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Florida Voucher Proponents Change their Narrative again.

Have you noticed school choice advocates like Steve Knellinger, who recently wrote an op-ed in the Tampa Times are constantly changing their narrative? They have gone from saving children from failing schools, to competition, to kids just learn differently. But other than a religious education, what can kids get in private schools that they can't get in public?

I will tell you, they can get a non-certified teacher, heck they can get a non-degreed teacher too as there are no requirements for teachers to meet. They can get an education in junk science, creationism, while failing to get an education in actual science; in fact they don’t have to have any recognized curriculums. Then there is no way to actually compare how they are doing with public school students because they fight against accountability. They don’t fight against public money, no they want more of that; they just fight against proving it is being well and properly used.

Vouchers undoubtedly do help a few students but if we are being honest how many students couldn’t get the same services in their public schools. Should the public really be forced to fund someone’s religious choice, distrust of “gov’ment” schools or irrational hatred of teacher unions?  Should we really be handicapping the many to help a few?

The amazing hypocrisy of the ReDefined Ed blog/school choice advocates.

They really tie themselves into knots over there at the pro-privatization blog but today's piece was monumental.

Patrick Gibbons who often divorces himself from reality (teachers were never unfairly made scapegoats, school choice has always been about competition), complained that students in Wisconsin’s voucher system were being unfairly compared to the public school students. The long of the short of it is they surprise, surprise don’t perform as well.

He wrote: A phone call from redefinED to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction revealed that the state doesn’t track the average household income of voucher participants. Thus, there is no apples to apples comparison.

After spitting my milk out I shook my head in dismay. You see Gibbons and the rest of his ilk here in Florida scream from the roof tops that there doesn’t have to be an apples to apples comparison between the tests that voucher and public school kids take. They continuously scoff at the notion. In an amazing display of wanting to have his cake and eat it too, or what my grandmother called chutzpah, Mr. Gibbons says comparisons are only good when they favor us and are unnecessary when they don't.

Welcome to the school choice movement.

Education Matters goes statewide!

In the past couple weeks posts first featured on Education Matters have been in the Gainesville Sun,

St. Augustine Record,

Palm Beach Post,

I have been quoted in a Times Union article, had a lead letter printed

and finally I was in a piece on WJCT Channel 7.

Basically I am just a guy who is tired of seeing teachers demonized and kids getting shortchanged so I wrote a letter. It’s something you could do too. In fact if you want public education to survive we need you to.

Duval’s end game is to bring the Gates Foundation to town.

Oy vey, look I get it we have needs going unmet, but the strings attached to any money the Gates foundation would give us would instead act like a noose.

Gates, in typical rich guy fashion recently said, it will probably be a decade or more before we know if our reforms have worked.

A DECADE, IF?!? What the beep. He said it nonchalantly too because it’s not his kids that will have to endure the failed reforms he keeps bringing to the table.

Does anybody remember his first initiative? Smaller Schools. He reasoned well some smaller schools in places like Nebraska are doing well, let’s replicate that everywhere.  Hundreds of millions of dollars and countless hours of consternation later and small learning communities have gone the way of the dinosaur.

This is the same guy who infamously asked, why would I pay a more experienced guy to cut my lawn, when talking about why experienced teachers  got paid more than rookie ones and who instituted a stack ranking evaluation system at Microsoft that experts say led to its stagnation, which for a while he advocated doing this with teachers saying, just cut the bottom ten percent for a few years.

If Gates, who never taught a day in his life nor worked at a school was a regular guy, nobody would give him and his horrible ideas the time of day.

And this is the guy, Vitti, the board and the other rich guys of the QEA want to bring to town.

Their cure is far worse than the disease.

Rick Scott celebrates teachers losing their jobs.

The Tampa Times is reporting that Rick Scott sent a letter to the Pasco County school district praising them as one of the healthiest employers around.

The Tampa Times is also reporting that because of budget cuts the Pasco County School district let go nearly 500 workers in 2011(although many won new posts later), eliminated nearly 90 jobs in 2012 and about 100 positions in 2013.

Hundreds of people lost their jobs and he considers it a success.

I know some people really don’t like Obama but how did this guy get elected again?

Vitti gives control of the district to a bunch of rich white guys (and one girl).

Have you ever heard the saying, the cure is worse than the disease? Well if you know what it means welcome to Duval County’s education system.

The Quality Education for All initiative has come to town and superintendent Vitti has promptly given control of our schools to them. A bunch of millionaires, make that white millionaires, some of whom don’t even live in Jacksonville, who sent their children to private schools; millionaires with nary any actually education experience. Will now be making decisions that effect tens of thousand of poor mostly black kids that live in the North and West sides of town. 

I know what some of you are thinking. We (our schools) have problems; they have money lets get together. If only it were that easy because the problem is they want control.

The Quality Education for all Initiative has a board of directors that will decide how the money is spent.  It consists of chairman -Wayne Weaver; Members - Cindy Edelman; Gary Chartrand; Laurie DuBow; Matt Rapp; David Stein; Non-voting Members - Dr. Nikolai Vitti, Superintendent of Duval County Public Schools; Nina Waters, President of The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida. 

*Wayne Weaver, womens shoes, wife on the board of the JPEF
*Gary Chartrand, grocer, also on the board of city year and the JPEF
*Lawerence “Laurie” DuBow, pharmacutical sales and marketing,
*Cindy Edelman, also on the board of City Year and JPEF, art history teacher at Bolles
Matt Rapp, golfer
*David Stein, restaurateur

  • gave money to Ashley Smith-Juarez’s election campaign, if you noticed a lot of overlap there then you aren’t the only one.

The QEA funds are housed at the Community Foundation and the money is managed by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

But the board that decides how the money is spent has three board members on the JPEF if you count Wayne Weaver whose wife is on it along with Chartrnd and Edelman. What am I missing? Why is the Community Foundation involved at all.

These are the people who will be allowed to vote on how the money is spent. Did you notice a painful lack of teaching experience there and don’t me started about Edelman? Did you see the lack of institutional knowledge? Could they even find the north or west sides of town, how about at least a token black guy. I highly doubt they have any relevant knowledge and it is obvious that they have no experience about the problems on that side of town. But worst of all they are in charge when it should be the other way around where Vitti gets to vote and they get to advise.

Lets look at some of the things they have already voted on.

Teach for America, just what our poor back kids need, untrained tourists that create a revolving door of teachers, oh and they take jobs that professional teachers might take.

The New Teacher Project, it’s their mantra that if you can just cut away enough bad teachers then things will all be better. They are here to examine our “human capital”, gee I wonder what they will find.

The Columbia Summer Principal Academy where teachers can get free masters degrees, what could my problem here be? Well of the five slots filled so far, four of them were by TFA hobbyists. Hey come serve two years and we’ll give you a free masters degree, make it a career and you can, rhymes with duck fit.   

Then they voted to throw money at the problem through a transfer initiative that all relevant research says will produce some success on the elementary level, none on the secondary and then peter out when the money runs out.

There strategy is to basically blame professionally teachers and to throw money at the problem and Vitti has given them his thumbs up.

I think it is great they want to be involved, we need more people to be, but at the end of the day they have zero business making education decisions because after all people not knowing what they were doing got us in this mess in the first place.

Do you think Florida will ever get tired of being the laughingstock of the nation?

From the Washington Post by Valerie Strauss

Alberto M. Carvahlo is the superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida, and was named the national 2014 Principal of the Year by the School Superintendents Association. He’s held that job for more than five years, having worked his way through the school district as a teacher, assistant principal, lobbyist and other positions.
On a recent conference call with other superintendents and state officials, including Florida Education Commission Pam Stewart, Carvahlo asked about field testing the new standardized tests that Florida is developing to replace the troubled Florida Comprehensive Assessment System. The answer was rather surprising.
Florida had been a charter member and fiscal agent of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, one of two multi-state consortia that — with some $350 million in federal funds — promised to develop standardized tests aligned with the Core. The Core standards were adopted in full by 45 states plus the District of Columbia but a number of states are reconsidering their participation as opposition has grown, and some have pulled out of PARCC.
Florida dropped out of the consortium and said it would create its own standards — called the Florida Standards -- that remain remarkably similar to the Common Core. It also said it would create its own standardized test to measure teaching and learning of these standards, and the Education Department entered into a six-year $220 million contract with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to develop new tests. AIR is a nonprofit that developed Florida’s “value-added” scores for teachers, which are purported to be able to assess how effective teachers are through complicated formulas that use student standardized test scores as a base.
When Carvalho asked about field testing, he got a surprising answer. Most states field test their standardized tests in their own state. Not Florida. Florida’s new tests are being field tested in, of all places, Utah. He tweeted: 
Did you know that FL is paying the State of Utah $5.4 M to field test its own questions with its own teachers and students?
Field test in UT ensures reliability and validity of test in FL? No doubt, the likeness of demographics inspired decision
The vast majority of public school students in Utah — 76.5 percent 2013-14– are white; 15.9 percent are Hispanic/Latino; and 1.3 percent are classified as Black/African American, according to state officials. In Florida, more than half of the student population is black or Hispanic.
What’s the Florida-Utah connection? Utah, like Florida, had approved the Common Core but decided to create their own “Utah Core Standards,” based on the Common Core. In addition, the American Institutes of Research are under contract with Utah to develop K-12 tests there.

Arne Duncan takes a break from ridiculing teachers to contradict himself.

He also took a break from praising China’s educational system, extolling the virtues of high stakes testing and charters but those are other stories.

Just a year ago he said,  “I believe the Common Core State Standards may prove to be the single greatest thing to happen to public education in America since Brown v. Board of Education.” 

That’s sliced bread territory there and it makes sense for him to say so too, what with him and the administration bribing cash strapped and desperate states during the great recession to sign on board. He would want to give them some hope that they were doing the right thing.

Oh how with time love fades, because he just said, “Just to be very clear with this group, “I’m just a big proponent of high standards. Whether they’re common or not is sort of secondary.”

Hardly “the single greatest thing to ever happen to education” anymore right?

Never taught a day in his life to secretary of education. Only in America.  

Did Duval Teachers United sell out its own teachers?

Section 6 of the memorandum of understanding between the district and union about transferring teachers says:  Additionally, the DCPS may release any current teacher from his/her assignment if it is determined by DCPS in its sole determination, that the teacher is not currently meeting the academic or social needs of the schools population or school community. Additional, at the end of each ear of the agreement a similar school review shall be conducted, however release for subsequent years shall be based on performance measures determined by the parties.

Um, what ?!? Release?? Okay I get they want to bring in experienced teachers, but does release mean out of a job or transferred to another one? Are they going to be able to release veteran teachers and replace them with Teach for America too? We have to meet social needs? Am I expected to play bridge with my kids or go to rap concerts because I have zero interest in either? Are they going to be able to kick transferred teachers to the curb after one year? You know the ones that the principals don’t like or who insist on leaving before six o’clock and having the occasional weekend free?

I would also like to know what the union got in return for all these considerations, for waiving the language of the contract. Because as the district continues to expand TFA and if teachers can be let go for dubious reasons, at the sole discretion of the district, then it doesn’t seem like much.

I feel like the union is Vizzini and the District is the man in the mask and that’s just not fair.  

Jim Horne has millions of reasons to mislead you.

Jim Horne, the chair of the Florida Charter school alliance thinks we are doing well and since the Florida Legislature has turned the state coffers like piggy banks for the charter school industry, he has millions of reason to think so.

In an opinion column he recently penned about accountability in the Times Union and I bet at least a dozen other papers too, everything he said was a flat out lie or a very charitable characterization of events.  

He talks about how things were a disaster before 1999 but for you that were old enough to remember do you think it was that way? Furthermore do you think this era of high stakes testing where we pretty much just teach kids how to bubble in grids is better?

He talks about how schools started to dramatically improve by 2003 but he doesn’t mention how the original grading formula put schools in a hole and how revisions got them out of it.

Him crediting Florida’s improvement in graduation rates, which have dramatically improved all across the nation and tests, to the accountability measures put in place under him and Bush has as much validity as me saying they held us back from where we should be as an education system and all we need do is look at Alabama.

Alabama did not sell its neighborhood schools to corporations, fail its third graders or grade its schools A-F which really only tells you the medium income of zip codes and they have seen similar improvements.   

It’s Horne’s opinion that the reforms have led to improvements. It’s my opinion that they were used to privatize our schools, demonize our teachers and suck the joy of learning out for our students. What’s your opinion?

Is Step up for Students hoarding cash and short changing scholarships?

First you should know I am not a math guy or a tax guy. I am not an art teacher for no reason. Nor do I know the ends and outs of the requirements put on Step up for Students, Florida’s, seemingly shady, voucher delivery group. I however can read and know how to use a calculator.

From their 990, expenses, 207,753,225,

The scholarship is supposed to have a value of 4,880, but when you divide the small number into the big number you get 4067. Even is SUFS kept three percent, their fee for managing the vouchers, odd because I would think they would take the money off the top rather than off each scholarship, they should be paying about 4,730.

Okay maybe some scholarships are worth less though why a private school wouldn’t ask for the maximum they can get is beyond me.

Things get a little more troubling too, and remember I am not a math guy.

On line 18 it says their total expenses were 213,475,359, and that sounds about right, the scholarships, plus expenses, plus all the money they give to politicians to get more public money. But then on line 22 it says their end of the year assets or fund balances is 314,025,672. They started the year with 216,579,435, so after their state payments in and vouchers out that seems to fit.

I talked to a corporate tax guy and he emphasized several times he was not an expert on non-profits but said section X might be more relevant. X says that at the end of the year they were sitting on almost 38 million dollars in cash.

One more time, I am not a math guy and I don’t know the ends and out of voucher laws, but as a layman with a calculator it seems to me they are undercutting the amount they pay out in vouchers and they are sitting on a pretty big nest egg. Both of which (and the six figure salaries they give to many of the executives) seem to diminish their assertion that it is all about the kids., make that poor and minority kids as they ad nauseum point out.

If anybody has some insight or could explain it a little better for me I would love to hear it. Did I mention I was not a math guy?

A complete lack of respect for Jacksonville's African American community

I am just going to get right to it. The Jacksonville Public Education fund has partnered with the Community Foundation to funnel funds into so of our struggling schools which also happen to be predominately black. I disagree with a lot of the plans, a few I think are okay, but the bottom line is I think we need better programs and leadership more than money, this however is not about that.  

It's about the Community Fund, before you read any further click the link and meet them.

Not to be flippant but I bet they could have found a more racially diverse bunch at a Klan meeting. Now I am sure they are all nice people who really care but in the immortal words of Deion Sanders, come on man!

Did they go into the African American community and solicit their ideas? Did they bother to ask them how they felt and what they thought? If they did I bet Teach for America wouldn't be heading into the North and West sides of town.  WOW, basically the same group that caused the problems through neglect, the white establishment, is now being charged with fixing them.

Oy vey.