A proposed School Board resolution concerning Pastor Tiger, state voucher school oversight, and public safety
I will be asking the Polk School Board at our Tuesday meeting to adopt the following resolution concerning the events at Kingdom Prep; the lack of oversight of voucher schools laid out in the Orlando Sentinel's "School without Rules" reporting; and expanding the mandate of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Grand Judy to include voucher school oversight and safety.
Full background on the Pastor Tiger story and its implications for voucher expansion are below.
If you agree with this resolution, I would encourage you to contact your School Board members and urge them to support it. Here it is:
Whereas in October 2017, the Orlando Sentinel published an exhaustive investigation of the lack of oversight of schools that receive state-sponsored private “scholarships,” otherwise known as vouchers. This report was titled “Schools without Rules.”
Whereas the second paragraph of that article stated: “The limited oversight of Florida’s scholarship programs allowed a principal under investigation for molesting a student at his Brevard County school to open another school under a new name and still receive the money, an Orlando Sentinel investigation found.”
Whereas, neither Step Up for Students nor state government, both of which facilitate these vouchers, took any substantial action to respond to the issues raised by “Schools without Rules,” including the risk of sexual abuse.
Whereas, in February of 2019, 15 months after “Schools without Rules,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested Charles “Pastor Tiger” Aguon, 34-year-old headmaster of Kingdom Prep School in Auburndale on sexual abuse charges. [Pastor Tiger is not the same person cited in the Sentinel reporting. -- ed. note]
Whereas, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd was quoted in the The Ledger saying Pastor Tiger spent time “grooming” his alleged victim: “While Pastor Tiger (Aguon) was a role model, he was grooming this boy and touching him in an inappropriate manner,” Judd said. “We are significantly concerned and curious to know if there are any other victims. We want the parents and grandparents to speak with their children, ask them questions.”
Whereas, receiving vouchers/scholarships overseen by the state and Step Up for Students were important steps for enrollment at Kingdom Prep, according to the school’s website.
Whereas, Governor Ron DeSantis, Senator Kelli Stargel and other education and government leaders propose to redefine Kingdom Prep and schools like it as public schools and provide them taxpayer money with no oversight as part of a massive voucher expansion in Florida.
Whereas, the governor made his point of view clear in this quote: “To me, if the taxpayer is paying for education, it’s public education. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to the district managed school that you’re zoned for, it doesn’t matter if you’re going to a public Magnet, a public Charter, if you take a tax credit scholarship and go to a private school or if you use an ESA for homeschool, to me that is all the public’s commitment to make sure that our kids have the best education.”
Whereas, the proposed, taxpayer-funded voucher expansion does not create any meaningful oversight body of voucher schools like Kingdom Prep.
Whereas, the proposed taxpayer voucher expansion excludes voucher schools from any of the extensive security requirements imposed by the state in the aftermath of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas shooting.
Whereas, there are roughly 2000 voucher schools today in Florida enrolling nearly 150,000 students.
Whereas, voucher school children deserve the same protections as public school children.
Whereas, the Polk School District, as the school district “of last resort” in Polk County has a legal and moral obligation to serve any Polk County child failed or abused by an unregulated, unmonitored voucher school, like Pastor Tiger’s Kingdom Prep.
Whereas, it is completely unclear if anyone in at either Step Up for Students or the Florida Department of Education received any complaints or concerns about Pastor Tiger.
Whereas, Gov. DeSantis has called for a grand jury to investigate public school district compliance with state safety rules imposed in the wake of the MSD shooting.
Be it resolved that the Polk School Board respectfully:
Calls on Gov. DeSantis and the MSD Commission or Grand Jury – or some other empowered body -- to study any potential failures by state officials to address complaints or concerns about Pastor Tiger or Kingdom Prep.
Calls on the MSD Grand Jury, or other investigative body, to review why nothing has happened to protect children from the abuses of “Schools without Rules,” as laid out clearly in October of 2017, and recommend badly needed reforms.
Requests that a voucher school oversight organization, similar to the Office of Early Learning, be created, fully-funded, and fully-staffed prior to any expansion of either private or publicly-funded voucher programs.
Requests that any school receiving scholarship or taxpayer-funding comply with the same safety and accountability measures that state government imposes on public schools.