BREVARD COUNTY: Randy Fine Steps In It.

Representative Randy Fine sent out a text that contained the logo used by the Brevard County Public Schools.

While the main issue is the use of the logo, there is another issue at hand.

Fine claims that his opponent in the upcoming election, Phil Moore has “proposed legislation to close Brevard charter schools and end all voucher programs….”

That seems to be an overstatement. As far as we can determine, Phil Moore has never held an elected public office which means he has not “proposed” any legislation.

In addition. the charge Fine is making against Moore appears to go back to an interview in 2018 where Moore stated he was against funding of charter schools and voucher programs, but later walked back his opposition to not funding charter schools:

Florida House candidate Phil Moore says he misspoke last month when he said charter schools should not receive taxpayer dollars.

In a live on-camera interview with FLORIDA TODAY in mid-October, Moore, a Democrat challenging Randy Fine for his District 53 seat in the Florida House, was asked if it was his view that charter schools should not get any dollars from taxpayers. He answered, “Yes, that it my view.”

Moore on-air also said he would pursue repealing the controversial “Schools of Hope” law that provides incentives to charter schools to open near traditional public schools that regularly receive low grades.

Moore this week told FLORIDA TODAY it was a mistake and that he was referring to voucher programs that provide public tax dollars to children to attend private and religious schools, not charter schools. When he was talking about charter schools he said he “was under the impression that charter school would cover private school.” He conceded that he is “not familiar with terminology of charter school” and that education policy is somewhat new to him.

Under the section of “Education” on his campaign site, Moore says this:

Charter School- The constitution outlines the separation of church and state. I do not support funneling public tax dollars to private religious organizations and for-profit charter schools.

Moore is therefore against schools that compete and do so to the point where they make a profit. We have always thought that the idea of a school is the best education for kids. Apparently Moore thinks the determining issue of funding should be whether a school makes a profit rather than the quality of the education and students the school turns out.

Moore also misstates the idea of “separation of church and state.” The Constitution does not ever say that there is a “separation of church and state.” What the Constitution does say is this:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

The Constitution does not allow different treatment of people and organizations based on religion. If the government makes something available to a secular group, they must make the same thing available to a religious group.

Moore must have missed the June 30, 2020 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue:

In 2015, the Montana legislature created a scholarship program that provided a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donations to private scholarship organizations. Those organizations used the money to fund scholarships for children to attend private schools – which, in Montana, are primarily religious schools. In 2018, the Montana Supreme Court struck down the tax-credit program, holding that it violated the state constitution’s ban on aid for churches and religious schools.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the Montana Supreme Court’s decision. By a vote of 5-4, the justices ruled in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that the state court’s interpretation of the Montana constitution violated the U.S. Constitution, which protects the free exercise of religion. States are not required to subsidize private education, Chief Justice John Roberts explained in his opinion for the majority. But if they opt to do so, they cannot exclude religious schools from receiving those funds simply because they are religious.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by three low-income mothers who wanted to be able to use the scholarships to keep their children in Stillwater Christian School, a religious school in Kalispell, Montana. One of those mothers, Kendra Espinoza, is a single parent who sent her daughters to Stillwater after one struggled in public school and the other was bullied. The school appealed to her not only because it is private, but also because it “teaches the same Christian values that” Espinoza tries to teach at home.

The Constitution’s free exercise clause protects people who are religious from being treated unequally, as well as from laws that discriminate based on religion, Roberts began. Three years ago, in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, Roberts explained, the court “distilled” its decisions interpreting the free exercise clause into the “unremarkable” conclusion that, when the government denies an otherwise available benefit solely because of the would-be recipient’s religious nature, the denial is subject to the most stringent standard of constitutional review, known as strict scrutiny.

(For the record, we have issues with Charter schools but that is no different than issues with public schools. Neither is a perfect educational solution, but we do like the idea of charter schools being curriculum specific. As for vouchers, we like the idea of parents and not the state controlling the education and more specifically the quality of education their children receive. In our opinion, vouchers are the way to fight public school mediocrity. If public schools and public teachers’ unions don’t like vouchers, then get better and compete with them.)

While we think the issue should be on Moore’s position and the accuracy of Fine’s statement regarding that position, the focus has been on Fine’s use of the Brevard County School District logo.

The district sent out this notice:

“Common law trademark” is a term used to denote a created object that is not trademarked through the government. In other words, just because you create a work and do not spend the money to register a copyright, does not mean you do not have copyright protection from someone stealing or using your creation. The catch here is that the Lanham Act, which is the guiding law on copyrights, does not allow government entities to copyright logos, seals, etc.

It seems that the School District has realized their error as well:

The school district declined to answer further questions posed to its legal department on the legality of the use of its name and image or whether it was considering legal action.

Generally speaking, if you can’t get a legal department to clarify a stated legal position, that does not bode well for the position.

That being said, Florida law does allow for government entities to “pseudo-copyright” logos, seals, etc. The law doesn’t allow the use of the logo or seal in certain cases. While the use of the logo or seal is acceptable on blog pages discussing issues facing that government or government entity, it does not allow people to represent that the entity is making a statement or endorsing something when it has not.

Whether the post by Fine crosses that boundary is up for discussion. It’s a fine, (no pun intended) nuanced law with lots of qualifications and standards that need to be met.

While lawyers may fight the legality out in court, the court of public opinion doesn’t need lawyers.

We have a tendency here to think along the lines of “what is legal may not be moral, and what is moral may not be legal.”

If nothing else, we think this blast from Fine crosses the “morality line.”

The use of the BPS logo in order to make the post appear to be from the Brevard County Public Schools is ridiculous. The fact that the first line is “Brevard Public Schools Alert!” says to us that the idea that this was from the Brevard County Public Schools was a planned deception. Morally, this is wrong.

The fact that Fine seems to be using a statement from Moore that is two years old and doesn’t reflect accurately Moore’s beliefs is morally wrong as well. If Fine has evidence or a statement from he is against all charter schools and all private schools, then show it. Bring it forth because otherwise Fine is not telling the complete truth, which is what we should expect and demand from elected officials.

(Makes quite a quandary for voters, doesn’t it? Vote for a person who doesn’t know or understand the Constitution and wants to violate it, or vote for someone who has lots of issues with the truth.)

Finally, in their statement, the Brevard County School District says this:

The district does not get involved in political campaigns nor do we support the use of our schools, staff or students for political purposes.

We can only say that we are glad the District isn’t involved in the penny surtax renewal political issue as that would be against what they said. /sarc

We renew our call for a “none of the above” option when voting. Neither Fine nor Moore seem to be worthy of the public trust and support.

2 Responses to “BREVARD COUNTY: Randy Fine Steps In It.”

  1. John says:

    Should we sell off the national parks and their campgrounds too?

    • AAfterwit says:

      To All:

      John found out about this blog from another blog.

      He is known at that blog for the same non-sensical comments that leave people wondering what he is thinking.

      A. Afterwit.