Oh, Manny, Manny, Manny! Your fellow legislators chafe at your never-ending attempts to pass the dumbest laws possible. Give them a chance, why don’t you?
Today we learn that Manny Diaz, Florida Senate Chair of the Education Committee, Vice-chair of the subcommittee for Education Appropriations, and if that isn’t enough, also on Committee for Ethics and Elections as well as the Joint Select Committee on Collective Bargaining, has filed a bill proposing a constitutional amendment that would exempt persons 65 years and older from paying school taxes.
Manny doesn’t hold his special positions because he is an outlier with bold ideas. He holds his committee assignments because he has been a consistent ally in the attempt to privatize Florida education. He was a chief supporter of Richard Corcoran’s signature efforts, HB 7069 and HB 7055.
Those laws allowed charter schools to grab construction funds from local public school levies, out-of-state charter chains to start ‘Schools of Hope’ in an effort to close public schools in poor neighborhoods, and parents to claim a new voucher if only they allege (not prove) that their child is being bullied.
Doral College operates charter schools, among them Somerset Academy Silver Palms, one of the lucky ‘Schools of Hope’ identified by the Florida Department of Education as qualified to expand under the law that Richard Corcoran, now Commissioner of Education, rammed through the legislature in the dying hours of the 2017 legislative session.
Now that we have reminded ourselves of the self-serving politician we are discussing, let’s move on to his latest proposal.
Manny proposes a constitutional amendment that would grant an exemption from paying school tax levies to every Florida resident 65 and older as long as they have continuously resided on their homestead property for 25 years or longer.
An outcry has already begun with the theme that it is another attempt to defund public schools. While the amendment would reduce school district revenues, GOT has to wonder how extensive that would be. Few people spend 25 years living on the same property.
Perhaps Manny is crafting something to benefit a few, select people he has in mind. It wouldn’t be the first time a state legislator wrote a bill to benefit a few particular persons but had to write it in a way that it could survive judicial scrutiny.
Or perhaps Manny is more subversive than we are giving him credit for. If approved, the Florida state constitution would grant tax relief to persons 65 and older. What is the philosophical underpinning, the rationale, for saying senior citizens don’t need to pay taxes for schools?
Charlie. Manny appeals to the Charlies in the state. By doing so, he believes his amendment will pass, an amendment that will say that people who do not have children in schools do not need to pay for those schools.
Remember that the Florida Constitution currently calls for a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure, and high quality system of free public schools that allows students to obtain a high quality education …”
Every citizen, whether they have school-age children or not, benefits from having a system of high quality public schools. Even GOT, who has no children of his own, happily pays his school taxes because he realizes that he benefits from the education of all children.
Manny’s amendment undermines that belief that is enshrined in the Florida constitution. The “paramount duty of the state” to see to the education of its children would be contradicted by his amendment that is based upon a philosophy that people who do not have children in school receive no benefit from educating the state’s children and therefore should be excused from supporting education.
And that, combined with the tilt of the Florida Supreme Court to the right, would be enough for a constitutional challenge to the system of public schools, at least, enough to redefine that paramount duty that lies upon all citizens as the state derives its power, existence, and legitimacy from us.