FCSBM receives massive media response and the Capitol is buzzing

In a Monday February 16, 2015 statewide media conference call, the founding members of the FCSBM officially announced their formation and media outlets around the state ran with the news in a big way. 

There were 35 attendees on the conference call, with an estimated 23 members of the media. Florida News Service, the Statewide equivalent of the AP, covered the event. In the following days over 15 articles ran with the announcement appearing on several front pages with at least one article landing "above the fold". 

Following the press conference, FCSBM president Jeff Bergosh and Director Shawn Frost visited the Capitol building and were able to meet with legislators who encouraged the members of the FCSBM to appear before legislative bodies as soon as they are ready. 

We interpret all of this as validation that the formation of the FCSBM is an idea that has met its time.

A sampling of articles appears below:



News Service of Florida

New School Board Member Association Details Plans

  1. http://www.northescambia.com/2015/02/new-school-board-member-association-details-plans
  2. http://www.nbc-2.com/story/28122088/collier-school-board-member-supports-new-school-board-coalition#.VONYFXYnXaY
  3. http://www.jrn.com/fox4now/news/New-coalition-taking-on-the-Florida-School-Board-Association--292139341.html
  4. http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20150216/ARTICLE/150219767?template=printart
  5. http://postonpolitics.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2015/02/16/voucher-fight-spawns-rival-educators-group/
  6. http://www.news-press.com/story/news/education/2015/02/16/new-school-board-coalition-forms/23504099/
  7. http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook/group-forms-as-alternative-to-florida-school-boards-association/2217855
  8. http://www.saintpetersblog.com/archives/181009
  9. http://news.wfsu.org/post/tax-scholarship-lawsuit-causes-rift-local-school-boards-spawns-new-group
  10. http://www.naplesnews.com/news/education/formation-of-new-education-lobby-group-highlights-discord-over-school-choice_92069994
  11. http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/frustrated-school-board-members-form-alternative-florida-school-boards-association






Full article reprints:

News Service of Florida
New School Board Member Association Details Plans

February 17, 2015

Four local school board members announced Monday they were establishing a conservative counterweight to the Florida School Boards Association, as that organization backs a lawsuit challenging the state’s de facto school-voucher program.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members — currently consisting of Jeff Bergosh of Escambia County, Erika Donalds of Collier County, Shawn Frost of Indian River County and Bridget Ziegler of Sarasota County — hopes to quickly sign up 40 to 50 like-minded colleagues. But Bergosh said the coalition isn’t trying to usurp the Florida School Boards Association. School board members can be part of both groups.

“We’re not out to replace the current organization,” Bergosh said. “We want to make certain all viewpoints are represented, including the conservative viewpoints.”

Members of the new organization said the Florida School Boards Association’s involvement in a lawsuit against the Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides tax credits to companies that donate money to nonprofit entities that pay for children to go to private schools, was just one factor in their decision to organize the new group.

The coalition also hopes to offer training programs at a lower cost and says the Florida School Boards Association is losing influence with the Legislature. “We feel that the FSBA has kind of lost touch with the citizens whose tax dollars fund their existence,” Donalds said.
Sunshine State News
Frustrated School Board Members Form Alternative to Florida School Boards Association

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: February 16, 2015 4:39 PM

Founded on the heels of a lawsuit threatening to take away the tax credit scholarships of nearly 70,000 students statewide, a group of four school board members from across the state have banded together to form a grassroots organization to tackle public education issues, the group announced in a call Monday morning.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members aims to be an "alternative" to the Florida School Boards Association, which consists of representatives from 67 of Florida’s 76 districts statewide.

“It’s becoming very clear the school boards collectively and individually are really losing influence in Tallahassee,” said Collier County School Board member and founder Erika Donalds.

The FCSBM’s founding members include Donalds, Bridget Ziegler and Jeff Bergosh of Sarasota County and Shawn Frost, an Indian River County School Board member most well-known for knocking FSBA president and two-term incumbent Karen Disney-Brombach out of her position on the board. Frost’s campaign honed in on Disney-Brombach’s support of Common Core.

“We have voices we feel aren’t being heard,” said FCSBM leader Bergosh. “We want to work with legislators, and I think most of us are dissatisfied with the way tax money is being utilized to fight school choice.”

FSBA President Wayne Blanton, who is set to retire later this month, however, said school board members need to show face at meetings if they want to see any real change within the organization.

“If they want to change this organization, they need to get active within this organization, come to the meetings and apply for positions of leadership," he said. "We have no problem with that. We work for the majority of the board members in the state of Florida."

The new coalition of school board members aims to form a “more cooperative” working relationship in Tallahassee. The FCSBM will also continue its opposition against the FSBA’s support of the lawsuit against the state’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers for students from failing or low-performing schools (who are usually minority, low-income students) to attend a different school.

The FSBA joined the Florida Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, in suing the state over the program, questioning the legality of the program and contesting it takes away money from public schools.

The issue has risen to a fever pitch in recent weeks -- last week, state lawyers asked a a judge to dismiss the lawsuit.

The FCSBM is starting out small, but Bergosh said he hopes the organization will expand to around 50 members in the next few weeks.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.
Naples Daily News
Melhor Marie Leonor

Frustrated with a lawsuit against the state's school vouchers program, school board members across the state have joined forces to create their own lobbying group, with Collier County School Board member Erika Donalds among them.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members is being presented as another option for board members, many of whom are already part of the existing Florida School Boards Association.

The association is one of the groups spearheading a legal challenge to the Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, which gives low-income families the option to send their children to private schools.

"Many students are using some form of school choice," said Donalds during a conference call Monday to launch the coalition. "What we're seeing from [FSBA] is not very much support for choice … or customization for students and their families. It does not support what we're hearing from the constituencies across the state."

FSBA charges membership dues and fees for professional development workshops, which Donalds says are funding a lawsuit she and many others don't support.

"I as a school board member should be able to make that choice, where those taxpayer dollars are going," said Donalds, who will serve as a founding director of the new lobbying group.

Donalds also objected to the amount of money the Collier school district has spent on FSBA programming, about $93,000 during the past five years.

Joining her in the new organization's leadership are school board members from Escambia, Volusia, Indian River and Sarasota public school districts.

A supporter of school choice, Collier board member Kelly Lichter said she is planning to join the new coalition because many of her views don't align with those of FSBA. Board member Roy Terry said he'd still like to see more information on the new coalition before joining.

School Board Chairwoman Kathleen Curatolo was skeptical about the purpose of the group, and said Monday she would like to know more about what they are hoping to accomplish before she considers joining.

"Focusing on the issue of a lawsuit is certainly not going to draw me in," Curatolo said.

Lawsuit aside, the new organization will also work to gain clout in Tallahassee in support of conservative policies that eliminate wasteful spending and increase local control over education. A mixer in Tallahassee is scheduled for March 11.

"There's a lot of pent up demand for what we are bringing to the table," said Jeff Bergosh, a school board member from the Escambia County School Board who will serve as the founding president.

Individual school board members will be able to join FCSBM, with membership dues at $99. FSBA membership is not individual, but rather, school boards join as a team. Dues per member are around $3,000.

Signaling friction on this issue among Collier County School Board members, the board voted 3-2 last week to not attend a training program held by FSBA.

Curatolo and Vice Chairwoman Julie Sprague, who voted to attend the training, said it has been helpful for members in the past. It includes 22 hours of programming on topics surrounding school district management and education. Half of the program would have required members to travel for on-site training.

The program would have cost the district $4,200, plus travel expenses.

Donalds said that the FCSBM would make training modules available online to keep down costs.

FSBA executive director Wayne Blanton said Monday that the organization will go ahead with the challenge to the Tax-Credit Scholarship Program because a majority of its members support it. The lawsuit was filed in August; a judge is now weighing whether to toss out the challenge at the state's request.

"A great majority of our members has asked us to go forward with the lawsuit," Blanton said. "Until such time as a majority of our members changes their mind, we will go forward with the lawsuit."

Copyright 2014 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Tax Scholarship Lawsuit Causes Rift In Local School Boards, Spawns New Group

By Lynn Hatter

The long-established Florida School Board Association is facing a challenge from a new organization. The new group forms in the wake of the FSBA’s decision to join a lawsuit contesting the state’s corporate tax scholarship program and turnover in local school board races.

Florida School Boards Association President Wayne Blanton sees parallels between the election, the decision by the FSBA to join a lawsuit over the corporate tax scholarship program, and the creation of a new group calling itself the Florida Coalition of School Board members.

“If they want to change this organization, they need to get active within this organization, come to the meetings and apply for positions of leadership," he says. " We have no problem with that. We work for the majority of the board members in the state of Florida."

The rival coalition has four members, including Escambia county school board member Jeff Bergosh. He says his group isn’t out to compete with the FSBA, but, “we have voices we feel aren’t being heard. We want to work with legislators, and I think most of us are dissatisfied with the way tax money is being utilized to fight school choice.”

Bergosh, along with Indian River School Board member Shawn Frost, Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler and Erika Donalds of Collier County School Board make up the coalition's current membership. In addition to the FSBA's involvement in the tax scholarship lawsuit they're also taking issue with the association's fees which they say are too high.

School district's pay for the board's memberships in the association, and can run anywhere from $8,000 to $30,000 depending on the size of a district.

Blanton says the coalition attempted to get the FSBA  to reverse its support for the lawsuit at the organization's December meeting but failed to get enough votes to do so. Coalition members say the vote is part of their reason for forming the group.

A Leon County judge is deciding whether to allow the lawsuit against the corporate tax scholarship program to proceed.
Lawsuit spawns rival state school board association

By James Call on February 16, 2015

Four school board members from across the state have organized as an alternative to the Florida School Board Association. The Florida Coalition of School Board Members is disgruntled by the FSBA support for a lawsuit against a tax credit scholarship program by the Florida Education Association.

The state has sought dismissal of the cased, arguing the FEA lacks legal standing to challenge the private school voucher program started during the Bush administration and supported and defended by the Republican-controlled state Capitol.

In a conference call with reporters, members of the new group said in addition to defending the voucher program currently serving about 69,000 low to middle income students they are also focused in fostering a more cooperative working relationship with Tallahassee.

“We feel the FSBA has kind of lost touch,” said Erika Donalds, a member of the Collier County School Board. “It’s become very clear that the school boards are really losing influence in Tallahassee.”

The founding members of the FCSBM in addition to Donalds include Shawn Frost of Indian River County, Bridget Ziegler of Sarasota County and Jeff Bergosh of Sarasota County.

Frost was elected last year, defeating the president of the FSBA, Karen Disney-Brombach.

Bergosh will lead the new group. On his blog, the Escambia School Board member contends the two biggest issues destroying public education as apathy about confronting issues and the “disingenuous, hypocritical, insidious educrat mantra that proclaims education reform is bad — and all schools can be fixed if everybody will just get on the same page and howl for more taxpayer money.”

Bergosh expects to grow the group to about 40 or 50 school board members. He said coalition members may remain part of the FSBA.
Tampa Bay Times
Group forms as alternative to Florida School Boards Association

Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer
Monday, February 16, 2015 1:33pm

Florida has more than 350 school board members serving 67 counties.

Today, five of them announced they would break away from the Florida School Boards Association -- which has represented boards in Tallahassee for decades -- to form the Florida Coalition of School Board Members.

Headed by Escambia School Board member Jeff Bergosh, the group has opposed the FSBA's lawsuit challenging Florida voucher programs. It also is pushing for more fiscal responsibility and strong local control -- things the coalition deems "conservative solutions" for education.

“It’s becoming very clear the School Boards’ collectively and individually are really losing influence in Tallahassee,” Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member, told the Palm Beach Post.

Other founding members listed on the group's website are Shawn Frost (Indian River), Linda Costello (Volusia) and Bridget Zeigler (Sarasota). Jason Fischer, a Duval School Board member, also has donated to the group, according to the site.

The FSBA is in transition, with longtime executive director Wayne Blanton retiring. Whether now is the time for an alternative to rise remains to be seen.

Emily Atteberry, eatteberry@news-press.com 3:44 p.m. EST February 16, 2015

Dissatisfied with the Florida School Board Association — the only statewide school board group — Collier school board member Erika Donalds and three others launched a new school board group Monday that they say will be another viewpoint on public-education issues.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members seeks to become a "financially responsible," grassroots group that supports school choice options including charter school and local control of education issues.

"One of our responsibilities as a school board is to partner with the state… however, it's become very clear that the school boards are really losing influence in Tallahassee," said Donalds, who was elected to the Collier school board in November. "We feel the FSBA has kind of lost touch."

The four founding members include:

• Erika Donalds, Collier County School Board
• Jeff Bergosh, Escambia County School Board
• Shawn Frost, Indian River County School Board
• Bridget Ziegler, Sarasota County School Board
The FSBA is the Florida chapter of the National School Boards Association. Founded in 1930, the FSBA represented 67 of the state's 76 school districts as of 2014.

Frost, who was elected to his post in November, said the new coalition also opposes the FSBA's lawsuit that seeks to end the state's Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which helps economically disadvantaged families get scholarships from non-profit organizations.

He said FSBA annual membership dues — which amounted to $21,766 in Lee County — should not be used for the lawsuit that is only supported "by a small number of people." Ziegler added that the coalition would "rather see that 15,000 or 20,000 go the classroom."

Wayne Blanton, FSBA's executive director, said he understood the coalition formed to put pressure on the lawsuit, but that an overwhelming majoritc of the group supports it. He thought the coalition may be missing the bigger picture when it comes to FSBA's resources and services.

"Dues are not just for lawsuits," said Blanton, who is slated to retire later this month. "They go to daily telephone consultations with school board members, superintendents and staff. We do research that any school board wants, we hold individual workshops for whatever topic the school board needs, we do a daily analysis on legislation that goes out every day."

Bergosh estimated that about 40 or 50 other school board members will join the coalition "out of the gate," but hopes that number will increase as the group establishes itself. He said coalition members can also remain FSBA members if they choose.

Lee County school board member Steve Teuber said he was interested in joining the coalition and wants to know more about what they have to offer. He said he believed the FSBA was resistant to the new era of conservative school board members who have been elected in recent years.

"The FSBA has a very limited purpose," he said. "I'm not discounting their organization, but we need to have somewhere to go for more like-minded people.”
Palm Beach Post
February 16, 2015| Filed in: education, elections, legislature, Unions.

Florida’s battle over private school vouchers spawns new educators’ group

A lingering clash over the lawsuit filed by the state’s largest teachers’ union against a private school voucher program launched under former Gov. Jeb Bush has spawned the formation of a rival educators’ group.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members announced its debut Monday. Among the founders is Shawn Frost, an Indian River County School Board member elected last summer by defeating  Karen Disney-Brombach, who at the time was president of the Florida School Boards Association.

The FSBA had joined the union in its bid to have the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program ruled unconstitutional. Voucher supporters had spent heavily against Disney-Brombach.

“It’s becoming very clear the School Boards’ collectively and individually are really losing influence in Tallahassee,” said Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member and another founder of the coalition.

The Republican-ruled Legislature supports the Tax Credit Scholarship Program and its steady expansion finally sparked last summer’s lawsuit.

The state last week asked a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, does not have legal standing to challenge the program.

The new organization hopes to add as many as 50 members in coming weeks. It is seeking to offer professional development programs for school board members that reflect more conservative values and offer what Donalds called “an alternative viewpoint.”

Sarasota Herald-Tribune
By Shelby Webb
Published: Monday, February 16, 2015 at 10:57 a.m.

Newly elected Sarasota County School Board member Bridget Ziegler joined a handful of other elected officials from across the state Monday to announce the formation of a conservative rival to the powerful organization that has long served as the lobbying arm in Tallahassee for Florida school boards.

The new Florida Coalition of School Board Members staked its claim as a counterweight to the more established Florida School Boards Association in a media conference call, saying it would represent more views, provide more services to local officials and do it more cheaply.

The move also sets the stage for an unusually public rift on the Sarasota County School Board, which has typically maintained a collegial atmosphere. Sarasota School Board Member Caroline Zucker will become president of the Florida School Boards Association this summer.

“We want to make certain all viewpoints are represented — including the conservative viewpoints,” said Jeff Bergosh, an Escambia County School Board member and president of the new organization. “And that’s where this organization is going.”

Underlying the group’s launch is a disagreement over school vouchers and the Florida School Boards Association’s decision to sue the state over the Florida Tax-Credit Scholarship program.

That program gives students scholarships to attend private schools or schools outside of their assigned district. The money comes from private corporations, which get tax credits for donating to the fund.

The Florida School Boards Association has argued in its lawsuit that the program takes away from public schools by giving the money to pay for private school tuition, violating the Florida Constitution. Opponents of the scholarship program also say there is little oversight in how private schools spend that money.

The program’s supporters say the scholarships allow low-income students to have academic opportunities that best fit their educational needs.

In a Feb. 9 hearing, opponents of the tax-credit scholarship program sparred with lawyers representing the state and parents of some of the 69,000 children enrolled in the program statewide.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members said it decided to announce its decision to form a week after that hearing. Its members had terse words for the Florida School Boards Association on Monday.

Shawn Frost, an Indian River School Board member and director of the new group, said the decision to join the Florida Education Association and the NAACP in the lawsuit was made by a “small number” of members.

“We don’t believe that taxpayer-funded dues should be used to try to kick 68,000 low-income kids out of the schools that are working for them,” Frost said. “We had no say at all in using FSBA resources to kick these poor kids out of schools.”

“We believe in school choice, we believe that parents know best for their kids,” Bergosh said. “And I believe the FSBA thinks that the bureaucrats know best.”

Zucker and Florida School Board Association leaders questioned the need for another organization and defended the association’s lawsuit.

“That is his opinion. There are not facts to back that up,” Zucker said, responding to Bergosh’s comments.

Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said members were given a choice in whether to join the lawsuit. All 27 representatives of the 67 Florida school boards in the Florida School Boards Association voted in favor of joining the lawsuit in June.

“No poor kids are going to be taken out of schools regardless of how the lawsuit comes out,” Blanton said. “What it might do, it might take some of the profit away from some of the vendors that are doing some of these schools. It’s all about the money. These other vendors are making a profit off public schools and public schools are not designed to be businesses to make a profit off of.”

Ziegler said she saw a need for a new group after the Florida School Boards Association’s December meeting. School board members that she spoke to there seemed disillusioned with the organization, she said.

“There was just a sense that the mission and vision and values of the FSBA, if you want to say, weren’t really aligning with our mission, vision and values — what we were put on our school boards and elected to do,” Ziegler said.

Both Zucker and Blanton said if the founding members of the Florida Coalition for School Board Members wanted to see a change, they should have worked within the association to effect it.

Still, Zucker said she is not worried.

“We will continue on our way. We’ve been in existence for 40 years,” she said. “I’m not concerned right now. It’s something to be aware of but not to be concerned about.”

Referring to Ziegler — elected to a full term on the Sarasota County School Board in November after being appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to finish a term last summer — Zucker said, “Why would you get one board member with one (FSBA) meeting under her belt thinking its all bad?”

Zucker said she first learned of the alternative group Sunday.

Both she and Ziegler said they would not let the potential conflict between the organizations interfere with their local duties.

But Zucker said the formation of the group points to partisan politics continuing to leak into the traditionally non-partisan education arena.

Dues for the new group would be $99 a month once the organization is running.

Members said Florida Coalition for School Board Members is currently self-funded but that the group had “creative ideas” to increase its revenue.

The Florida School Boards Association, which charges about $3,000 for yearly membership, provides many of the same services as the new group plans, but also helps school boards with superintendent searches.

EARLIER: A little more than a month after Sarasota County School Board member Caroline Zucker announced she would become president of the Florida School Board's Association this summer, School Board member Bridget Ziegler has announced that she and a handful of other school board members from across the state will form their own lobbying group.

Ziegler is one of the founding members of the new Florida Coalition of School Board Members, which will announce its formation during a conference call today with media outlets across the state.

In an email, the group said it organized “amid opposition from some school officials to the involvement of the Florida School Boards Association in a lawsuit challenging the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program.”

The move could create contention at the local level, as Ziegler and Zucker both serve on the same School Board. Zucker has been an outspoken critic of the tax-scholarship program, while Ziegler remains a vocal supporter.

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship program gives students scholarships to attend private schools or schools outside of their assigned district. The funds come from private corporations, which get tax credits for donating to the fund.

The Florida School Board Association has sued the state, arguing that the program takes away from public schools by giving the funds to pay for private school tuition, violating the state constitution's uniformity clause. Opponents of the scholarship program also bemoan little oversight in how private school spend that money.

In a Feb. 9 hearing, opponents of the tax-credit scholarship program sparred with lawyers representing the state and parents of children enrolled in the program. About 70,000 students are enrolled in the program statewide.

The Florida Coalition of School Board Members said it decided to announce its decision a week after that hearing.

It said it formed for three reasons:

1. Lack of a cost effective, student focused, member association that provides relevant professional development and counsel for Florida school board members.

2. Concern over litigation to eradicate the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program.

3. Waning influence of school boards on education issues at the State Capitol.

The following school board members will be part of Monday's conference call: Jeff Bergosh, Escambia County School Board; Shawn Frost, Indian River County School Board; Bridget Ziegler, Sarasota County School Board; Erika Donalds, Collier County School Board.
FOX 4 (Ft. Myers)
By Sabina Bhasin. CREATED Feb 16, 2015

COLLIER COUNTY -- Erika Donalds, Collier County school board memeber, wants change, and if it's not coming from the school board on both the state or local level, she and three others have found a way to incite it, anyway. 

The group launched the Florida Coalition of School Board Members to better represent a more conservative perspective on education policy. 

Donalds said the main principles of the foundation are as follows: 

- fiscal responsibility
- parent involvement and choice
- professional development. 

The impetus for the coalition, Donalds said, was when the school board wanted to end a 13-year-old program that allows low-income and disabled students to recieve scholorships from non-profits to attend private schools. The board said it violated two Florida laws, but the teacher's union filed a lawsuit to stop the program from ending. The coalition, Donalds said, also supports the lawsuit. 

"We felt that there was waning influence of school board members and school board in Tallahassee," Donalds said. 
Posted: Feb 16, 2015 6:43 PM EST Updated: Feb 17, 2015 1:18 AM EST

By Sophie Nielsen-Kolding, Collier County reporter

The way the Collier County School Board operates could be changing.

A handful of school board members decided they weren't happy with the Florida School Board Association - so one board member joined four others from across the state to form a new one: The Florida Coalition of School Board Members.

One of their biggest concerns is the FSBA's lawsuit over tax credit scholarships.

We joined the group on its first public conference call Monday and found out why they think this new group will save taxpayer dollars.

With a school board that's already divided on everything from textbooks to school calendars - we're still waiting to see how they react to this new organization, which many school board members are just hearing about Monday.