I haven’t thought of Charlie in years. He was my neighbor in Boca Raton during my time in that part of Florida. Charlie was in his eighties; I was in my thirties.
We watched each other’s properties when we were away. One summer, Charlie and his wife were on a long vacation so I cut his grass to prevent the city from fussing about it being too high. When the opportunity came, he returned the favor.
One Thanksgiving, Charlie’s wife was away visiting family and two lonely men went out to a local restaurant to share a meal together. At the end, Charlie refused to leave a tip for the waitress because the restaurant paid her to bring our food. I ended up throwing money on the table for the both of us.
Charlie also hated school taxes. He told me that his kids had long passed through the school system and received their education. He hated that he had to pay to educate other people’s children. He believed he was getting nothing out of continuing to pay for schools.
Ah, Charlie. Oh, Florida! There are so many more Charlies than me.
Florida educators believe that if only the voters really knew what the politicians were doing, they would vote them out of office.
The voters know. They do not hold Florida’s politicians accountable for the dismantling of the public school system because they are Charlies. Their children are educated and they do not want to pay to educate other people’s children.
The irony, of course, is that they will continue to pay. The difference is that the politicians are taking a cut in many, many ways: spouses that run charter schools, holding jobs with charter chains, campaign contributions from charter operators that fall into the shadows … Florida has shown no lack of imagination in how to turn its Department of Education into Tammany Hall.
Charlie would approve because he would believe that although he is still paying, he is paying less than if Florida would fully fund the needs of its schools. In fact, even in his retirement, Charlie was always looking for a good return on investment and the charter game would interest him greatly.
He made his money with a truck and a warehouse listening to a police scanner for shipping accidents. Once a wreck happened, he would show up first and buy the scattered cargo for pennies on the dollar.
Then, with the goods in his warehouse, he could take his time to make his deals and profit.
Isn’t that the game plan of Florida’s politicians for Florida’s public schools? Once they can wreck one through a rigged system of testing and school grades, they can swoop in, buy the students and the FTE dollars for pennies, and profit.
But the scale of it is staggering. I bet Charlie wishes he was alive today to watch it … oh, what am I saying? Charlie would be in on it.