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If you don't support vouchers it doesn't mean you are heartless.

As a teacher I disagree with fellow teacher Marlene Desdunes op-ed in the Miami Herald on vouchers and not just because I am heartless. There are many legitimate concerns people should have about vouchers like how they resist both financial and academic accountability and until those issues are resolved it’s beyond me why anybody would support vouchers in the current form but okay earnest people can disagree.

My question is since the vouchers are supposed to be for the neediest of the needy, how is Desdunes family even eligible. According to public records her salary as a school teacher is between 44 and 49 thousand dollars. She writes in her piece which could have been taken right form the Step up for Students, the group that administers the vouchers, FAQ page: “These scholarship children come from homes where the average income is only 5 percent above poverty.” Since her salary nearly doubles what qualifies for poverty, how is her daughter who she says receives a scholarship even eligible?

Therein lies the problem. Vouchers may have been sold as saving poor kids from failing schools but they are being transformed into a replacement for public education and I remind you once again about the almost complete lack of accountability that they have.


I believe as a school teacher Desdunes is way under paid and I will take her word for it that her daughter’s school is wonderful but at the end of the day how many voucher schools are wonderful, how many are providing an adequate education, how many are using the money sent to them properly? The truth is nobody knows because the system was willfully set up that way and wanting to know does not make people heartless. 

The district plays scrooge for Christmas

A story from a reader you could hear thousands of times across the city.

I also teach in Duval County, we have interactive text book our students are not allowed to write in. 

We are told we have to purchase our own copy paper and printer ink for the classroom. 

We are allowed a small number of copies from the office , I would use my allotment in 3 days. 

I use 140 copies a day because we are using alternative resource due to the lack of rigor with the current curriculum. 

We are a title 1 school. Where is the funding going?

That's a good question.

Jacksonville should step up and take care of its teachers.

The JPEF wants to raise your taxes and I think it is a good idea too.

The difference however is what we think the money should be spent on.

I have been advocating for a half cent sales tax for education issues since 2007 and it’s something a few more public education friendly districts have already done.

Palm Beach has a special property tax that pays for Music, PE and Art classes and programs. http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-election-palm-school-bond-20141009-story.html

Broward County has a tax that supports technology too. http://www.broward.k12.fl.us/becon/syst/faqs.htm

Then Orange County has a half cent sales tax for school construction. http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/education/os-orange-school-tax-election-20140820-story.html

But one tax not mentioned above is the three percent income tax imposed on Florida’s teachers and others who pay into the Florida Retirement System. Going on three years ago the legislature took three percent of teachers pay because they said it was needed to shore up the pension system. The problems were numerous. First the pension system did not need shoring up, it was one of the best and healthiest in the nation. Next the money taken from teachers was not put into the pension fund it was put into the general fund and now we know where the surplus Tallahassee is so proud of comes from. Finally my pension did not get three percent better but my pay check sure as heck got three percent smaller. http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2013/01/florida-destroys-its-covenant-with.html http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/florida-supreme-court-upholds-law-requiring-state-workers-to-contribute-3/1270970
 
You might be saying but three years ago we were on the brink of an economic disaster, to which I would reply, well since we’re not now how about returning that money to teachers and if things were so desperate then why were we giving tax breaks to friends of Rick Scott and other businesses.  http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2014/jul/07/florida-democratic-party/rick-scott-cut-education-pay-tax-breaks-democratic/

Okay, I feel like I have gotten a little off topic. I guess my point is a small tax increase to pay for technology and construction are both good and needed things but what about helping out teachers? A recent study said Jacksonville was 108 out of 125 in pay for large districts in the entire nation.  http://news.wjct.org/post/researchers-find-error-teacher-study-duval-co-lower-originally-reported

I didn’t become a teacher to get rich but why did it take me ten years to get to 40k, while in other big districts do they either start off that way or it takes less than 5 years to get there and why did Florida feel the need to balance its books on the backs of its teachers? Furthermore why are district administrators worth fair market value but they think they can both get away with and be successful paying teachers on the cheap? http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/11/duvals-all-about-fair-market-value.html

So when the JPEF asks a question about a new tax to fund education priorities but leaves out giving teachers a decent salary or making up for their losses it is frustrating.

Teachers don’t become teachers to get rich but that doesn’t mean they should be stepped on, abused marginalized or neglected and it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be paid a fair wage for what they do and if Tallahassee isn’t going to step up and do what’s right then the people of Jacksonville should.   

If they are willing to, is a question JPEF should be asking.

Fans of school vouchers refuse to answer legitimate concerns.

They say they are for the poor and mostly minority students who have the least but then shrug their shoulders at the massive cuts to Bright Futures which disproportionately effects poor and mostly minority students the most.

They say they have to take a norm referenced tests, well if they are so great why don’t we dump the high stakes testing agenda for public schools and say they can take the same types of tests too?   
They say they save money while at the same time districts lament the millions and millions of dollars they are losing.

They say they are just for poor families but then ask you not to remember that they expanded the eligibility for a family of four from making just over 20 thousand to making just over sixty.

Furthermore the supporters of vouchers usually are also for S.T.E.M, Common Core and teacher accountability but shrug their shoulders at those things for private schools that take vouchers where teachers do not have to be certified nor curriculums recognized.

Also private schools that take less than a quarter of million dollars, the vast majority of them, don’t even have to report how they spend the money and since over seventy percent of the money goes to religious institutions we have effectively dismantled the first amendment too.

Finally this program with the barest of oversight is allowed to expand 25 percent a year, in less than five years it will take a billion dollars annually out of the state coffers and our education system.

Despite all this voucher proponents would have you believe the program is fine and those that oppose it or have legitimate questions are just heartless seeking to harm poor and mostly minority children.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Senator Allan Hayes, went from sane and reasonable to Bat-Sh*t crazy in the span of a few short days.

I guess in Florida we should be happy when it comes to education for even just a little bit of sanity.

Allan Hayes went from saying: "Schoolteachers in the audience and the administrators, please correct me if my perception is incorrect. But I think that what no one has mentioned in here today - We are engaged in the destruction of our talent pool in education. No teacher that I know of is going to want to continue to teach under these kinds of trying circumstances. They’re leaving like crazy. Understand this. They’re leaving like rats off a sinking ship. And they’re quality teachers. They have the intellect and the ability to move into the business world and make far more money than they’re making as teachers, under far less trying circumstances.

And not only that, but we’re poisoning the well. How many high school students do you know that are experiencing this train wreck and hearing all this stuff and seeing it first hand are going to want to go to college to become a teacher? It’s not going to happen. This is a mess and we need to stop it right now."

To filing legislation requiring both 8th and 11th graders to watch Dinesh D’souza’s, America: imagine the world without her, widely regarded as the worst of the worst of right-wing propaganda.

Now I have joked kids should watch the HBO series OZ and then after each episode saying, and that’s the good part of the prison, but I was joking where Senator Hayes sadly seems to be being serious.

He went from nailing it to being old man Mcgilicutty yelling at imaginary kids to get off his lawn.

It’s not just the weather that changes every fifteen minutes in Florida.

Sonita Young predicted Duval County would have few highly effective teachers

And that’s because she was part of the team that set up the system to be that way.

From an October 2012 Times Union article: Sonita Young, the district's chief human resources officer said , It’s likely, that very few teachers will fall into the “highly effective” category under the new system. Most of Duval’s teachers are going to fall under “effective” or “needs improvement” because there isn’t a correlation between the existing definition of “highly effective” and the new one.


This makes it seems like she is okay with that and her prediction has come true as Duval has one of the lowest percentages of highly effective teachers in the state. 

What were the reasons we selected a system meant to undervalue teachers? Well I believe it is because the district both does not appreciate teachers and wants to save money. Regardless if you agree or not Young’s 2012 prediction has come true.

Is UNF part of the solution or the problem?

First once again I would like to thank Dr. Michael Binder for getting back to me about questions I had about the JPEF/UNF opinion poll taken last week. His answers were all very reasonable but I think he missed my point and that is, does UNF want to be part of the problem or part of the solution?

If UNF blindly takes questions from JPEF, or any organization for that matter and just presents their findings then they are part of the problem, they have just tacitly endorsed their agenda. Despite the P standing for Public in JPEF’s name, I believe their overall, far reaching goal is the privatization of public education.
When I asked why giving money to teachers wasn’t an option with potential new taxes, implying JPEF considered them after thoughts, Dr. Binder wrote:  Again, I would direct that question to JPEF.   I could venture guesses, none of which are as Machiavellian as you're implying, but they would simply be guesses.

Let’s talk about Machiavellian.

Since 2010 when JPEF arrived charter schools have increased by nearly 400 percent, from 10 to 35. Teach for America the same going from 50 members to 200.

A block of the JPEF board gave a considerable amount of money to a candidate in each school board race, after JPEF promised other nonprofits they would remain impartial, winning 3 out of four contests. They also created the QEA which has pushed from behind closed doors the market ideas they champion.

They have donated substantially to the public policy institute at Jacksonville University and to WJCT which gave Gary Chartrand a champion of education award. Undoubtedly they have purchased influence at both places.

The same Gary Chartrand, never an educator is chairman of the state board of education has said, anybody can be a teacher, it’s good that they don’t have work protections and has used his position to support charters over district objections state wide and would like nothing better than for Jacksonville to be the first open enrollment district in the state. Okay that last part was conjecture on my part but nothing else was.   

He is the prince and JPEF is his steed. His goal is the destruction of public education and teaching as a profession. I will let you decide if that is conjecture or not.

I believe UNF should take the time to ask questions because if they did that then they would get better answers for the city, right now they are just presenting the answers JPEF wants them to.

Florida's education train wreck!

From Facebook

"Schoolteachers in the audience and the administrators, please correct me if my perception is incorrect. But I think that what no one has mentioned in here today - We are engaged in the destruction of our talent pool in education. No teacher that I know of is going to want to continue to teach under these kinds of trying circumstances. They’re leaving like crazy. Understand this. They’re leaving like rats off a sinking ship. And they’re quality teachers. They have the intellect and the ability to move into the business world and make far more money than they’re making as teachers, under far less trying circumstances.
And not only that, but we’re poisoning the well. How many high school students do you know that are experiencing this train wreck and hearing all this stuff and seeing it first hand are going to want to go to college to become a teacher? It’s not going to happen. This is a mess and we need to stop it right now."
Sen. Allan Hays (FL - R)
Lake County Legislators Delegation - Dec 2, 2014

Florida Voucher proponents plant fear, misinformation and acrimony

By Wayne Blanton
I am grateful to the South Florida Sun Sentinel for its insightful, balanced, and responsible editorial on Nov. 29, “Court Review of School Vouchers Long Overdue.” I found Doug Tuthill’s combative response to the editorial surprising since I invited Tuthill to meet with me, and we sat down together last week to discuss areas of potential agreement.
Although he has been president of Step Up for Students for many years, it appears he’s not well-informed about his own program. The only other explanation for the errors in his response to the editorial supporting legal review of the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship is he is on a mission to deceive the public.
The “massive expansion” he denies exists refers to a $72 million increase in the program’s funding limit in just the past year. Initially, the program had a $50 million funding limit intended to aid low-income families. Now, sitting on an exorbitant $358 million cap, the program has increased its eligibility ceiling to include families of four making up to approximately $62,000 per year. That doesn’t sound like “Florida’s poorest schoolchildren.”
And, in terms of saving the state money, apparently Tuthill is unaware of the Legislature’s own analysis showing that, if left unchecked, the program soon will create a financial deficit for the state.
Tuthill also claims voucher students are learning, but avoids the real question: What are they learning? It seems he doesn’t want the public to know the private schools participating in this voucher program do not have to be accredited, teachers do not have to be certified, textbooks do not have to be up-to-date, and curriculum does not have to be in line with Florida’s high state standards.
Further, since voucher students are not required to take Florida’s statewide, standardized assessments, there is absolutely no way to measure whether these voucher schools are providing the high quality education guaranteed by our state constitution.
Not content to defend his program with vague half-truths, Tuthill also chose to strike out blindly at his opponents with baseless accusations. The education leaders behind the lawsuit have historically fought for students’ rights and are in no way attempting to deny equal opportunity to low-income students. As elected constitutional officers, school board members are sworn to uphold the Florida Constitution and are obliged to question laws and regulations which may violate its provisions.
The plaintiffs in this case believe that, in addition to infringing upon the separation of church and state by allowing state funds to indirectly aid sectarian institutions — more than 70 percent of participating schools are religious — the Tax Credit Scholarship Program recruits vulnerable students and diverts state funding into a parallel system of private education that is devoid of public transparency.
Tuthill’s comments in response to the Sun Sentinel’s editorial have maligned and insulted those who have legitimate concerns about the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program and, worse, he has created panic and confusion for the students and families engaged in the program.
The Florida School Boards Association, Florida Education Association, Florida League of Women Voters, Florida PTA, NAACP and other backers of the lawsuit have asked the court to review the Tax Credit Scholarship Program to determine if it complies with the requirements of the Florida Constitution. If this voucher program is all Tuthill claims it to be, he should have no fear of a judicial review of the program to affirm its legitimacy.
Dr. Wayne Blanton is the executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. He can be reached at blanton@fsba.org.

UNF responds to questions about the JPEF/UNF survey.

First I would like to thank Micheal Binder of UNF for getting back to me. I asked him to respond to the piece about the UNF/JPEF public awareness poll.

Note: I sent him a rough draft version of below, and yes it might seem like everything I write is rough, the content though is the same just a little tightened up. Professor Binder's responses are in bold.

Usually these polls give confidence intervals, they say things like, we are 95 percent confident that the answers are within plus or minus 4 percentage points. It gives them some wiggle room in case something is totally wrong. 

The margin of error for the entire survey was 4.38 percentage points.  It's not "wiggle room", it is the statistics of the sampling procedure.

Well when reading the poll a couple questions jumped out at me.

Did you vote in the most recent election, 72 percent yes, 28 percent no.  Well according to the supervisor of elections a little less than fifty percent of people voted. That’s one of those questions people might be embarrassed to answer truthfully especially if they didn’t so I guess begrudgingly we can give this question a pass.   

 There's two pieces to this.  First, you are correct.  There is likely a social desirability bias upping the reported number of voters.  Second, there is also likely a little bit of a selection issue as well.  Folks that are more likely to vote are also more likely to pick up their phone and agree to take the survey.  These numbers aren't very different than any other survey you'll see. 

The next question was, are you in support of Common Core, it was worded awkwardly but that was the gist. 62.4 percent of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that common core was a good idea. Well if that’s the case then Jacksonville is one of the last bastions of Common Core support. A lot of polls have shown support for common core plummeting and even the ultra-pro-common core Education Next group reported support had dropped to 53 percent nationwide though it was much lower among teachers.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/19/poll-common-core-support-among-teachers-plummets-with-fewer-than-half-supporting-it/

Okay just a ten percent swing, outside the margin of error but hey maybe we love common core here. 

 My response to this is again two-fold.  It is possible that folks like common core more here than elsewhere, but I'd likely suggest another explanation.  Question wording in surveys matters, and it matters even more so when asking about issues that the adults aren't well versed in. Common Core is one of those issues people have limited information about.  People like being able to compare their students to other students, that described explained in our survey question.  I suspect if we simply said "common core" and didn't explain that is was comparative standards the support would have been markedly lower. 

The next question was about holding teachers and schools accountable based on standards. Nearly 62 percent of the people agreed that was a great or good idea. But the poll never asked the same question about holding them accountable based on high stakes testing, which is both more accurate about how things are done and has been a huge issue lately. There are question about the business community, non-profits and Alvin Brown but nothing on testing? The Mel Gibson Conspiracy Theory part of me thinks they didn’t want to know the answer because it would have been dreadful, but I will save that for the next question.   

The next question was about open enrollment, which asked if your child should be able to go to any school in any part of town. A whopping 77.1 percent of the people thought this was a great or good idea and I will admit it sounds very attractive, the problem is it falls apart when any critical thinking is applied, http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/03/another-big-gamble-by-superintendent.html

but why this question? Where is the question about high stakes testing, teacher pay, charter schools, Teach for America, vouchers or a whole host of seemingly more important issues?

Nowhere to be found that’s where.

I believe it’s because the JPEF and district are setting us up for a spring push to start open enrollment in the 15-16 school year. The JPEF recently recommended it in their school choice study and now the district can go, hey remember that survey we did a couple months back? We’re just doing what the people want us to do. Which would be ironic because another question asked if the board listened to public opinion and 55 percent of the respondents said either no or hell no.  

That is interesting conjecture.  Those aren't questions or comments that I know the answer to.  As the the Faculty Director for the Public Opinion Research Laboratory at UNF, we worked with JPEF in constructing the survey, question wording and order of the questions.  The content they wanted to ask about had to be balanced against the amount of questions we can actually ask — the survey ran about 15 minutes as it was.  I would direct those questions to JPEF.

I could review/question about a half dozen more questions but I’m going to do just one more. When asked where money from a potential new tax should go to there were a whole host of options, improving technology which is the supers favorite and safety which I am sure is parents were the two most popular options, but an option that wasn’t offered was to spend the money on human capital.  How about higher salaries for teachers or heck just hiring more teachers to comply with the class size amendment, something open enrollment goes around. How about using it to hire art, music and P.E. teachers which is what Palm Beach does with it’s special tax. Nope hiring more or paying better the people doing the actual educating wasn’t even mentioned and I believe that’s because to the district and the JPEF, we’re after thoughts.

 Again, I would direct that question to JPEF.   I could venture guesses, none of which are as Machiavellian as you're implying, but they would simply be guesses. 

I am sure there are people at the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory who could explain why they asked this question and why they left one that out. I am sure they can explain why they worded questions the way they did too. The real problem however is the influence that came from who they were working with.

The JPEF board is made up of common core loving, charter school running, high stakes testing supporters and it would be beyond the pale to think the people paying the bills don’t have any influence. These are the same people that though the QEA has hijacked democracy which has partnered with UNF to run the new teacher residency program, which may or may not be unraveling as we speak. This morning’s piece on NPR was a little vague but did mention that 2 out of the 13 member first class didn’t survive the first semester.

I am a proud graduate of UNF but when I see this poll the best I can do is give a slight nod to its veracity while I question its independence and I can’t help but think that if they were left to their own devices the questions and results might be totally different and probably more honest too.  

I am unable to comment on any teacher residency program or "QEA", since I have no idea what that is.  All I can say is that the survey was conducted entirely within our facilities.  The only influence JPEF had was on putting together some question wording.  

We executed the survey and sent them the data without any interference or even a hint that they had any preference for what the results actually said. 

If you have any more technical survey questions I'd be happy to answer them for you. 

Mike 

Michael Binder, Ph.D.Assistant Professor, Political Science

To see the poll so you can make your own judgments click the link:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/249808748/2014-Annual-Education-Perceptions-Poll-Formatted-Final

How valid if the JPEF/UNF public education poll?

Usually these polls give confidence intervals, they say things like, we are 95 percent confident that the answers are within plus or minus 4 percentage points. It gives them some wiggle room in case something is totally wrong.

Well when reading the poll a couple questions jumped out at me.

Did you vote in the most recent election, 72 percent yes, 28 percent no.  Well according to the supervisor of elections a little less than fifty percent of people voted. That’s one of those questions people might be embarrassed to answer truthfully especially if they didn’t so I guess begrudgingly we can give this question a pass.   

The next question was, are you in support of Common Core, it was worded awkwardly but that was the gist. 62.4 percent of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed that common core was a good idea. Well if that’s the case then Jacksonville is one of the last bastions of Common Core support. A lot of polls have shown support for common core plummeting and even the ultra-pro-common core Education Next group reported support had dropped to 53 percent nationwide though it was much lower among teachers.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/08/19/poll-common-core-support-among-teachers-plummets-with-fewer-than-half-supporting-it/

Okay just a ten percent swing, outside the margin of error but hey maybe we love common core here.

The next question was about holding teachers and schools accountable based on standards. Nearly 62 percent of the people agreed that was a great or good idea. But the poll never asked the same question about holding them accountable based on high stakes testing, which is both more accurate about how things are done and has been a huge issue lately. There are question about the business community, non-profits and Alvin Brown but nothing on testing? The Mel Gibson Conspiracy Theory part of me thinks they didn’t want to know the answer because it would have been dreadful, but I will save that for the next question.   

The next question was about open enrollment, which asked if your child should be able to go to any school in any part of town. A whopping 77.1 percent of the people thought this was a great or good idea and I will admit it sounds very attractive, the problem is it falls apart when any critical thinking is applied, http://jaxkidsmatter.blogspot.com/2014/03/another-big-gamble-by-superintendent.html

but why this question? Where is the question about high stakes testing, teacher pay, charter schools, Teach for America, vouchers or a whole host of seemingly more important issues?

Nowhere to be found that’s where.

I believe it’s because the JPEF and district are setting us up for a spring push to start open enrollment in the 15-16 school year. The JPEF recently recommended it in their school choice study and now the district can go, hey remember that survey we did a couple months back? We’re just doing what the people want us to do. Which would be ironic because another question asked if the board listened to public opinion and 55 percent of the respondents said either no or hell no.  

I could review/question about a half dozen more questions but I’m going to do just one more. When asked where money from a potential new tax should go to there were a whole host of options, improving technology which is the supers favorite and safety which I am sure is parents were the two most popular options, but an option that wasn’t offered was to spend the money on human capital.  How about higher salaries for teachers or heck just hiring more teachers to comply with the class size amendment, something open enrollment goes around. How about using it to hire art, music and P.E. teachers which is what Palm Beach does with it’s special tax. Nope hiring more or paying better the people doing the actual educating wasn’t even mentioned and I believe that’s because to the district and the JPEF, we’re after thoughts.

I am sure there are people at the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory who could explain why they asked this question and why they left one that out. I am sure they can explain why they worded questions the way they did too. The real problem however is the influence that came from who they were working with.

The JPEF board is made up of common core loving, charter school running, high stakes testing supporters and it would be beyond the pale to think the people paying the bills don’t have any influence. These are the same people that though the QEA has hijacked democracy which has partnered with UNF to run the new teacher residency program, which may or may not be unraveling as we speak. This morning’s piece on NPR was a little vague but did mention that 2 out of the 13 member first class didn’t survive the first semester.

I am a proud graduate of UNF but when I see this poll the best I can do is give a slight nod to its veracity while I question its independence and I can’t help but think that if they were left to their own devices the questions and results might be totally different and probably more honest too.  

To see the poll so you can make your own judgments click the link:  http://www.scribd.com/doc/249808748/2014-Annual-Education-Perceptions-Poll-Formatted-Final