Flag Flap

By Jessica L. Tonn — January 04, 2005 2 min read

The Carey Baker Freedom Flag Act requires each K-20 public classroom in Florida to display a 3-foot-by-2-foot, American-made U.S. flag.

The bill, proposed by Sen. Mike Fasano, a Republican, began as a movement by the Florida Freedom Foundation, an independent group of conservative college students, to put flags in all University of Florida classrooms. He expanded the measure, enacted by the legislature last summer, to include K-12 schools.

According to Sen. Fasano, the original version of the legislation did not include size provisions, but the House amended it to prevent “liberal professors” from “making a mockery of the flag by placing 37-cent postage stamps in their classrooms.”

It seemed like a minor change. But that tinkering has left many school districts scrambling to replace small or foreign-made flags already on display. The Associated Press reported that as many as 15,000 flags need to be replaced in Central Florida alone—a number not contested by a state education official interviewed.

Though the Florida Department of Education did not have an accurate count of the number of flags needing replacement, state data indicate that there are approximately 156,000 K-12 classrooms statewide.

The average cost for a regulation-size American flag is $17.50. It would cost $2.7 million to provide every Florida K-12 classroom with the proper flag, not including the cost of labor and mounting equipment.

The law, however, prohibits school districts from using their own funds to purchase the flags for one year after the law’s enactment last July. To help out, many businesses, veterans’ groups, and local politicians have pitched in time and money to provide schools with flags.

Sen. Fasano said that he would be “shocked” if any schools had to buy their own flags. He has sent $1,000 in funds left over from his most recent campaign to help the 56,800-student Pasco County schools, his district’s school system, purchase new flags.

In addition, Sen. Fasano has pledged to “grandfather in” schools with pre-existing flags during the 2005 legislative session. He also plans to draft a letter of intent to the state education agency asking it to allow pre-existing flags, regardless of their size, to stay until the law can be amended.

Deborah Higgins, the spokeswoman for the state department of education, had no knowledge of any department plans to monitor or enforce schools’ compliance with the law, which requires schools to furnish the regulation flags by Aug. 1 of this year.

A version of this article appeared in the January 05, 2005 edition of Education Week