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10 reasons school choice is a bad choice.

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Donald Trump on Autism, it's not pretty

From the Mary Sue, by Vivian Kane

It shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore when Donald Trump makes statements amounting to little to nothing more than parroting back verbal clickbait sensationalism. This is a man who spent his campaign answering actual policy question with myriad versions of “Don’t worry about it, I’m, like, really smart, I’ll figure this stuff out,” and who literally just tweets Fox News headlines. And yet here I am, continuously finding myself surprised. I suppose that’s on me.
Today, Trump’s dangerously, willfully misinformed information comes in the form of a discussion about autism rates. During a “Parent-Teacher Conference Listening Session” with education icon obstacle Betsy DeVos and a roundtable of educators, Trump stopped the introductions to focus on the principal of a special needs school serving students with autism and physical and medically fragile–oh wait we can’t hear the rest because Trump hears a talking point calling his name and can’t even let her finish.
The interaction starts at the 6:10 mark:
Trump interrupts the principal to ask the super incisive question, “How’s that going?” After a pause (how do you even answer that vague of a question?), she responds, “Well.” Trump pushes to ask if she’s seen “a big increase in the autism with the children.” She says she has, to the point that the school has shifted its population with more of a focus on students with autism.
Trump responds, again, with the vaguest of follow-ups, “So what’s going on with autism?” He continued with his usual rancid word salad.
“When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really–it’s such an incredible–it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase. Do you have any idea? And you’re seeing it in the school?”
The principal responds then with the statistic that 1-in-66 or 1-in-68 children are diagnosed with autism, and Trump speculates that “Well, now, it’s gotta be even lower than that, which is just amazing – well, maybe we can do something.” (A lower statistic in this case would mean a higher number of autistic students.)
The problem here is that this principal was talking about the number of children diagnosed with autism (which, by the way, has remained fairly steady over recent years), while Trump and others who can’t be bothered with science and facts and nuance and all those annoying little details of the world, equate that with children who have autism.
And these, it shouldn’t need to be said, are not the same thing.
The spectrum of autism is still something doctors and researchers are working to understand. The number of cases that have gone diagnosed in previous generations (and still today) is unknowable. But when a principal is saying her school has such a high number of autistic students that their whole population has shifted, one response to that information is to be grateful that people like her are (presumably) working to understand those students and give them a great education.
The other response, the one people like Trump give, is to assume there’s a plague running rampant our society and deem it “horrible to watch.” And that is incredibly insulting to people with autism and those who advocate for their rights and respect.
This, again, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Pre-presidency, Trump tweeted a lot about the nonexistent link between vaccines and autism.
And now, terrifyingly, Trump is looking like he might be in a position to make good on some totally baseless promises he made back in 2014.
Trump is now, just as he was then, latching onto fear-baiting non-science. As autism expert and author Steve Silberman told the website Science of Us,
There’s no consensus as to whether or not there’s been any significant increase in the actual prevalence of autism, period. The real debate is whether or not there has been a small increase, and there are a number of factors that could play a role in that small increase… But the consensus is that there has been no huge, startling, ‘horrible,’ as Trump said, increase in autism. And the CDC estimate has been flat for a couple of years, just as they expected it to be, because the major source of the increase that started in the 1990s was broadened diagnostic criteria and much more public awareness of what autism looks like.
For Trump to be spewing rumors rather than facts and science, he’s in a position to cause real damage to both the perception of people with autism, and the potential progress we’re able to make in diagnosis and care over the next however may years we have left with him in office.
As Silberman put it, just as Trump does in so many areas, he “is listening to the wrong people and trusting the wrong people.” And that can only work against people like this principal, and anyone else trying to make actual progress.

(via Science of Us, image via YouTube)

My thoughts on the proposed new student ID system

I feel like I am going to come off as a hater, after reading please let me know what you think.

From the Times Union:

 Vitti said that with more accurate records of ridership, the district can make bus routes more efficient and save money.

When students get to school, they’ll scan their ID cards to register attendance or tardiness. And when middle and high school students go to each class, they’ll scan the cards to gain entrance for attendance.
It’ll become more obvious more quickly which students are ditching classes, Vitti said.
Students will also use the ID cards to pay for lunch, check out text books or computers, register attendance at school activities and assemblies and even note when they leave mid-class for some reason.
Besides students, teachers and volunteers who regularly come in contact with students also will carry ID cards. The cards will record when they come and go from the building and where they go while there.
This system could save the district about $1 million over five years, Vitti said, but first the district must spend $1.1 million to set it up. Each subsequent year it will cost $123,500, for a total of nearly $1.6 million over five years.
The old ID systems cost Duval schools $2.6 million over five years.

Sounds awesome right!!!! It's cheaper, will save money and help parents better monitor their kids!

Here is the thing, several years ago when I worked at Ed White High school we instituted new IDs that kids were supposed to wear to class. Suddenly i went from teacher to the ID police as kids would wear them sporadically. I would send kids out to get new ones which they were charged five bucks for. It became a period by period battle, that I and most of the teachers I knew hated. Withing a few months many of us had given up. It just wasn't worth it.

Also are their going to be penalties for students who frequently lose, forget or just refuse to wear the Ids? 

Now I am six years out of a comprehensive high school and kids at my school don't wear them, except to lunch for fear of them losing them. Things may have changed but why do I suspect not much.

Also I am an adult, I get it though that since I am a teacher the super and his admin don't trust me to do my job, but I don't want to wear a GPS so Big Brother can monitor my every move. 

I am just going to throw this out there too. 123 K a year to make probably two hundred thousand badges, upkeep on the equipment, and staff to monitor the data, sees like a deal to good to be true. Unfortunately deals like that often are.

To me this sounds like a great idea that somebody who isn't the classroom might like.

Florida abuses teachers and can’t figure out why there’s a teacher shortage

I have written this same piece dozens of times over the years. This time however it is from Florence Snyder writing in Florid Politics.

  At the rate Florida is hemorrhaging classroom teachers, it soon won’t matter that we can’t hire school bus drivers for $11.88 an hour, because there won’t be any classrooms worth taking the kids to.
Every week brings fresh reporting about Florida’s teacher shortage; none of it is a surprise to parents or policymakers who have been paying even the slightest bit of attention.
The teaching talent pool began to shrink in the mid-20th century as women’s professional options expanded into better-paying places. Still, girls and an increasing number of boys raised to revere teachers continued to pursue careers in the classroom.
Teaching reading to fidgety first-graders and science to 17-year-olds suffering from senioritis is hard duty under the best of circumstances. In recent years, it’s become close-to-impossible.
Technology and testing mandates change at warp speed, to the delight of stockholders in companies that sell technology and tests. There’s no money left for toilet paper and Kleenex, so teachers’ pay for those “amenities” personally.
Technology has also made it possible for helicopter parents to harass teachers at any hour of the day or night. Email is great for monster moms and douchey dads who wanted to bully teachers while wearing pajamas and drinking heavily. But it sucks down a lot of time that teachers need to grade papers and attend “trainings” on their uncompensated time.
It’s hard to maintain teacher morale when the wage gap in the public-school system is closing in on the wage gap in the private sector. In Miami, for example, Superintendent and Fashion Plate Alberto Carvalho can afford to dress like Rico Suave on his $345,000 salary. Teachers making $40K are lucky if they can keep up with their student loans.
Then there’s the daily dose of defamation heaped upon teachers by folks looking to dismember the public-school system for the benefit of people whose salaries in privatized “education” make Carvalho’s pay look paltry.
There are limits to people’s willingness to be a piñata for paltry pay and no respect. Teachers could be forgiven if they decide to homeschool their own kids and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves.

Why school choice is a bad choice

From the gadflyonthewall blog

On the surface of it, school choice sounds like a great idea.
Parents will get to shop for schools and pick the one that best suits their children.
Oh! Look, Honey! This one has an exceptional music program! That one excels in math and science! The drama program at this one is first in the state!
But that’s not at all what school choice actually is.
In reality, it’s just a scam to make private schools cheaper for rich people, further erode the public school system and allow for-profit corporations to gobble up education dollars meant to help children succeed.
Here’s why:
1) Voucher programs almost never provide students with full tuition.
Voucher programs are all the rage especially among conservatives. Legislation has been proposed throughout the country taking a portion of tax dollars that would normally go to a public school and allowing parents to put it toward tuition at a private or parochial school. However, the cost of going to these schools is much higher than going to public schools. So even with your tax dollars in hand, you don’t have the money to go to these schools. For the majority of impoverished students attending public schools, vouchers don’t help. Parents still have to find more money somewhere to make this happen. Poor folks just can’t afford it. But rich folks can so let’s reduce their bill!? They thank you for letting them buy another Ferrari with money that should have gone to give poor and middle class kids get an education.
2) Charter and voucher schools don’t have to accept everyone
When you choose to go to one of these schools, they don’t have to choose to accept you. In fact, the choice is really all up to them. Does your child make good grades? Is he or she well-behaved, in the special education program, learning disabled, etc.? If they don’t like your answers, they won’t accept you. They have all the power. It has nothing to do with providing a good education for your child. It’s all about whether your child will make them look good. By contrast, public schools take everyone and often achieve amazing results with the resources they have.
3) Charter Schools are notorious for kicking out hard to teach students
Charter schools like to tout how well they help kids learn. But they also like to brag that they accept diverse students. So they end up accepting lots of children with special needs at the beginning of the year and then giving them the boot before standardized test season. That way, these students’ low scores won’t count against the charter school’s record. They can keep bragging about their high test scores without actually having to expend all the time and energy of actually teaching difficult students. Only public schools take everyone and give everyone their all.
4) Voucher and charter schools actually give parents less choice than traditional public schools
Public schools are governed by different rules than charter and voucher schools. Most public schools are run by a school board made up of duly-elected members from the community. The school board is accountable to that community. Residents have the right to be present at votes and debates, have a right to access public documents about how tax money is being spent, etc. None of this is true at most charter or voucher schools. They are run by executive boards or committees that are not accountable to parents. If you don’t like what your public school is doing, you can organize, vote for new leadership or even take a leadership role, yourself. If you don’t like what your charter or voucher school is doing, your only choice is to withdraw your childSee ya.
5) Charter Schools do no better and often much worse than traditional public schools
Pundits and profiteers love to spout euphoric about how well charter schools teach kids. But there is zero evidence behind it. That is nothing but a marketing ploy. It’s like when you’re in a bad neighborhood and walk past a dive that claims to have the best cup of coffee in the city. Yuck. Surely, some charter schools do exceptionally well. However, most charters and almost all cyber charters do worse than their public school counterparts. Fact.
6) Charters and voucher schools increase segregation
Since the 1950s and ’60s, we used to understand there was no such thing as separate but equal education. Before then we had Cadillac schools for white kids and broken down schools for black kids. The Supreme Court ruled that unconstitutional. But today we have Cadillac schools for rich and middle class kids (most of whom are white) and broken down schools for the poor (most of whom are black or brown.) After making tremendous strides to integrate schools and provide an excellent education for everyone, our public schools have been resegregatedCharter and voucher schools only make this problem worse. They either aid in white flight or leach away minority students. This just makes it easier to give some kids a leg up while keeping others down.
7) Charter and voucher schools take away funding at traditional public schools
It costs almost the same amount of money to run a school building of a given size regardless of the number of kids in it. When students leave the public schools for charter or voucher schools, the public school loses valuable resources. It now has less revenue but the same overhead. So even if you found an excellent charter or voucher school to send your child, you would be hurting the chances of every other student in the public school of having their own excellent education. This is what happens when you make schools compete for resources. Someone ends up losing out on an education.
8) Properly funding parallel school systems would be incredibly wasteful and expensive
We could fix this problem by providing adequate funding for all levels of the school system – traditional public schools, charters, voucher schools, etc. However, this would be exorbitantly expensive. We don’t adequately fund our schools now. Adding additional layers like this would mean increasing national spending exponentially – maybe by three or four times the current level. And much of that money would go to waste. Why have three fully stocked school buildings in one community when one fully stocked building would do the job? I don’t imagine residents would relish the tax hike this would require.
9) School choice takes away attention from the real problems in our public schools – poverty and funding equity
We have real problems. More than half of public school students live below the poverty line. They are already several grade levels behind their non-impoverished peers before they even enter kindergarten. They need help – tutoringcounseling, wraparound services, nutrition, etc. The predicament is even more complicated by the way we fund our schools. Throughout the country, poor districts get less money than wealthy or middle class ones. The students who go to these schools are systematically being cheated out of resources and opportunities. And instead of helping them, we’re playing a shell game with charter and voucher schools. The problem isn’t that parents don’t have several excellent choices. If they’re poor, they often don’t have one.
10) School choice is not supported by a grass roots movement. It is supported by billionaires.
The proponents of school choice will tell you that they are only doing the will of the people. This is what parents want, they say. Baloney. While there are individuals who support school choice, the overwhelming majority of money behind this movement comes from conservative billionaires actively trying to dismantle the public education system. They want to steal the public system and replace it with a private one. They don’t care about your child. They just want to steal the hundreds of billions of tax dollars we pay to educate our children. This is not philanthropy. It is a business transaction meant to screw you and your child out of your rights.
If we really want to ensure every child in this country gets an excellent education, the answer isn’t school choice. Instead, we need to commit to supporting our public school system. We all need to be in this together. Yes, our schools should look at the needs of each child and tailor education to fit appropriately. But that shouldn’t be done in parallel school systems. It should be done under the same umbrella. That way, you can’t defund and defraud one without hurting all. It can’t just be about your child. It has to be about all children.
That’s the only choice worth making.

Maybe Betsy DeVos was right about guns, bear attacks school...

...of salmon

From the Huffington Post

By Davis Fagin

Cheyenne, WY.
In a scene right out of a horror movie, a grizzly bear burst into a school of kelpless young salmon and ate them all. The scale of the destruction is unprecedented for this small Wyoming town. The salmons’ parents are understandably furious with the school’s head master, claiming he knew something fishy was going on and still did nothing. He’s accused of trying to play all the anglers and being an all around pain in the bass. However, the parents say the reel issue here is the lack of guns in salmon schools.
As a community of salmon, we are a grizzly’s arch enemy. How else can we be expected to defend ourselves from these natural predators if we’re not permitted to carry guns? said one father, or mother. It’s hard to tell the sex of a salmon. Kind of like Chaz Bono.
Since the beginning of time, grizzlies have gobbled us up and there’s been nothing we could do about it. They’re so big and strong and we’re just tasty and delicious. It’s like living in a fish bowl”, said another parent.
A relative of a cajun-flavored salmon killed in the attack was a bit more animated and tweetedHoly mackerel! Are we just supposed to flounder around like helpless victims for the rest of eternity? We need guns in our schools now to prevent more of these types of atrocities down the pike! #BlackenedLivesMatter!
Betsy DeVos, newly confirmed Dept. of Ed. Head, commented, “See!? I told you! I don’t say these things just for the halibutThe second amendment to the Codstitution gives every fish the right to bear arms against bearsProvided they have arms to bear the arms.” She then went back to reading a second-hand copy of Ruining the Country for Dummies. Upside down.
President Trump, arriving on the scene yesterday afternoon, used the tragedy to promote his inaugural crowd, stating, “This is a terrible tragedy. Not unlike the tragedy of the media saying the crowd at my inauguration was smaller than President Obama’s. Also, you can see my fly is wide open and, contrary to what they say on CNN, I am not hung like a minnow. Im huge.”
Addressing the crowd full of concerned salmon packed in like sardines, the president added, “Seriously, though, if you’re so scared of these grizzlies, wait ‘til our friends at Monsanto begin pumping you full of GMO’s. You won’t need gunsYou’ll be huge. No grizzly would want to f%$k with a nine-foot, 330lb. salmonYou’re welcome.”
Then, late last night, in a move that stunned conservationists everywhere and created a backlash amongst many of his piers, the president inexplicably called for an immediate ban on Scottish, Norwegian, and Mexican salmon, saying, “It’s the smoked salmon from outside our borders that are the biggest drag. Theyre the gillty ones. As much as we like to say, caviar emptor,’ these foreign fish are corrupting our nation’s streams and rivers and luring the grizzlies to attack because they smelt so good. We must protect America’s fish from these evil outsiders, put lox on all our borders, and make America bait again. Carp Diem!
Steve Bannon, the president’s top advisor and known whitefish supremacist, agreed. “We need to keep the foreign salmon outThe last thing we need in this country are more jiggers,” he boldly stated.
While numerous celebrities have come forward to criticize the ban, including former Desperate Housewives star Teri Hatchery, Alevin of Alevin and the Chipmunks, hall of fame pitcher John Smolt, Allstar outfielder Mike Trout, and legendary sole singer, Dave Prater, of 60s R&B duo Salmon Dave, the president defends his decision, saying the order wll pass without a snag.
Everyone supports the ban. Don’t believe the tadpoles from the left. They’re all fake newtsIf Justice Scaleia were alive, he’d approve it in a minute.”
Cheers erupted from the first roe of planted Trump supporters, while some in the back, not willing to let the president off the hook, called him a clueless chum. The president, hearing the remarks, shouted back, “You’re lucky! If this were the good ole days, Id make you walk the plankton.
A statement released just moments after the attack by Dr. Rod Enhand, head of the team of sturgeons tending to the wounded, said, “My first thought after herring the news wasI hope this incident doesn’t spawn several more copy catfish killersLet’s all agree to try a little tartar.” Dr. Enhand will be receiving the Nobel Prize in physics next month for his work in molecular fishin.
A study conducted by renowned wildlife expert, Dr. Anne Chovey, examining all grizzly attacks in 2016, and the pros/cons of putting guns in salmon schools, will be published in March by the Babbling Brookings Institute.

Jason Fischer files bill to send 1.2 million dollars to his donor's charter school

Oy vey, and guess what, the charter school isn't even in his district. 

Also say you are like, I love charter schools, they are the bees knees, even you should be outraged because why should this one charter school get an extra 1.2 million dollars in tax payer money. Oh maybe it's because it is the pet project of Gary Chartrand and his friends who have bankrolled Fischer's campaigns. Collectively they gave Fischer tens of thousands of dollars, but talk about a return on investment.  

From Florida Politics

On Thursday, an appropriations bill (HB 2787) was filed in the Florida House for the benefit of the “Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP).”
The bill, filed by Jacksonville Republican Jason Fischer (a former member of the Duval County School Board), seeks to continue the $1,224,000 appropriation from the previous budget to benefit Jacksonville’s KIPP school.
HB 2787 is well-positioned to succeed: Jacksonville powerbroker Gary Chartrand, a member of the local KIPP school’s Board of Directors, is close with Gov. Scott and is on the State Board of Education.

This is all that is wrong in politics, the tax payers on the hook to fund a millionaires pet school and a bought and paid for politician making it happen.

Mandarin, is this what you thought you were getting?


Duval County insults its teachers by letting JPEF be in charge of the teacher of the year awards

I am a bit jaded, I recognize it and try to work around it but when Trey Csar president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund accompanied Superintendent Vitti and our ridiculous dog mascot whose name I refuse to commit to memory to several schools to announce the finalists for teacher of the year I felt like it was a charade that cheapened the award and insults the profession.

Click the link to see the picture of one of the finalists sandwiched between the super, Csar and somebody in a dog costume.


None of them, (Csar, Vitti and the dog) ever taught in a Duval county school and their entire teaching careers can be summed up cumulatively as a little more than a cup of coffee. The super frequently denigrates our teachers, I have documented at least a half dozen occasions but what gets me most is Csar and the organization he represents.  

JPEF was founded by Gary Chartrand who is delighted that teachers no longer have job protections, thinks anybody can be a teacher and has advocated for using temps instead of professionals. Furthermore he has pushed charter schools and the drill and kill teaching culture that has had Florida in a death grip for over the past decade and no he never taught (he was Betsy DeVos before she was) and he sent his kids to expensive and exclusive private schools, yet for some reason, oh he is super rich, he feels like he knows what is best.

It's his organization, that also pushes a privatization agenda that is in charge of our teacher of the year awards and I find the entire thing unseemly.    

We should have somebody who understands the sacrifice that educators make and how hard they work, not hobbyists who just as often bash educators be in charge of the awards.