Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Private Schooling in Florida

Miami New Times reports that for $399 and 8 days’ work, you can get a high school diploma here in Florida.

It began with a poster on a streetlight in downtown Miami: “High School Diploma. (305) 716-0909.”

I dialed, and a chipper female voice answered, “Hello. High school.”

Eight days and $399 in cash later, at the school’s Doral “campus” — a cramped third-floor office next door to US Lubricant LLC and across the hall from a hair extensions company — I was grinning widely, accepting a framed diploma and an official transcript sporting a 3.41 GPA.

The degree is accepted at, among other local institutions of higher education, Miami Dade College. And it came blissfully free of that pesky annoyance suffered by thousands of local students graduating from high school this month: education.

At InterAmerican Christian Academy, my new alma mater, to earn a diploma you need only to pass five very brief and easy take-home tests. Because I can’t be bothered with such things, I distributed them to local kids ages 8 to 13 to complete. Then I copied their answers.

The youngsters didn’t break a sweat. “This is medium-easy,” said the 8-year-old girl who completed high school English literature for me. “No problems,” commented the 10-year-old who nailed math.


There’s no telling how many of Florida’s 1,713 private schools — which educate a third of a million students — are run like InterAmerican. Even as Gov. Rick Scott leads a charge to privatize education on a historic scale, our state’s private schools are among the least regulated in the nation. “If a school like that exists,” Cheryl Etters of the Florida Department of Education said when asked about InterAmerican and its lax standards, “we might know about it, but we can’t really do anything.”

Despite their label, private and charter schools are entitled to public funds. And for every dollar they get, that’s one less for public education, which is already running on fumes. And they’re going to places like InterAmerican.