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Monday, December 19, 2011

Florida's Republican Legislators ignore teachers, hurt Florida's children and pat themselves on the back

From Svathing Purple Musings

by Bob Sykes

A Fort Myers News Press story that was posted late Saturday evening detailed the burdensome rules which Florida’s schools must wade through each year. There’s always been plenty of room for mischief with five house committees and four senate committees having a hand in education. Its clear the state school board association’s decision to advance a clear platform is having an affect. School superintendents have been out front too, and one noted that in a recent visit to Tallahassee that he “didn’t feel patronized.”

Perhaps legislators have been, um, coached-up in caucus meetings to be less arrogant. Alas, they aren’t able to get it done at crunch time. When faced with making a big play, like say, answering questions about testing, they revert to default rhetoric.

(Rep. Gary) Aubuchon (R-Cape Coral) said he’s heard from educators criticizing state testing and performance-based measurements, but said regulations ensure taxpayer money is being spent wisely .

“Whether in business or education, there is a natural resistance to being held accountable,” Aubuchon said. “I don’t think any student likes to be tested.”

The school reform movement uses ”being held accountable” as a missive to imply the criticism is motivated by raw self-interest. Aubuchon knows that the criticism of testing is based on the role it plays in instruction quality and its usefulness as a utility. He badly needs Florida voters and taxpayers to buy into his narrative. The narrowness of the Cape Coral republican’s airy talking points have outlived their usefulness as even the most anti-teacher union votes understands that there are serious flaws in the manner Florida uses high-stakes testing.

But even Aubuchon would tell you that Florida’ republicans still benefit from Jeb Bush’s unwavering advocacy for the FCAT. The former governor provides them a rare level of political cover that few politicians have ever possessed. Still revered by the republican establishment in ways his presidential brother and father aren’t, Jeb Bush’s credibility is never questioned. His decade long bombastic assault against teacher unions installed teachers as a public enemy.

Bush’s narrative and the talking points his republican benefactors use is so entrenched that the media never picks up on it. The end of the News-Press article reads like post-game, locker room cliché:

“I’m supportive of greater local control as long as there is greater accountability statewide,” Aubuchon said. “We continue to look for ways to provide school districts with greater flexibility.”

Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, has served on House and Senate education committees. He said schools are not overregulated, and rules must exist to ensure the children of Florida are receiving a top-notch education.

“We need to raise the bar and continue to strive for excellence in our schools,” Richter said.

Sen. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, is the only other lawmaker to return emails and calls from The News-Press. He, too, supports a code that spells out a path to a better education, starting with a results-based system.

“I’m for giving the school boards as much flexibility as possible, but at the same time there has to be accountability,” Roberson said, who doesn’t forecast much legislation this session aimed at education reform. “They know the rules and what they have to comply with.”

Floridians can be assured that Republicans will continue to have their ed privatization game faces on and that Jeb Bush is still their go-to guy on corporate cash. Bush takes good care of the charter school football and always gives 110 percent to his digital learning financial backers. Bush and his republican legislative allies will bring their A-game to next month’s session and will play each piece of Patricia Levesque’s decoy legislation one game at a time.

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