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  • Please take the time to email the school board members, Mr. Fishbane and Dr. Patton.


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Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office 3750 Enterprise Ave., Naples, FL 34104             239-252-8683 or

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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,, 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.

Eliminate over-testing:

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 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. (

1. 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.

2. 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.
• Return to Professional Services Contracts to provide employee security.

3. Charter Schools

(Charter schools are public schools, receiving public funds, both state and local.) added 1/7/21

• 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.
• Allow county public school boards, on a district-wide basis, to waive the same laws, regulations and rules that charter schools can waive.
  • Clarify state law concerning charter school governance to assure equal application of requirements and consequences if those requirements are not met or are violated. (added 1/7/21)
• Require Hope Charter Schools to accept and transport any students
previously enrolled in the school(s) they replaced.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. Support one topic/one bill requirement for the

 By Surface Mail and Email

Governor Ron DeSantis

Office of the Governor

State of Florida

400 S. Monroe Street

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001


Commissioner Richard Corcoran

Florida Department of Education

Turlington Building

325 W. Gaines St.

Tallahassee, FL

19 August 2020

Dear Governor DeSantis and Commissioner Corcoran:

 On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Coalition for Quality Public Education and as advocates for public schools, our first priority is the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff. We believe that decisions about how to safely engage students in learning should be based on the best science available, including specific information about the prevalence of the coronavirus in particular communities. The local Boards of Health should be the first resource for providing up-to-date, valid and reliable information regarding local situations. The Boards of Health must be empowered and encouraged to share information with school district leaders, and to make recommendations based on accurate, scientific data.

 We are deeply committed to local control. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to allow locally elected school boards working in partnership with the Superintendent and school administration, to make decisions about how students will safely return to school in their own communities. Such critical decisions cannot and should not be made by political leaders hundreds of miles away who are unaware of the particular needs and vulnerabilities in different communities.

 Furthermore, local school boards should be able to make these decisions without the threat of any penalty from the state, including any threat to withhold funds. There should be nothing preventing local school boards from doing the right thing for their students, even if that means teaching and learning are 100% virtual for some period of time.

The risk of potential deaths or serious prolonged illnesses of students and staff is far too great for decisions to be based on anything less than all available expert information, including scientific information about the coronavirus, and full and reliable data about virus transmission—or to be made by anyone other than the leaders closest to and most knowledgeable about local conditions, including school district resources. 

Thank you for considering this request.  We look forward to hearing from you regarding your future actions related to this critically important request.



Kathleen H. Reynolds

Kathleen Holmes Reynolds, Ph.D.

Sharon H. Ewing

Sharon Harris-Ewing, Ph.D.

Co-Presidents, Coalition for Quality Public Education

Collier County

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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.

         DeVos Steers Virus Money to Private Schools


A Trump Administration policy will send a greater share of coronavirus relief funding to private schools.  Normally, under Federal rules, funding is shared based on the number of low-income students rather than total enrollment.  However, DeVos stated that this funding is different and insists that the aid be distributed on a per pupil basis.  In Louisiana, private schools are estimated to receive 267% more.

The dispute centers around a passage that allocated $13 billion for the nation’s schools “in the same manner as” they do under Title 1, the federal funding program for low-income schools.  But DeVos’ interpretation has been accused of benefiting the private schools she has championed.  The School Superintendents Association said that the ruling represents “an opportunistic money grab, using the pandemic environment to advance the privatization agenda.”


At a press conference Wednesday, Governor DeSantis confirmed that the teacher pay raises will remain in the 2020-21 state budget, despite economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So for now, districts will get a pot of money for raises, which would work toward a base salary of $47,500 for starting teachers. That doesn’t mean that all districts will meet that goal right away.

The governor said that by signing the bill, he is moving Florida from the 26th spot of starting teacher salaries nationwide to the top five. But that could take years, educators say.

According to Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, districts with already low average teacher pay may struggle to meet the goal of a starting salary of $47,500.

“Some districts have much lower salaries, currently, than others,” Messina said in an interview with the Florida Phoenix. “So those districts that are closer to the goal, obviously, will get all their teachers to the goal, and those districts that aren’t as close to the goal may have more of a challenge.”

It also lists how much each district should receive here.  The sprawling Miami-Dade County school district will be receiving more than $60 million of the teacher salary increase allocation, while sparsely populated Franklin County will be getting less than $200,000.

Before pay raises can be distributed, school districts will need to negotiate with local teacher unions.

Of the $500-million for the teacher pay initiative, $100 million will be set aside to increase the salaries of experienced teachers. Those raises also will vary by district and will be impacted by union negotiations.

A 2020 report by the National Education Association (NEA) shows that Florida’s average public school teacher salary is $48,800, the second lowest salary figure of all 50 states. Only Mississippi’s salary figure, at $45,192, is lower than Florida’s. The average nationwide is $63,645 for 2019-20.


                    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.

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. 


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?
  1. 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.
  2. Write to the companies that contribute to the voucher programs and educate them about the degree of discrimination.
  3. Inform our school boards, and city and county officials of these discriminatory practices within the voucher program.

AAA Insurance
ABC Fine Wine & Spirits
ACE Group Insurance
AmCap Insurance
American Income Life
American Integrity Insurance
Ark Royal Insurance
Ascendant Commercian Insurance
ATIC (Americans Traditions Insurance)
BAC Florida Bank
Badcock Furniture
Bealls Inc.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
Breakthru Beverage
Brown Distributing
Breitburn Energy
City Beverages Budweiser
Capital Bank
Capacity Insurance
Centennial Bank
Century Link
Center State Bank
Central Bank
Chris Craft
Cigar City Brewing
Circle K
Cypress Insurance
Dairyland Insurance
Dean Foods
Delta Bank
Daytona Beverages
Duke Energy
FCCI Insurance
FineMark National Bank
Florida Distributing
Florida Doctors Insurance
Farm Bureau Insurance
Florida Public Utilities
Florida Specialty Insurance
Federated National
Frontline Insurance
GEO Group
Global Imaging Systems
Gold Coast Beverages
Ground Works Solutions
Gulfstream Insurance
Guardian Life Insurance
The Hartford
Interim Healthcare
JJ Taylor
Johnson Controls
Kingsway Amigo Insurance
Lakeridge Winery
Jewelers Mutual Insurance
KAR Auction Services
Liberty National Life
Lincoln Benefit Life
Lynch Oil
Mutual of Omaha Bank
Old Florida
Paramount Beverage
Peace River Distributing
pharma works
Philadelphia Insurance Companies
read conmigo
Republic National Distributing
S>R> Perrott
Sabadell Bank
Safety National
SafePoint Insurance
Security First Insurance
Southern Oak Insurance
Southern Eage Distributing
Southern Glazers Wine and Spirits
Summit holdings
Summit Bank
The Main Street America Group
Tower Hill Insurance
Tractor Supply Company
Tylin international
United Healthcare
Universal Insurance
US Bank
US Century Bank
Universal North America
Vector Group
Winn Dixie
Zeno Office Solutions
Vera Bradley
Value Pawn
Westfield Insurance


January 19, 2020

 School Lunch Guidelines Rollback

The Trump Administration has proposed dismantling Obama’s school nutrition guidelines for more vegetables and fruit for one that would allow more pizza and fries.  While the administration cited more flexibility, nutritionists called it a “shameless capitulation to lobbyists at the expense of American children.”  The school lunch program serves about 30 million students, mostly from low income homes.

New Trump Guidelines for Religion in Public Schools

On January 16 (religious Freedom Day) the Trump Administration issued new federal guidelines for prayer and religious expression in schools that will certainly lead to greater discrimination against LGBTQ and minority students. The guidelines will allow: students to engage in unwanted proselytization and religious harassment; students to deliver prayers at the beginning of all official school sponsored activities including morning announcements, football games, graduations and assemblies; school employees to participate in student-led activities; some school sponsored prayer; students to express their religious beliefs in all school assignments; teachers to use the Bible to teach about religion.

These are a clear violation of separation of church and state and encourages activities that SCOTUS has already ruled unconstitutional. (AU release).


Spring 2019 Legislative Session

Short Summary

*New voucher program with funds taken from the general state revenue.  (Lawsuits anticipated.)


 *Additional $783 million for K-12 public education.$330 million for construction, repairs and maintenance ($158 million of that to charter schools). 


 *District tax referenda dollars must be shared with charter schools. (Lawsuits anticipated)


 *Expanded Guardian program allows teachers to carry guns (requires local district approval).




Picture from C4QPE Annual Meeting on December 3.






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


© Copyright The Coalition for Quality Public Education