On behalf of the Florida Hispanic Caucus, Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, urged the state's Board of Education Friday to avoid tying education benchmarks to race or ethnicity.
Garcia's letter is in response to the Board's recently released five-year plan, which would attempt to close school achievement gaps through varied race-based goals.
Gov. Rick Scott and other high-level officials have criticized the plan and asked the Board to reconsider, but Education Commissioner Pam Stewart and Board Chairman Gary Chartrand say the plan is needed to help the state maintain its long term goals.
Chairman Gary Chartrand
325 West Gaines Street, Suite 1520
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Dear Chairman Chartrand,
We write you to express our total commitment to do all that is necessary to close the achievement gap that persists in Florida among various student demographic groups. As elected officials we have the unique position of leadership, as well as the obligation and ability, to substantially increase the effort and resources needed to guarantee the success of each student to eliminate the gap once and for all. However, we would like for you to clarify how the Board will be closing the gap between different demographic groups. We recognize that your education plan seeks to achieve full proficiency for all students by the year 2022. Unfortunately, the Board's six-year interim targets, although ambitious, were not clearly explained to the public, creating misunderstanding and confusion. Our concern is the learning ability of a child may be based on a variable tied to race or ethnicity; which clearly should not.
The Florida Hispanic Caucus has been supporting legislation that raises the bar for all public school students and ensures academic proficiency regardless of race or gender. A Florida's former governor and education leader, Jeb Bush, has spent the better part of two decades fighting the notion that minority children cannot learn at the same levels as other children. We feel the Board's objective is congruent to those same principles; we would just like to ensure, as duly elected representatives of Hispanics, that those benchmarks are not tied to race or ethnicity.
We commend the Board's goal setting attempts on improving education standards throughout Florida. We are looking forward to evaluating statistically significant variables which would be objective in establishing education standards for our children. Though deficient reading levels and race may have a loose association, we must employ caution not to use it as the causation or independent variable for establishing education standards. We ask that you clarify your goal setting methods and present to us statistically significant models based on that statistical data.
Senator Rene Garcia
Florida Hispanic Caucus