My View: education crisis is America’s new civil rights crisis

schoolchoiceImagine if today–in 2013–a group of politicians pulled a George Wallace and stood in a doorway blocking certain students from entering a schoolhouse due to their race and/or societal class.

The outcry against such an act would be heard sea to shining sea with shouts of condemnation so loud they would make an 80s rock concert sound like a harpsichord recital.  The politicians behind it would be excoriated and forced out of public life forever–and rightfully so.

Thankfully the bad old days of racial segregation in public schools are long gone, and students of any race, religion and background have full access to public schools.

However, access to the schoolhouse building does not guarantee access to education–that is, the kind of education students need to at the very least be able to provide for themselves and their families as they enter adulthood.

It is no secret that many of our nation’s schools are failing their students.  The statistics speak for themselves.  But a closer look at those figures, as well as basic observation reveals that those suffering the most are pretty much the same who were denied entry to the schoolhouse in the 1960s.

Many would point the finger at income inequality, nuclear family disintegration, prejudicial barriers, historical hardships, or a combination thereof.  I mean, what else could explain that public schools in more affluent white areas outperform their counterparts in minority, less affluent areas and inner cities, especially when in most cases, they receive similar levels of funding from government?

However, asserting those are the reasons for overall education inequality essentially lays the blame on the students and their circumstances rather than on the schools and their administrators and teachers.

School choice has, in my view successfully challenged this axiom, and placed the onus where it belongs: on the schools (and those who operate them).

For years I have been a school choice proponent because I believe that competition among schools and school systems increases quality and efficiency just as it does in the free market.

A few jobs ago, I was the legislative aide to the Florida State Representative that sponsored and shepherded several of Former Governor Jeb Bush’s education reforms through the Florida House of Representatives.  In that capacity, I learned a great deal about school choice and the quantifiable gains students make through it.  But it never really impacted me on a personal level until last month. Continue reading

Primary Elections Recap

After months of fundraising, campaigning, scheming, punching, and counter-punching, candidates across Florida saw the fruits of their efforts come (and go) in the couple of hours after polls closed at 7pm yesterday.

Many outcomes were expected, some were surprising, and a few were just plain bizarre. On that note, what’s up with Central Florida? I mean, they actually elected the prosecutor who botched the Casey Anthony Trial as their new State Attorney? Seriously?  Oh well. I digress.

Anyway, this is a recap of election results and how things stand in some of the races we at took a position on: Continue reading

Gus “El Chivatón” Barreiro misleads senior citizens about conservative bona fides

This week Gus “El Chivatón” Barreiro dropped a seemingly positive mail piece in Spanish to senior citizens in the State House district he seeks to represent (pictured below).

It features pictures of prominent Republicans–Senator Marco Rubio, former Governor Jeb Bush, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and GOP Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney–with bold text that declares: “Gustavo Barreiro SUPPORTS our Republican leaders.

Note how he uses his full, more Spanish-sounding name “Gustavo” instead of “Gus” in a Spanish mailing…but I digress. Continue reading

Florida’s Public Policy Vacuum

(Originally published 5/4/10 on

Allow me to talk shop a little bit to set up my point.

My job in Florida is to promote free market reforms to the property insurance system that Charlie Crist largely socialized when he became governor in 2007. Without entering into specifics of his ill-conceived reforms, Crist basically imposed a “public option” type system of property insurance on Florida that essentially transferred massive liabilities from private property insurance companies to the state-run property insurance company. This means Florida taxpayers have assumed those massive liabilities.

Just like Obama’s true motives were to drive health insurance companies out of business when he tried to impose a public option on the country’s health insurance system, Charlie Crist’s public option has driven away most of the state’s large private insurance companies. Coverage by these has largely been replaced by the underfunded state-run insurer and small, untested, fly-by-night insurance companies most of which are sure to go bankrupt if even as much as a weak hurricane hits the state. In short, Florida is one hurricane away from either going bankrupt or facing the very real possibility of having tens of thousands of its storm-ravaged citizens not having their claims paid.

Think about that for one second: the state goes bankrupt and/or an entire region of the state can’t recover from a storm because claims can’t get paid, which eventually also bankrupts the state.

The good news is, the legislature is beginning to notice the importance of this issue, and there have been attempts by statesmen to address it (yes, some politicians are actually statesmen).
The bad news is, as usual, Crist.

Last year the Legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill that would have largely addressed Florida’s insurance crisis. Among other things, it would have allowed companies to charge rates based on the free market and risk. Opponents demagogued it saying that it would drive up rates, obviously omitting the fact that it would lure more competitors into the market, spread the risk, and ensure solvency so people could actually get their claims paid after the storm. Crist’s response: he vetoed it.

This year, a similar bill, albeit a weaker version of last year’s, was moving through the legislative process. The bill was changed to address the concerns Crist had raised in last year’s so-called “veto message.” But as anyone in Florida’s legislative process can attest, any “substantive” reasons Crist may cite in a veto message are mere excuses used to justify a veto done only to score cheap political points with the interest group or demographic du jour.

Crist acted like a grade school student who stuck his fingers in his ears and repeatedly yelled “rate incrase rate increase!” as others were trying to reason with him.

In short, there has been a complete lack of public policy gravitas in the governor’s office since Jeb Bush’s departure. For Crist, no serious policy issue is serious, no potential consequences are of consequence, and every official decision that has to be made must be weighed against the interests of his own political career. Anything that is bad for Charlie in the short-term must be treated as bad policy and must be rendered moot no matter how vital or beneficial it is to the state and its citizens in the long-term.

Issues unrelated to property insurance do not deviate from that narrative. For example, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 6, a teacher merit pay bill favored by many teachers, legislative leaders, Jeb Bush, and education reformers nationwide, but vociferously opposed by the teacher’s unions. As the bill moved through the legislative process, Crist had explicitly indicated he would sign the bill through personal conversations with legislative leaders and even through public declarations by his official representatives at hearings where the bill was being debated.

Despite his stated support for the bill, Crist vetoed it after the loud minority opposition reached a fever pitch. Devoid of a core support base, Crist killed the bill hoping the teacher’s union would fill the void Republicans across the state left when they abandoned him after years of throwing in with Democrats on issue after issue. He hedged his bets and figured the union would rescue his fledgling US Senate campaign. This morning I saw an ad paid for by the Florida Education Association (the state’s teacher’s union) thanking him for vetoing SB6.

This is the Florida of Charlie Crist’s cyncism and opportunism, where an outright and proven lie in the form of a veto earns him in-kind paid media today, and another veto will plunge the state into an unprecedented financial catastrophe that will adversely impact every Floridian tomorrow when Crist is not around to deal with it. Both, however, are the result of Charlie Crist’s desperate confusion about his role as governor as he continues in his schmaltzy dither to govern with his eye on the next office.