide average.
- Encourage the Florida Department of Education to apply for any and all federal funding available to support Pre-K-12 public schools.
Recruitment and Retention of Quality Educators
- Increase the Base Student Allocation (BSA) until Florida ranks at least #20 in national average teacher and educational support personnel salaries by 2025.
- Expand DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Program) to 7 years.
- Establish the EDUCATOR INCENTIVE SCHOLARSHIP/LOAN PROGRAM which would cover tuition costs for in-state education students and reduce pay-back a percentage for each year the educator teaches at a Florida public school.
- Return to Professional Services Contracts to provide employee security.
- Continue new employment open enrollment in the defined benefit program of the Florida Retirement System.
(Charter schools are public schools, receiving public funds, both state and local.)
- Improve oversight of charter schools by the elected county school board.
- Deny petitions for new, renewed, or materially revised charter schools operated or managed by for-profit companies.
- Limit approval of new charter applications to those that address specific academic or space needs not met by the local school district.
- Require that a charter school, if closed, return all remaining public funds, and materials and capital investments purchased with taxpayer funds.
- Clarify state law concerning charter school governance to assure equal application of requirements and consequences if those requirements are not met or are violated.
Accountability for all state educational funds
- Hold all schools that receive state funding to the same standards and testing as public schools.
- Hold all schools that receive state and/or federal funding to the anti-discrimination standards that apply to K-12 regular public schools.
- Reduce the number of state-required exams to not exceed the minimum required under the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and provide the assessments in predominant languages of non-English speaking students.
Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK)
- Fund pilot programs of full-day VPK and programs for three-year-olds in high need areas.
- Implement legislation for the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program (VPK) similar to HB 1091 enacted in 2018 which currently impacts the School Readiness (SR) Program.
- Use assessment only for the purposes for which they were designed. Quality child development assessments should be used to inform instruction. They are not valid to determine program quality.
- Provide increased funding for PreK students and allow for differentiated funding for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) programs that employ teachers with current Florida certification.
Support One Topic/One Bill Requirement for the Legislature
Nonpartisan School Board Elections.
- Support the Constitutional mandate for nonpartisan school board elections by adding “or school board” to Title IX, Chapter 105, Sections 105.071 and 105.09 of Florida Statutes.
NONPARTISAN SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS - OUR LETTER TO THE PUBLIC
Article IX, SECTION 4. School districts; school boards. —a) Each county shall constitute a school district; provided, two or more contiguous counties, upon vote of the electors of each county pursuant to law, may be combined into one school district. In each school district there shall be a school board composed of five or more members chosen by vote of the electors in a nonpartisan election for appropriately staggered terms of four years, as provided by law.
What was the intent of the Florida voters in 1998 when over 64% agreed to make school board elections nonpartisan? The Constitution Revision Commission that year stated: “There is no place for partisan politics in education”. Perhaps they wanted to keep dirty politics away from the schoolhouse door.
But when is something that is nonpartisan really nonpartisan? The Florida legislature, in Title IX, Chapter 105 of Florida Statute, agreed that school board elections should be nonpartisan. The purpose was to make sure that school board elections are about kids and not about politics. Therefore, it was quite shocking that, in Collier County this year, both major political parties endorsed candidates for the Collier School Board and handed out voter information guides at the polls that included endorsed school board candidates’ names. In addition, the candidates themselves indicated to potential voters that they were officially endorsed by the political parties and indicated their membership in that political party. The only thing that was nonpartisan was that the candidates had no R or D next to their names on the ballots.
Well, there must be two very different definitions of nonpartisan in Title IX, Section 105 of Florida Statutes (the LAW) because subsections 105.071 and 105.09 make all these activities unlawful for judges but does not mention school board members. So, nonpartisan for some is different than nonpartisan for others in Florida law.
I approached the Collier Supervisor of Elections, Jennifer Edwards, and asked her if, given the nonpartisan nature of the school board elections, this behavior was permissible? She replied that her hands were tied, and I should approach the legislature.
Political parties have a political agenda and, unfortunately, in the state of Florida, the political agenda is often co-mingled with education. School is about KIDS, not political parties. And it is apparent that people need to be reminded.
I am asking you and/or your organization to join with me and advocate that the Florida legislature add or school board to Title IX, Chapter 105, Sections 105.071 and 105.09 which would make school board elections truly nonpartisan.
Thank you for your consideration on this matter.
IS THE NEW CIVICS CURRICULUM RIGHT-WING INDOCTRINATION?
TEACHERS WHO ATTENDED TRAINING SEEM TO THINK SO!
(As a former history teacher, I contacted the state and was given the link to the slides that were used in the training (which have since been taken down). I surveyed two of the slide programs: Separation of Church and State and the Declaration of Independence. I found both inadequately covered slavery, leaned toward a Christian Nationalist slant and seemed to tie our original documents towards religion.)
LINK TO THE MSNBC PROGRAM ABOUT TEACHER TRAINING WITH THE NEW CIVICS CURRICULUM.
THESE ARE THE ADDED RUBRICS FOR THE EVALUATION
OF MATH BOOKS
1. Critical Race Theory: Do materials align to Rule 6A-1.094124, F.A.C., which prohibits Critical Race Theory (CRT), in instructional materials?
2. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Do instructional materials omit Culturally Responsive Teaching as it relates to CRT?
3. Social Justice: Do instructional materials omit Social Justice as it relates to CRT?
4. Social Emotional Learning: Do instructional materials NOT solicit Social Emotional Learning (SEL), as these are considered extraneous and unsolicited strategies outside the scope of subject-area standards.
TO SEE THE ENTIRE MATH RUBRIC, GO TO OUR MENU AND SELECT 2022 MATH RUBRIC
Next year, Social Studies books will be evaluated with these same standards. As a former US History teacher, I question how any book, other than "whitewashed" history, will pass.
THE GOOD, BAD AND UGLY
THE GOOD: Florida lawmakers approved the largest state budget ever, $112.1 billion dollars which includes $3.4 billion in federal stimulus money. This legislation includes $800 million to increase teacher salaries and a large increase in funding for public schools; per pupil funding will top $8000 for the first time - a $384.55 (4.96%) boost for each of Florida's 2.9 million students - bringing per student dollars to $8,142. The Florida Education Association was pleased with the increase which it called " a great investment in our students" but worried about the salary issues. There was also a controversial $200 million into a school recognition program that would go to schools receiving A grades from the state.
THE BAD: The state Department of Education estimates that we may have as many as 9,000 teacher vacancies and almost 5000 support staff vacancies. "Recruiting and retaining teachers and staff must be a top goal" according to FEA President Andrew Spar.
THE UGLY: The most controversial bills involved restrictions on the teaching about race-related issues, sexual orientation and gender identity. HB 1557 Parental Rights in Education – Stigmatizes and undermines existing protections for LGBTQI+ students. Called the "Don't Say Gay" bill, it bars even discussion of these topics in the primary grades and "age appropriate" in other grades. HB 7 Individual Freedom – Inhibits teaching of critical thinking in schools. Subjects schools, teachers and businesses to costly and disruptive lawsuits. Impinges on the right to free speech. Called the "stop WOKE" bill.
Guest opinion: A closer look at public education priorities
Dr. Kathleen Holmes Reynolds and Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing
Special to the Naples Daily News, March 2, 2021
The Coalition for Quality Public Education, C4QPE.org, is an inclusive group of concerned Southwest Florida residents committed to protecting and promoting quality public education. We work to increase public awareness of programs and achievements of local public schools, and to increase awareness of issues facing education. If you agree with our positions as discussed below, contact your Florida legislators to let them know.
Increase funding for public schools:
Our nation depends on an educated citizenry. Public schools must be provided with the resources necessary to address this critical mission. According to the 2019 Quality Counts Report, Florida’s investment per student is below the national average, $9,764 to $12,756. World Population Review of 2020 data notes that Florida is 43rd in the nation in terms of investments in K-12. In 2008 it was $7399. In 2021, it’s $7,839, a disturbingly low increase of only 5.9% over thirteen years.
Establish accountability for all Florida education funding:
While the funding of Florida’s public schools has been stagnant, the public dollar increase for private schools has been enormous, with tax funded scholarships increasing 119% from 2015 to 2020 ($565,877.955 to $1,240,670,504). While Florida tops the nation in tax payer funding for private schools, now in excess of $1,500,000,000 annually, there is no accountability. C4QPE will petition legislators to hold all schools receiving state dollars to the same standards and testing that public schools must meet. Further, these schools must adhere to the same anti-discrimination standards applying to K-12 public schools.
Establish accountability for charter schools:
The same applies to charter schools; state law concerning charter school governance must be clarified to insure equality of requirements and consequences if legal mandates are not met. The ability of elected school boards to oversee charter schools must be increased, not decreased. While Collier County has been blessed with some outstanding charter schools, statewide there is a different track record. A report issued by the Network for Public Education in 2020 showed that between 1999 and 2017, more than 25% of charter schools nationwide closed after operating for 5 years or less, and about 50% closed after 15 years. In Florida, better than 40% of charter schools closed within 10 or fewer years, and better than 25% closed within 5 or fewer years. This represents massive, multimillions, if not billions, of lost tax payer dollars. Charters need local oversight and support from citizens’ elected representatives, particularly when determinations are being made regarding the creation of new ones.
Parents, students, and teachers oppose the inappropriate number of required tests. They divert much needed time for instruction to time preparing and administering tests. The number of required exams in Florida should not exceed the minimum required under the Federal Elementary and Secondary Act. Further, in fairness to all students, required tests should be given in the predominant language of English language learners.
Increase support for early learning:
Research touts the benefits of early childhood education. Success in later years of school appears related to participation in pre-school experiences. C4QPE advocates enhanced support for early learning by funding full day Voluntary PreK (four-year old) programs and programs for three-year- olds in high need areas; increased per student funding for VPK programs; and funding for teachers who hold Florida education certification to be paid at higher rates.
A listing of legislators on Education Committees is available on the C4QPE.org website. If you agree with any or all of the positions taken here, please take the time to let your elected representatives know. Also, please consider joining the Coalition in its work to protect and promote quality public education.
Dr. Kathleen Holmes Reynolds, former CEO — Early Learning Coalition of SWFL, and Dr. Sharon Harris-Ewing, former professor, Dept. of Teacher Education, Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY. Both are currently co-presidents of the Coalition for Quality Public Education, a nonprofit organization committed to protecting and supporting quality public education in Collier County. (www.C4QPE.org)
YOU DON'T HAVE TO JOIN TO GET ON OUR MAILING LIST!
JUST EMAIL email@example.com AND ASK TO BE ADDED TO THE LIST
VISIT AND LIKE OUR FACEBOOK PAGE -
THE COALITION FOR
QUALITY PUBLIC EDUCATION
The Coalition is a diverse and growing group of residents committed to protecting and supporting quality public education in Collier County.
What are our concerns? We believe that the functioning of the School Board, staff and administration is being impeded by politically and ideologically motivated groups pursuing political agendas detrimental to our public schools. This adversely impacts our District's ability to follow state mandates, educational standards, accountability and teacher autonomy in the classroom.
We strongly oppose efforts to: censor educational materials and content, divert funds to sectarian schools, advocate any religious belief and shift funding away from public schools under the pretense of "school choice".
What we believe: Public education in America is a national treasure that MUST be strengthened; NOT weakened or destroyed!
Our tasks are: to increase public awareness of the important programs and achievements in our Collier County Public Schools (CCPS); to engage others to constructively support our schools; to assure that our schools remain accredited for the economic growth and success of our community.
The Coalition for Quality PublicEducation (C4QPE) is a 501(c)(3) corporation. Contributions are tax deductible.
Supreme Court Denies Employment Protection to More Religious School Teachers
These cases address when religious schools may ignore all laws against employment discrimination in the treatment of their teachers, under a judge-made rule called the“ministerial exception.”
In the 2012 case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, the Supreme Court ruled that the ministerial exception prevented a teacher at a private religious school from making a disability-discrimination claim under the Americans with
Disabilities Act. In that case, the Court interpreted the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment to grant houses of worship and religious schools autonomy in the selection of clergy. Based on that reasoning, the Court held that it would be unconstitutional governmental interference with religion if employment discrimination laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applied to the hiring and firing practices of houses of worship and religious schools when selecting those who preach, teach, and lead their congregations. These laws, which would otherwise protect workers from discrimination on the basis of
race, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and other protected categories, thus do not apply to ministerial employees. The consolidated cases decided on July 8, 2020, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v.
Morrissey-Berru and St. James School v. Biel, address how the ministerial exception applies to lay (i.e., non-clergy) teachers at religious schools. The cases involved two fifth-grade lay teachers from private Catholic schools in California:
● Kristen Biel was fired after she was diagnosed with breast cancer; she has since died. She taught regular secular subjects but also was required to teach religion
for 200 minutes a week and administer a test on religion every week. She used a religion textbook, taught her students about Catholic practices, and worshipped
with her students. She was required to open and close each school day with a prayer.
● Agnes Morrissey-Berru was fired, after a decade of teaching, when she turned 64. She taught regular secular subjects plus a daily religion class; she led daily
classroom prayers; she planned liturgy for Mass once a month; and she was a certified Catechist with training in Catholic doctrine. The cases asked whether the schools could count these two teachers as ministers,
placing them within the scope of the ministerial exception and thus allowing the schools
to ignore the federal laws against employment discrimination on the basis of age and
The majority of the Court determined that both teachers fell within the ministerial exception, and thus that they could not bring employment-discrimination claims against their schools.
MONTANA DECISION 6-29-20
SCOTUS Says that States Must Force Taxpayers to Fund Religious Education
In Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, the court ruled 5-4 that voucher programs must fund religious schools. Chief Justice Roberts stated: “…once a state decides to (subsidize private education), it can not disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious.” Originally in 2018, the Montana Supreme Court struck down the state’s voucher program because it forced residents to pay for religious instruction. A national pro-voucher group appealed on behalf of three parents and SCOTUS agreed to hear the case.
In our opinion, forcing taxpayers to pay for private religious instruction is a violation of their religious freedom. Public funds should not be used for religious purposes – period! The Establishment Clause of the Constitution created, in Mr. Jefferson’s words, a “wall of separation between Church and State”.
Like Montana, three-quarters of the state constitutions, including Florida, have a provision called a No Aid Clause that is designed to protect taxpayers from funding religious practices. While the case did NOT challenge the constitutionality of the No Aid Clauses found in these 37 states, it came close to doing so. While this opinion is limited to this case, the extent of the opinion may apply to a broad range of other situations where religious freedom is asserted. The conservative justices complained that the origins of the No Aid Clauses were in the 19th century anti-Catholic movement (see Blaine Amendment). However, when states revised their constitutions, like Montana in 1972, they kept their No Aid Clauses.
In Florida, more than $1 BILLION of state funds flows indirectly to private schools, 84% of which are religious. We know that many of the schools, like 10 of the 12 religious schools in Montana, have discriminatory polices and promulgate religiously biased interpretations of science, civics and history.
Given this decision, it is more important than ever that we fight all private school voucher programs that divert desperately needed funds away from our public school system.
PUBLIC FUNDS TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS!
Voucher Schools Discriminate
The voucher programs in the state of Florida send over $1 billion worth of public money to private, mostly religious schools that have no accountability. The Orlando Sentinel (1) recently found at least 156 Christian schools with anti-gay views educated than 20,800 students with voucher scholarships. More than 80 of those schools had blatant discrimination policies that deny admission to gay children, expel or discipline students who reveal that they are gay, and refuse to educate children of LGBTQ parents. One school that received $371,000 in state voucher money told a mother, a firefighter married to a US Air Force veteran, that her children were not welcome because the married couple were two females.
Trinity Christian Academy, in Deland, received more than $1 million last year in vouchers; yet it’s handbook indicates that a student can be expelled for admitting to be gay.
Some voucher schools do an excellent job, welcoming all children regardless of faith, ethnicity, origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. They not only welcome LGBTQ students but teach that discrimination against anyone is wrong.
But the facts are the facts. Some of the major corporations that redirect their tax obligations to vouchers are starting to rethink their involvement. Rosen Resorts, Fifth Third Bank, and Wells Fargo have ended their contributions. A Wells Fargo spokesperson stated: “ . . . we oppose discrimination of any kind”. I tend to think that most of the contributors would feel the same way if they knew the facts!
Bills have been filed in the Florida Senate (S-56 Rouson) and Florida House (HB45 Eskamani) that would prohibit private schools that deny enrollment to students based on “race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity” from participating in the voucher program. I spoke to all three members of the Collier County legislative delegation and two representatives told me that they would NOT support this bill.
What do we do?
- Write our legislators that schools that receive PUBLIC funds should NEVER discriminate against any students based or sexual orientation or identity or any other reason.
- Write to the companies that contribute to the voucher programs and educate them about the degree of discrimination.
- Inform our school boards, and city and county officials of these discriminatory practices within the voucher program.
LIST OF COMPANIES THAT CONTRIBUTE TO VOUCHERS IN FLORIDA
ABC Fine Wine & Spirits
ACE Group Insurance
American Income Life
American Integrity Insurance
Ark Royal Insurance
Ascendant Commercian Insurance
ATIC (Americans Traditions Insurance)
BAC Florida Bank
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
City Beverages Budweiser
Center State Bank
Cigar City Brewing
FineMark National Bank
Florida Doctors Insurance
Farm Bureau Insurance
Florida Public Utilities
Florida Specialty Insurance
Global Imaging Systems
Gold Coast Beverages
Ground Works Solutions
Guardian Life Insurance
Kingsway Amigo Insurance
Jewelers Mutual Insurance
KAR Auction Services
Liberty National Life
Lincoln Benefit Life
Mutual of Omaha Bank
Peace River Distributing
Philadelphia Insurance Companies
Republic National Distributing
Security First Insurance
Southern Oak Insurance
Southern Eage Distributing
Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits
The Main Street America Group
Tower Hill Insurance
Tractor Supply Company
US Century Bank
Universal North America
Zeno Office Solutions
Dr. Leslie Ricciardelli speaks about College and Career Readiness.
Ms. Yoland Flores talks about Career Readiness from a Technical School paradigm.
Sandy Parker speaks about CCPS
Kathy Curatolo and Stephanie Lucarelli describe their life on the school board.
Our panel from the January 23 program
Barbara Melvin, Vice President, Collier County NAACP
Kevin Saba, Administrative Director of School Operations, CCPS
Patrick Woods, Assistant Superintendent of Operations, CCPS
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