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Sunday, November 19, 2017

'Education reform' needs to be redefined

'Education reform' needs to be redefined
By John Louis Meeks, Jr.

“War is peace.  Freedom is slavery.  Ignorance is strength.” (George Orwell)
“We must recruit and retain the best people to make sure every classroom in Florida has a highly effective teacher.” (Governor Rick Scott)
While George Orwell was adept at instilling terror in the hearts and minds of his readers, his fictional dystopia pales in comparison to the real-life dystopia that public education has become.
The common thread between both worlds is the doublespeak that is designed to convince the public that down is up and up is down.
In 2011, Governor Scott signed the ‘Student Success Act’ into law.  It’s not the first time that lawmakers, federal or state, dressed up bad laws under the clever guise of platitudes.  And it’s not the first time that education reformers messed up public education with legislation that sounded charming enough; ‘No Child Left Behind’ still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of liberals and conservatives alike.
Alas, this is the magic of legislating by dogma and propaganda.  For nearly two decades, Florida politics have been dominated by conservatives whose agenda has included a never-ending war with public schools and their ability to define the terms of their battles through controlling the message.
It began with Jeb Bush.  While I heard snickering over ‘low energy’ Bush being shellacked in primaries by our current president, I knew that the man asking an audience – out loud – to applaud was a shadow of his former self.  In a previous life, John Ellis Bush was the man who replaced Claude Kirk as public enemy number one in the eyes of public education advocates.  He openly declared war on teachers unions and molded an entire state’s education policy to fit his flawed vision.
In the beginning of the Bush years, it was about ‘accountability.’  It was a popular concept to have a way to quantify the quality of public schools.  Standardized testing and school grades, however, created harmful situations for schools that were deemed ‘failing.’  The new accountability regime under Bush was more eager to punish schools than they were to address any of the factors behind those test scores and school grades. 
It was also during the Bush years that ‘choice’ became a central theme of public education policy.  The state’s focus (and funding) shifted away from its traditional public schools toward what Bush believed to be more capable providers of quality education – private, parochial, and charter schools. 
Bush cannot be completely to blame over the current situation in which we find ourselves.  The political scene shifted significantly since Bush’s second term ended.  The Republicans consolidated power in the legislature along with keeping the governor’s mansion in their hands with Charlie Crist. 
An unholy alliance soon formed.  Not all bad education ideas were from Republicans.  President Barrack Obama’s bad education idea began with his choice for Secretary of Education.  Arne Duncan was a reformer whose ‘Race to the Top Grant’ created a mad dash among states for federal education funds under the condition they adopt education reformers’ ideas such as linking student performance to teacher evaluations, placing a heavy emphasis on student scores.  And, included as part of the grant, greater involvement for charter schools. 
With such a broad coalition of support, Florida put on its running shoes to grab this federal money.  It was radical, permanent change that was being funded by a one-time grant.  Bear in mind that the state will not expand Medicaid because they say that it is not self-sustaining in the long term).  The absurdity of the federal government’s education policy made many public education advocates wonder if they had any friends in power.  And it’s no wonder that many ‘undecided’ voters say that they cannot tell a dime’s worth of difference between the two major political parties.  The Republicans, when in power, know to defer to the education industrial complex (testing companies, charter schools) and the Democrats, when in power, seem to find ways to alienate their base (teachers unions) to reach out to the ‘middle’. 
The education reformers continued to win every debate, though, because they were able to frame the dialogue as them versus the teachers unions who don’t want children to succeed.  And every succeeding legislative session included a laundry list of new reforms meant to improve public education, but were open efforts to settle scores with teachers unions.
The Student Success Act of 2011 required all school districts to put their teachers on a new merit pay system.  Teacher pay would be determined in part by their student test scores.  Teachers who were rated ‘highly effective’ would receive a larger pay raise than those who were rated ‘effective.’  It would replace the traditional seniority-based pay ladder.
I knew, however, that something was rotten in the state of Florida.  Since the Bush years, much of education reform was tossing cooked pasta on the wall.  Each legislative session was rife with new laws and mandates for public schools that came with little to no funding.  Tallahassee got to have their cake and eat it, as well.  They were able to say that they were transforming education while passing the buck to the school districts to pocket the expense.  For example, state-mandated exams to measure student performance and teacher pay are unfunded by the state, forcing the districts to foot the bill.
I still was not sure how the latest round of legislative action would help student success, but I decided to play along because I was ‘grandfathered’ in and remained on the traditional pay schedule and because I was a bit envious of the annual raise that new teachers would get should they be highly effective.  Some districts agreed to make their highly effective raise as much as $2,000 a year.
Unfortunately, we are learning that one should not govern by rhetoric.  The Orwellian mantra of ‘Student success’ may have gotten votes; it was the execution that is a betrayal of one of its key talking points -recruiting and retaining new teachers.
As of now, there is a teaching shortage in Florida.  The shrinking pre-intern pool at local colleges of education is one indicator, as is the number of ‘permanent substitutes’ who are filling vacancies in schools across the state.  And, with student success in mind, think of the resignations that are being submitted during the school year. 
And it should be no surprise that the workforce in Florida is becoming less stable.  Teachers who are rated ‘highly effective’ or ‘effective’ have to wait until the spring of the following school year to receive the raise that they earned the previous school year.  As of the end of November, these teachers have not received the merit pay – along with educators from around the state.  As accountability is central to public education, when will the state’s elected and appointed leaders be held accountable for this situation?
Instead of throwing a life preserver to school districts that are struggling to pay the performance pay that was mandated by Tallahassee, the legislature threw an anchor at school districts.  Funding (e.g. Title I) that could traditionally support pay increases has been diverted to charter schools thanks to recently passed House Bill 7069.  I detect a pattern here.  The state’s education policy now consists of passing reform after reform but not stopping to make sure that they are actually working.  It seems the only law that is working with regard to public education in Florida is the law of unintended consequences.
Please don’t just take the word of this fifteen-year veteran educator.  It’s a once in a blue moon event to see parent organizations, teachers unions, school boards, and superintendents joining in a common cause against HB 7069.  There is damage being done in the name of ‘reform’ and it is becoming too real for our children, our educators, and our education staff professionals.
While much of my disappointment is aimed at our state’s leadership, I have to ask that school districts (including Duval County) ratify new contracts.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  Because the state failed in its obligation to properly fund our public schools does not mean that we get to back away from our obligation to properly compensate educators and education staff professionals. 
Going forward, this is our chance to ensure that ‘education reform’ is not just words.  

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Is Willis the superintendent we need?

The last time we were looking for a superintendent, I didn't think we needed one to save us, just right the ship so to say. I thought we were a district with great promise and potential and we needed somebody to help draw that out.

The board and I guess the so called elites in the community, however thought we needed somebody to blow the system up. They wanted a change agent to stir the pot, and they certainly got one with Vitti.

Fast forward to now and we are looking for a new superintendent and there will be all sort of debates abut what type of leader we need but what I think we need most of all is a calming and steady influence, a leader to help us recover from the trauma of the last few years and I know when the board brought Willis in it was under the provision it would just be temporary but I think we may need to reconsider that.

I want a leader who was educator and went up through the ranks and one who knows Jacksonville would be invaluable as well. Vitti was barely a teacher and he moved around so much the only things he really knew were two men in a truck and hertz.

I want a leader who is going to listen to parents and teachers not millionaires from Ponte Vedra. I want a leader who is going to push back against corporate reforms like Charters and Teach for America.

I want somebody humble.

I think I am describing Pat Willis.

Now I don't think Mrs. Willis would be here for five years or even three but I could see her sticking around a year or two more and perhaps grooming her replacement and I think this would open up lots of options as well.

Lets face it, whoever the board hires is going to have very limited knowledge about how Jacksonville, which is very complicated works. Instead of just dropping somebody into the deep end if we could have somebody shepherd and mentor them for a year or two then they couldn't help but be more successful.

The board talks about making a decision for the long haul but the thing is every journey starts with a first step.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Everybody hates Teddy, everyone loves Paula, school board chair elections

Have you ever watched the TV show Rectified? If you haven't don't feel bad because you weren't the only one. It was once called the best show that nobody was watching. It was on the Sundance channel, you know one of the channels at the end of the box and it was about a man  named Danielwho spent twenty years on death row. He wasn't exonerated but eventually DNA evidence brought the verdict into question and he was released and went home to live with his family which included a step brother named Teddy and everybody hated Teddy.

I imagine a year ago Scott Shine thought things would be different this year, and that he not Paula Wright would be chair of the school board. Supported by Cheryl Grymes he made a bid to be vice chair of the school board and historically the vice chair has become chair after a year which makes Mrs. Wright's reelection all the more amazing.

I have been following the school board for nearly a decade now and I can't remember a two consecutive year board chair. Shine so unpopular on the board was rebuffed last year and Ashley Smith Juarez then the chair stepped back into the vice chair role only to be replaced this year by Lori Hershey a second year school board member which is something of a meteoric rise in itself.

Mrs. Wright bide ed her time and I am sure her tongue for six years as members with less seniority became chair several times over. It must feel good and validating that she has been chosen to lead the board for a second consecutive year especially when this year is arguably more monumental than others. The state continues to pound public education mercilessly, teachers aren't working with a contract and there is the superintendent search as well, any one of which would be a full plate by them self.   

A few years ago, Mrs. Wright was the school board member that asked tough questions and rubbed the majority of the board the wrong way, now she is running the board and will be doing so for a unprecedented second year in a row.

I haven't always agreed with Mrs. Wright. I felt for her first term like fellow board member Couch, she sat on her hands too much. I had great hope that they would both be champions of teachers and would hit the ground running. I also felt she and the board gave Vitti a lot of rope (with which he eventually hanged himself) and a rubber stamp for to long but all that is the past as I believe she has evolved into the fierce advocate and the leader that our schools need.

Finally I will say I feel a lot more comfortable this go around with the superintendent search and that's because I think we are in better hands. I have great confidence that Wright with the help of Couch and Hershey will find the super we need.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Scott Shine donates to anti ed legislator that he called gutless and clueless

My wife would prefer I use words like uninformed and calculating but at the end of the day aren't they the same thing?

A few months back when the board was discussing joining a law suit against House Bill 7069 a public education kneecapping bill that greatly favors charters that was supported by the republican members of the Duval delegation in Tallahassee, Mr. Shine said the delegation only voted for the bill because they didn't know what was in it (clueless) and because they were afraid (gutless) of speaker Corcoran who welds immense power.   

Well fast forward to the week when Mr. Shine gave a member of the delegation state representative Aaron Bean's reelection campaign the maximum amount of money he could.

Lets examine that. Shine knows the bill hurts public schools and thus his constituents. He said the members of the local delegation did so because they didn't know what was in it and they were afraid of the speaker and then he gave one of those members the maximum contribution,  allowable.

District 2, your school board representative is financially supporting state legislators that have voted to cripple your schools. Is this what you had in mind?

Why do republicans hate education? Is the constant attack on teachers and students what republicans voted for?

Florida's reckless and reprehensible treatment of public education and teachers is well documented.

Trump's appointment of Betsy Devos, who wouldn't be qualified to be a volunteer office aide is another glaring example of there contempt for education.

Then add in the tax reform bill and how it attacks education and there really can't be any doubt. 

From Mother Jones:

The plan would impose a 1.4 percent excise tax on college endowments at private universities….double the standard individual tax deduction, meaning much weaker incentives for charitable contributions to colleges….end student loan interest rate deductions….restructures the American Opportunity Tax Credit, eliminating tax benefits for students who take more than five years to graduate….repeals the Lifetime Learning Credit, which is used by grad students, workers who need retraining and part-time students and nontraditional undergrads who take more than four years to graduate. 

...The legislation would kill another provision that is deeply important to college faculty members and administrators personally: Section 117(d) of the tax code allows employees of nonprofit universities and colleges to exclude from taxable income qualified undergraduate tuition reductions they, or their dependents, receive….Yet another provision targeted by Republicans would end a tax break for employers who cover up to several thousand dollars in educational costs for their workers.

This is my favorite: The proposal would also eliminate a provision of the tax code used by many universities to waive the cost of tuition for graduate students filling positions like teaching assistantships. If the proposal were to go through, those institutions wouldn’t be able to waive tuition costs without imposing new taxable income on grad students, said Steven Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education.

It is standard practice not to charge tuition to grad students. In fact, a pretty good rule of thumb is to avoid any grad program that actually does charge tuition. But if this passes, the waived tuition would count as a taxable benefit for grad students.

It is truly astounding how targeted this tax bill is. It favors rich investors, who mostly vote Republican. It punishes big, urban states that mostly vote Democratic. It hurts universities, which are also filled with Democrats. And it specifically harms students, who mostly wouldn’t be caught dead ever voting for a Republican. Has a big tax bill ever been this carefully constructed to reward and punish voters who support the right or wrong party?

But thats not even it as they are trying to close the very modest 250 dollar write off that teachers have had as well. 

From Time magazine: 

Educators who spend hundreds of dollars out of their own pocket to buy school supplies would no longer be eligible for a tax deduction under the GOP tax reform bill, and the proposal is drawing fierce criticism from teachers’ advocates. 

Under current law, teachers are eligible for a tax deduction of up to $250 for money spent on classroom supplies. 

“Will a teacher in my district who buys pens, pencils, paper for his students be able to deduct these costs from his tax returns under this plan?” Washington Rep. Suzan DelBene asked on Monday, at a markup hearing for the proposed GOP tax bill, which she described as “morally bankrupt.” 

Thomas Barthold, chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, confirmed that the tax plan would repeal the deduction for teacher expenses. The bill has drawn criticism from Democrats and teachers’ associations, who argue it will further burden teachers who already spend a significant amount of their own money on their classrooms.

Is the reason why people vote republican, so they can give millionaires and billionaires tax breaks at the expense of teachers and students. 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

John Meeks: Tallahassee has reneged on its promises to teachers

A key element of education reform in Florida has failed to live up to its promise this year.  When the Student Success Act (Senate Bill 736) was passed in 2011, our state's leaders touted it as a way to attract quality educators to our state's schools.  Furthermore, the legislation upended the traditional pay scale in favor of a new merit pay system that was based in part on student performance.

"We must recruit and retain the best people to make sure every classroom in Florida has a highly effective teacher," said Governor Rick Scott.  And, in the name of education reform teacher pay was no longer based on simple longevity but was tied to their performance and results.

Now that the teachers' performance and results have been rated, we are being told that the commensurate pay increases are not happening.  I think that it is highly irresponsible for our state's leaders to fail to properly fund the very reforms that they enacted.  I doubt that such sloppy policy implementation is what attracts quality teachers to our state.

This unfunded mandate is harmful because, in light of the state's lack of financial support and in light of recent budget shortfall, Duval County's highly effective teachers face a cut in their performance pay.

Going forward, I do hope that this serves as a lesson in how we can have great rhetoric such as 'education reform', but we need to remember that true education reform is a long term commitment and not just a catchy sounding slogan to get elected.

It is my hope that our school system finalize a contract with the teachers union in the short term and that Tallahassee fully fund its vision for the long term.

Daryl Willie,Teach for America alum runs for school board in district 4

I guess he is more than just an alum, he is the executive director of the local chapter, a chapter which despite getting millions of dollars from local philanthropists, money that will never see a classroom by the way, that is probably on the way out as DCPS has greatly scaled back their partnership with Teach for America.

I have met Mr. Willie several times and despite my fierce opposition of his last school board run, he has always been cordial to me, though his wife gives me "the Scott Shine" look. He seems like a pretty decent fellow and earnest people can disagree, even fiercely disagree. In another universe who knows maybe Mr. Willie and I could have been friends.   

This is the thing though, during Willie's last campaign, he took thousands of dollars from people who would gleeful dismantle public education and replace it with a string of charter schools where an ever revolving door of teachers made cameo appearances only to be quickly replaced. I am talking about Gary Chartrand and his friends who are no friends to public education. They financed Mr. Willie in 2014 and are likely to do so again.

Then in my opinion he debased himself by allowing false and misleading campaign  materials about his opponent Paula Wright to be distributed. He didn't try and win with better ideas, he tried to win by misleading and tricking people and tearing down a former teacher who has dedicated her life to our schools and children and sadly to many people like that have won races before.

I didn't support Willie in 14 and I couldn't imagine supporting him now. I just hope this go around he chooses to run a race based on ideas and he only accepts donations from people whose lives he wants to effect rather than from millionaires he would be beholden to.

The election is a year off but it not to early to be thinking about it because we know people who want to dismantle our schools already are. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

How WJCT got it so wrong about Education

Have you met WJCT CEO Micheal Boylan? I have a couple times and he seems like an earnest and solid individual.

I also love NPR, I listen to it everyday. I think Melissa Ross is a city treasure and Lindsey Kilbride does a good job with her education coverage even though recently she seems to be pulled in a lot of different directions.

With all that being said, how did WJCT get it so wrong with their recent education event? Two words and they rhyme with merry carcans.

WJCT wanted to get a conversion about education going and I agree we should be talking about education as there are few local subjects that are more important or play more of a role in our lives. However to start the conversation they showed the first part of a documentary series called School Inc. A self serving, far right, blame the unions and public schools film, to do so. Unfortunately they chose this as their starting point.

Why would our local public station choose such an awful film, one that never mentions poverty by the way and strings together a bunch of self serving and out of context anecdotes?

That takes us back to our rhyme and if you figured out I was talking about Gary Chartrand you hit it right on the nose.

You see its not us citizens who are in charge of education it is the ultra rich who drive education policy with their payouts donations.

I looked at the panel they assembled. Micheal Boylan was the moderator and his stations education coverage is financed by the Chartrand foundation, the station also routinely plays commercials about how the Chartrand foundation supports the Jacksonville Public Education Fund and Trey Csar the president of JPEF was on the panel as well but they weren't the only ones. With them was the executive director of KIPP Jacksonville (and folks KIPP is as shady as they come) Jennifer Brown and then there was school board member Becki Couch, though I would hazard to guess he thinks that was a poor investment now. 

At least three members of the panel had deep ties to Gary Chartrand who has some disturbing views, I would call it a loathing of public education.

Now do I think he called up Boylan and said Mike, this is what I want you to do. No, Chartrand doesn't operator that way, but I do think his close relationship to the station made this kind of show and these panel members acceptable. He is using his influence to mainstream the abhorrent.

We need to be having community conversations about education, we do, but WJCT shouldn't be lauded for trying to have one, and instead they should be chided for the direction they took, there was nothing fair nor balanced about the film they chose.

There are lots of problems in public education, I believe solvable ones but as long as people like Chartrand buy influence, things will get way worse before they get better.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

All that is wrong with Teach for America as told by a Teach for America alumnus

The Times Union printed an op ed from a former Teach for America alumnus where he went on and on making some dubious and self serving point while completely ignoring many legitimate concerns about the program. Here is a snippet.

From the Times Union:
For clarity, Teach For America is an organization that places mostly recent, high achieving college graduates in a low-income school district under a two-year contract to teach.
I read that TFA takes teaching positions from more experienced teachers.
I read about the high turnover rate of the TFA teachers.
I read articles questioning the effectiveness of TFA teachers.
While I understand these criticisms and thought long and hard about whether I should accept the position in Jacksonville, I would contend now after my two-year experience that TFA is massively undervalued and has an unwarranted negative public image.
teach for america has an impact
The first criticism mentioned was that TFA takes teaching positions away from more experienced teachers.
In Duval County alone, the school district had over 200 vacancies as of February 2017. Those vacant rooms will likely be filled by a cast of rotating substitute teachers where learning is certain to be challenging, often through no fault of the specific substitute.
Every TFA teacher who enters a city for their first year undoubtedly gets hired because of the vast amount of shortages, particularly in the math and science departments.
At my placement school, Jefferson Davis Middle School, over 40 percent of the newly hired staff in the past five years have been TFA corps members.
Another criticism leveled at TFA is the high turnover rate for corps members. They may leave after their two-year commitment to attend graduate school or pursue other interests.
This criticism is not only unfair, but it is also wrong. Over 60 percent of TFA teachers continue as public school teachers beyond their two-year commitment, which is a lower turnover rate than for non-TFA teachers at the same schools.
The Duval County School Board has cut the Teach For America budget. The board cited the turnover rate as a contributing factor that led to the decision to cut TFA and focus on marketing to attract new teachers.
I came to Jacksonville in 2015 as one of 120 corps members. Sixty percent or about 72 of us are still teaching in these high poverty schools in Duval County. Of the remaining 48, many are still supporting education through policy, law, in administration or as Teach For America staff.
Regarding TFA teacher performance, a Columbia University study in Duval County shows that students with TFA teachers demonstrated additional growth in mathematics learning compared to the students of other novice teachers.
I could debate each and every one of those points and I have many times but what I think seals the deal is the following, also part of the op ed from the Times Union.
• Ben Kerns is a former Teach for America instructor in Duval County.
• He lives in Atlanta.
WTF!!!! This guy did his two years and left. If its such a great program and it does so much good, then why is this guy living in Atlanta now?
The chutzpah of this guy! And the ridiculousness of the Times Union printing a piece from a guy who quit and moved away after just two years. Both are mind boggling. 
Here is the bottom line, TFA is an expensive program that does the exact opposite of what we know our most vulnerable children need and any district that is serious about educating children should be striving to put professional educators or people that will spend more than two years while waiting for grad school to start, in our schools and classrooms. Thank goodness the district finally came to its senses and is finally phasing it out. 
One last thing, when anybody steps into the classroom I think they deserve respect. I like TFA members am not an education major, though unlike them I didn't get 10,000 dollars in loan forgiveness and have been in the classroom 17 years, it's this terrible and expensive program I am against.  

Monday, October 16, 2017

WJCT hosting anti-public school event, for shame

Why don't you reserve a seat and go.

WJCT is hosting a showing of School Inc a controversial series that asks why schools are not run like businesses, this Thursday, October 19th at their headquarters downtown. Then stay for the panel, made up mostly of charter school executives, discussion.

Created by the far right Cato Institute, and funded by the Koch brothers School Inc hits all the high notes of privatization while ignoring poverty.

The real question is why public television would show it and I believe you have to look no farther than their donors which locally include Gary Chartrand, and if you think that is sort of like putting the wolf in charge of hen house security then you are not the only one. Trey Csar of JPEF and Daryl Willie of TFA Jacksonville are also on WJCT's advisory board.

I plan to go and if allowed ask tough questions and to try and make sure public education is defended. If you have the time you should too.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Have you ever taught a murderer? (rough draft)

It was twelve years ago and I was new to Ed White and I had a run in with convicted murderer Randall Deviney then a freshmen or sophomore. He was lingering in the halls after the tardy bell had rung and I told him to move along. I was met with a tirade of threats and curse words. I stepped forward to do something when a coworker waved me over and said, Chris let it go, the main implication being this was a bad one, though I later learned even if I had done something, like gasp write him on a referral, nothing substantive or equal to his offence would be done, this was just a kid teachers would have to tolerate and hope would go away. Three years later he did go away but that was only after he murdered his 89 year old neighbor, somebody he described as his grandmother.

What's my point? How many kids have we turned on our backs on who went on to do what Deviney did, or met the fate of his neighbor because we as a district didn't want to tackle discipline, because we play lip service to it, because we don't take it seriously, and the reason is because it is hard.   

Deviney may have been to far gone once he got to high school and I was warned away, but was he to far gone in middle school or elementary? What would have happened had we as a district said no to his behavior, here is first a consequence for your behavior and then some help for you so it doesn't happen again. My bet is I wouldn't be writing this blog, heck I bet I wouldn't have written a lot of blogs like this either.

We could and should be doing better, if not society will continue to pay a steep price.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Will veteran teachers be allowed back on the grandfather pay scale?

Duval County has two pay scales for its teachers.

One for teachers hired after 2010, who are on annual contracts and veteran teachers who opted to join it that gives teachers raises of up to 2001 dollar if their evaluations are highly effective. The veteran teachers however had to give up their professional services contract, and go on annual contracts to join it.

The other for veteran teachers gives more modest step raises but they are allowed to keep their professional contracts, which they can renew every five years and can continue to do so as long as they are considered effective. This is called the grandfather pay scale.

I stayed on the grandfather pay scale (hey no jokes about my ever whitening hair) which means
while first and second year teachers were being given 1000 and 2000 dollar raises over the last few years while I received a 750 dollar step raise. The other difference is I am on a five year renewable contract while they are on a one year contract.

I voted against the new contract, I thought it was great for new teachers and veterans who switched to the new pay scale but a bad one for veterans who stayed on the grandfather scale. Scott Shine even chided me for saying I was against it.

As the old contract is coming to an end and a new contract where the district wants to greatly reduce raises, 2000, and one thousand dollar raises having proved unsustainable, I wonder how many people would have voted against the last contract knowing what we know now and if veteran teachers would have switched, giving u their professional contracts. 

Three years ago, the board with a few questions here and there from Couch and Wright was pretty much rubber stamping anything Vitti brought to them and Vitti made a lot of promises including about being committed to increasing teacher pay.  Now he may have been sincere because Florida has recovered nicely from the economic down turn and has more money for public education, unfortunately they have decided to give it to charter schools, vouchers or just not invest in education. When inflation is factored we are spending at a lower level than before the recession, but we could and should be doing more and maybe Vitti thought we would be. The thing is if you follow public ed in Florida you should have been able to see this coming as the legislature routinely does all it can to kneecap public ed.

This is what I think should happen. If veteran teachers switched from the grandfather pay scale to the optional pay scale because of the promises of higher step raises, if the district greatly reduces those raises which is the proposal now, they should be allowed to get their professional contracts back and yes I know the state won't go for that but the district should do what is right and make arrangements for them anyway.

I think most of us get it. The state sucks when it comes to public education, its run by a bunch of bastard coated bastards with bastard fillings, and sadly past administrations thought they had to follow suit. It doesn't however have to be that way.

I feel like we have a new board and new leadership, one that isn't just interested in hobnobbing with the city's so called elites and making splashy shows that rarely pan out, one that is more interested in doing the right thing. I wish we had more money as I am sure they do too, but as usual the state is letting them and all of us down and since that is the case I hope they settle for at least doing the right thing.