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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

SB member Ashley Smith Juarez is right about school safety, but that doesn't mean we can blame the other board members for being wrong

Let me start by saying I think Ashley Smith Juarez is a hundred percent correct on the hiring of $12.50 an hour armed safety assistants. She and many of us believe it is a terrible idea and  think it makes our students and teachers less safe. She has advocated for full fledged police officers to be in our schools instead of the quickly trained glorified security guards. The problem is money. We have enough, barely, for the safety assistants, but only enough for about a third as many police officers. 

Mrs. Smith Juarez has been very vocal about it too which is her job and for this she has received push back from several other board members.

From the Times Union:
At a board agenda meeting Tuesday, Cheryl Grymes scolded fellow board member Ashley Smith Juarez for persisting in her questions about the district’s plan to hire and arm about 105 safety assistants in the coming school year.
The safety assistants aren’t law enforcement officers, but they will be armed and equipped like officers. They will be trained in a fraction of the time police officers train, and they will be paid $12.50 an hour, much less than sheriff’s deputies or school police make.
A majority of Duval’s school board — by 6-to-1 — last month voted to create the positions of safety assistants to patrol the perimeters of school campuses and deter or stop armed intruders.
They’re complying with a new state law requiring districts to place law enforcement officers or armed staff, sometimes called guardians, at each public school by August. The law, with some accompanying state funding, was a response to Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland.
Duval officials, like many other district leaders, say that the state has not allotted enough money for large districts to hire police for every school. The safety assistants are an affordable compromise, they say.
But parents and community members are skeptical. Many have emailed or called the board.
Smith Juarez, the only board member who voted against the safety assistants, said she heard from more than 50 parents who are against the idea. She also held two community forums to explain the safety plan, but there was opposition there, too.
A petition critical of the plan on the website has nearly 1,000 signatures, Smith Juarez said.
Oy vey, first Cheryl Grymes should be chastising anyone. The last time she had an opinion the charter school industry gave it to her. Smith-Juarez isn't the only board member who is skeptical about the idea, so is at least one board member who voted for it.  
Also from the Times Union:
Other board members said they, too, have heard from parents and community members skeptical of the plan, but it is an imperfect solution that they have reluctantly accepted.
“This is an impossible position that the school boards are placed in,” said board member Rebecca Couch, noting that the state legislature gave districts only three months and not enough money to hire and arm responsible people for each school.
“This isn’t a perfect choice for me; I struggle with it,” she said, adding she hopes people signing the petition against Duval’s plan will also contact state legislators. She noted that the state still has a surplus and has spent nearly a $1 billion on private school vouchers, so the legislature can afford to better fund school safety mandates.
Couch also floated the idea of asking local voters to foot the bill, either through a referendum to raise taxes or through a bond issue, but it would take two years before the district saw any money.
We are without a doubt going to miss Mrs. Couch when she is gone. She started slow but for for the last few years she has been a fierce and tireless advocate for our schools. I shudder at the prospect that Gary Chartrand sycophant David Chauncey may replace her in the fall.
Mrs. Smith Juarez is right about the fallibility of hiring the safety assistants but so is Mrs. Couch, when she points out that the district has been put in a no win situation by the state legislature, a legislature that Couch pointed out currently controls a surplus and sent a billion dollars to voucher schools, and is a body that includes Jacksonville's own Jason Fischer who funneled two million to his donor's charter school and who is that donor? Why it is Gary Chartrand that is who. 
We can get mad at the board for implementing an idea that they themselves aren't sold on or we can look to Tallahassee and place the blame where it belongs. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Trey Csar out at the Jacksonville Public Education Fund

I have always liked Trey Csar. He has never been anything but polite and professional to me despite some of the withering criticism I have leveled against him and the Jacksonville Public Education fund.

I also don't believe Trey is a mercenary, somebody in education to get rich; though he did take home over six figures and believe me there are plenty of people, just not the people doing the teaching that are getting rich. Then I don't think he was a zealot either. Gary Chartrand the founder of JPEF is a zealot, he is on a religious mission to privatize our schools. Csar, it seemed to me was just doing a job.

All that being said, I found him to be on the wrong side of most education issues and the leader of a group and maybe it was because Chartrand and his privatization friends were really pulling the strings, that missed a lot of opportunities.

Over the years I have gone to a bunch of JPEF events, they always feed you, because I really wanted them to get it right and invariably each forum was either about getting better teachers or improving opportunities for teachers to grow besides teaching.

Now I don't want to say those topics don't have merit, but what about properly funding education, discipline, parental involvement and so many other things?

Why was it always about getting rid of some teachers and helping other teachers get out of the classroom? Seriously friends they covered these topics ad nausea and for years. 

JPEF could get these amazing people together. Judges, non profit leaders, community and business leaders too and then ask them, so what does a good principal look like to you? These people could have been used to come up with real solutions but at then end of the day JPEF wasted their time over and over again.

Then there was JPEF's privatization agenda. Years ago they did a white paper which said, charters are worse, we don't know how private schools that take vouchers are doing and we need more private schools that take vouchers and charters. Um what?!?

Trey also once said, I am not for public schools, I am for good schools and where a noble sentiment, he wasn't president of the Jacksonville Good School Education Fund, further frustrating because he knows by and large public schools are the best thing going.

Then they pushed a conference that was about getting more young black students to go to charters and their closeness to charters and Teach for America too. After a while it all adds up.

Jacksonville could really use a private organization that is here to help our schools. It is really a shame that we haven't had one.

I wish Trey well, but I am sad abut what could have been.

To read more, click the link:

The next big thing? Teacher ghettos.

In my hometown of Jacksonville Florida we have an organization called The Jacksonville Public Education Fund and under the guise of helping public education often pushes school choice, sorry I meant to say privatization there. Well on it's Facebook page they wrote about a program in Newark that was geared towards teachers living together basically where they work.

JPEF asked:

"If more cities begin to emulate this innovative approach, urban America might find a solution to at least one part of the complicated problem of teacher retention. What do you think, would this initiative work in Jacksonville?"


They call this innovative while I find the prospect of teacher ghettos horrifying. With what other profession requiring a four year degree are they saying, hey, I now you can't make it on your salary, so here is a studio apartment where you work, you are welcome. What's next a company store?

From Forbes:

“Teachers Village was an attempt to recruit and retain teachers by providing them a place to live near where they work,” says Linda Morgan, vice president of project partnerships at RBH Group, the firm that built it. Before it opened, only about 15% of the teachers working in Newark lived in the city, says Morgan. Many lived in the suburbs.

Now you can live where you work too!

Oy vey

And lest you think it's just Newark, there are plans for them in Miami and San Francisco too.

From the Washington Post;

Problem: Many teachers around the country earn so little they have to take second jobs, and some quit teaching to get higher-paying jobs to cover their family’s bills. That fuels teacher shortages in districts in every state, creating instability for students and headaches for administrators who struggle to keep their schools staffed.
So what’s the solution?
You might think the obvious answer is to raise educators’ salaries high enough so they can afford to stay in the profession. Teachers in the United States earn less than 60 percent of the salaries of similarly educated individuals, according to the 2017 Education at a Glance report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
But some cities and districts are planning to spend money in another way: for affordable housing.
San Francisco, for example, was rated worst among 50 cities in a 2017 analysis by Apartment List that measured the rent burden teachers face. So officials have committed millions of dollars in public money to build affordable housing for educators to help stem a severe teacher shortage.
Here is an article about another one in Indianapolis.
Why do I get the vibe these are mostly for Teach for America and charter school teachers as well? You know the darlings of the privatization movement.
Here is a crazy idea. Why don't we pay teachers enough so they can live where they want?  You know, treat them like they are professionals.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

DCPS has no money in the budget for TFA but they are still coming.

I would like to thank Board member Ashley Smith Juarez for getting back to me and sending me the budget proposal, which says as of now, no money is going to be allocated for TFA. The thing is that doesn't make me feel any better since many surplussed teachers don't have permanent positions yet.

TFA Jax received 5 million from the QEA last summer, money that was supposed to go to our classrooms that will never see the inside of one and they could foot the bill for the finders fee just to keep their presence in the district. Currently there are two former corp members, Daryl Willie and David Chauncey running for school board and they may be thinking, just hang on and when we are in charge we will bring in as many as we can.

The thing is even if the district doesn't shell out one dime it is still a slap in the face to every educator that has been surplussed and their colleagues and their students, that a new TFA class is coming in while there is so much uncertainty for those veterans.

I am asking the district the following questions.

Have these new corp members secured teaching positions?

Has every surplussed teacher been placed?

If not is there overlap between the two groups? That is to say does a TFA teacher have a job teaching a subject that a surplussed veteran also teaches who as of now doesn't have a placement.

Will the district commit to making sure every surplussed teacher has a job before placing a TFA teacher in the classroom?

I have never been a fan of TFA and I believe to the bottom of my heart they should only be used after every other mean has been exhausted.

DCPS brings in Teach for America corp members while surplussing veteran teachers

You know I have been pretty easy on the district. Tallahassee has done us no favors but it makes me so mad I could spit that DCPS is bringing in new TFA corp members while surplussing hundreds of veteran teachers and pleading poverty. That is both insulting, despicable and outrageous.

That's a fine looking masters of the universe bunch killing time before law school, while hundreds of veteran teachers are wondering if they will have jobs next year.

This is an insult to every veteran teacher that was surplussed.

My wife just said, that's some bull shit and I completely concur.

I don't want anybody with a gun in my classroom

Duval County had a job fair for 105 safety assistants, and received 316 applicants. I am reminded of the Real World tagline, when people stop being polite, and start getting real. Well friends the fact we are going to have barely trained armed personnel in our schools and classes is getting all to real.

From the Times Union:
Micheal P. Edwards, director of the district’s police force, told the School Board that although he is hiring 105 safety assistants — one for each elementary school — 316 people have applied for the newly created positions.
School safety assistants are supposed to provide a first defense against armed intruders. They’re not sworn law enforcement officers, but they’ll carry guns, wear safety gear and get more training than most security guards.
Um, most security guards!?! No #@%^ing way!!!
More from the Times Union
Duval’s dark blue school police uniforms resemble JSO’s and other police agency uniforms. The school safety assistants will wear tan vests and pants and tan or green shirts, he said.
Also, school police officers wear guns and safety gear in plain sight, on their belts.
School safety assistants will have some of the same gear and weapons — even bullet-resistant vests — but their guns must be concealed by state law, Edwards said.
That’s why the vests they wear will be long, like safari vests, covering their waist and their weapons. It will still be easy to reach them, he added.
They are going to wear tunics and look like TV pow's Safari Dan? Oh hell no. 
And some more:
“We want these individuals to be part of the school family,” Edwards said, adding that assistants may speak to children and school staff, but they won’t be counseling, teaching classes, investigating crimes or handling discipline, as regular school police sometimes do.
No absolutely not, I don't want anybody with a gun in my classroom. Now if you are a trained officer and have a legitimate reason to be there, sure, but that's it.
Now some people might ask, am I not afraid about some armed intruder and the answer is sure but what I am more afraid of is some half trained guy with a gun not recognizing a kid in crisis and shooting them. What I am much more scared of is an accident or them confusing defiance and disruption with a situation that needs a gun. 
This doesn't make me feel better about the situation either.
From the Tampa Times
For more than a year, the state of Florida failed to review national background checks on tens of thousands of applications for concealed weapons permits, potentially allowing drug addicts or people with a mental illness to carry firearms in public.
Oy vey.
Look I get the district was dealt a bad hand by the republican's in Tallahassee, they are the real villains here, but these safety assistants make me feel less safe and guns really have no place in a classroom.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Will DCPS experience a reduction in force? My guess is yes

The district came out with their budget priorities and in my opinion put an all together to rosy of a spin on them. Sadly though If you read between the lines you can see that a reduction in force is coming. With 62 million dollars in the hole its borderline absurd to think people aren't going to lose their jobs.  Here are the three priorities that lead me to believe a RIF is coming.

 While district-level costs represent just over a quarter of overall expenses, district cuts will make up 36 percent of the budget gap. A net total of more than 50 district positions are recommended to be cut, and combined with other operating reductions, overall district-level spending will be down more than 8 percent.

One school-based strategy that will save the district about $2.2 million is an equalizing of elementary resource teachers among large and small schools. In the current funding model, each school has the same number of people, regardless of size. That means students in smaller schools have more time with physical education, music and arts teachers compared to students in larger schools.

Other school level adjustments that will save money next year include: adjustments to the school teacher allocation model that will reduce staffing and save $10.4 million, and a change from a “block” schedule to a traditional seven-period day in middle school that will save $3.7 million.

First those fifty admin spots that are being eliminated, they aren't just going to be shown the door. Those that don't retire or leave will be offered position in schools, though schools will have fewer positions to give.

Next who wants to bet that a lot of those art, music and PE teachers aren't going to be going to bigger school part time, but they will be splitting their time between other small schools, meaning we will need fewer people in those positions.

Then finally middle schools are going to need 15 percent fewer teachers. I happen to like a 7 period day better than block scheduling but it means teachers will have less time to plan and collaborate and schools will need fewer of them.

Across the district hundreds of teachers have been surplussed. The district has not come off the numbers but its my bet it is the 700-800 range and with middle schools needing fewer teachers and elementary schools needing fewer art, music and PE teachers, and with a lot of school based coach and coordinator positions being phased out, sadly I believe more than a few people will be out of a job. 

Here is the thing, as mad as I want to be at the district, I can't, because even though Vitti spent like a drunken sailor on the way out of town, it's the state and their chronic and I believe criminal under funding of education, which is the main culprit.

People are going to lose their jobs, kids are going to get fewer electives and/or bigger classes when they take them and a lot of support positions, coaches and coordinators are going to go away and it is bound to have an effect.

This is what 20 years of republican leadership looks like and I want to remind everyone that while DCPS is begging for change. Jason Fischer funneled 2 million to his donors charter schools. Who does he really care about again?'

Notice the reduction in school positions figure.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Where KIPP may be mediocre at educating , it is great at getting extra money out of tax payers.

In 2010 Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited a brand new charter school on the Northside of Jacksonville, The Knowledge is Power Program or KIPP school. Of all theschools he could have visited and back then Stanton Prep and the Paxon school for advanced studies were annually considered some of the best in the nation, he chose to visit a small charter school. Did I mention he brought a 500 thousand dollar grant with him? This as schools in Jacksonville were surplussing teachers, growing classes and cutting, the arts and libraries left and right. It was insulting to say the least, I didn’t know then but I needed to get used to that feeling.
The KIPP school was brought to Jacksonville by local businessman Gary Chratrand who spent nine millions to bring it here and it was placed in the old north side dog track, which was donated to a foundation that supports the KIPP school.
The converted schools first class was 88 students.
KIPP is known for a few things, some they are quite proud of and some they would probably rather you not know. Their school day is longer, kids are required to attend Saturday school and music classes as well. KIPP’s teachers are required to be more accessible to their students than regular public school teachers, and they secure commitments ofinvolvement from the parents of their students as well. Those are some of the good things.  Some of the bad things are they experience an incredibly high rate of teacher turnover and their academic performance which has been lackluster despite the above mentioned advantages to say the least.
That first class I mentioned above received the lowest grade in all of northeast Florida. The next year they went to a miraculous B but in their third year they fell to a grade protected C. Back then the state had just initiated a rule which they have since discontinued which said school letter grades could only fall one grade at the time. Did I mention that KIPP benefactor Gary Chartrand had parlayed substantial donations to a position as chair of the state board of education which helped craft that rule?
That wasn’t the only time KIPP has been allowed to manipulate it’s grade.
Last year the school board allowed KIPP Voice, a kindergarten through fourth-grade school, that shares the same building with KIPP Impact, a middle school, to take the highest state grade of the two for its joint report card. If they wouldn’t have done so Impact would have received a C, while voice a D but instead it was graded as one school and given a C. Furthermore, as far as I can tell they weren’t required to return the six-figure new charter grant they had received just two years’ before when they expanded. And if you are wondering why KIPP had at one time three different schools on one property, I will get to that in a bit.
School board members who at one time or another received money from Gary Chartrand and allowed that to happen, Becki Couch, Cheryl Grymes, Warren Jones, Ashley Smith-Juarez and Scott Shine.
Even Floirda’s education commisioner Pam Stewart has felt the need to question their reputation which often outshines their perfrmance.  
From Politico: State education Commissioner Pam Stewart, in a sardonic text exchange with a colleague, accused a prominent GOP donor who chairs a Jacksonville charter school chain of using misleading data to boast about students’ test scores, according to public records obtained by POLITICO Florida.
Stewart said in a text message to a top staff member that the leaders of KIPP Jacksonville overstated the percentage of third graders who passed state reading exams. 

In the May 19 conversation, Stewart was critical of Gary Chartrand, a member and former chair of the state Board of Education who also heads the governing panel for KIPP's three Florida charter schools. Chartrand, executive chairman of Acosta Inc., a Jacksonville sales and marketing firm, is a reliable campaign donor to Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott. 

In the texts, Stewart suggested Chartrand and the network’s executive director, Tom Majdanics, had been bragging that 41 percent of third graders at KIPP VOICE Elementary School passed this year’s reading tests, when the figure was actually 35 percent.
No educationg children, as their grade has been up and down more often than a yo yo, is not what they do best, but what they are phenomenal at is securing extra tax payer dollars from the city and state.   
This year state representative Jason Fischer secured two million extra dollars for the KIPP school, in the budget signed by Rick Scott.
This is a little strange because last year Rick Scott used his line item veto power to veto 500 thousand dollars to the KIPP school. Now Scott has routinely signed state budgets that gave the KIPP school extra money, he after Jason Fischer filed a bill to do so that gave them, 1,244,000 dollars the year before, so it was unusual that he picked last year to draw a line in the sand and then restate the largess this year?
Well it may have had to do with the Jacksonville Children’s Commission, now known as the Kids Hope Alliance and controlled by Jacksonville mayor Lenny Curry, changing their rules last year and awarding the KIPP school a grant for 752,796 dollars to pay for their longer school day. Up until then The JCC had never worked directly with a school or paid for a longer day.      
If you are following at home that is four million in extra dollars in just the last three years but sadly I am just getting started.
Oh, and what do Rick Scott, Lenny Curry and Jason Fischer have in common? Gary Chartrand has given all of them or their pacs a considerable amount of money.
Continuing, in 2015 the KIPP school received 1.6 million dollars in the form of a cooperation grant from the state so the district could learn from and emulate the KIPP school. Since the KIPP impact school’s grades had been up to that point, F, B, D*, B, and D I am not sure what the district was supposed to learn but the money was allocated anyway.
They also received 900 thousand extra in 2014 and that’s as far back as I went, though I have no doubt I would have found other large sums of public money earmarked to KIPP had I done so.
Some of you might one wondering why one campus needs three schools and if you guessed that had to do with money then you wouldn’t be wrong. First there is the aforementioned new charter school grants, but it may also have to do with money given to board members and the district itself.     
In 2012, despite experienced great growing pains it was allowed to expand by the Duval County School Board and did I mention back then they didn’t use text books?
Members on the school board that had received money from Chartrand in or before 2012 and allowed it to happen, Hazouri, Gentry, Barret and Couch
In 2014 KIPP had which had expanded to 660 students just two years before was looking to expand again and this time to a little over 1,800 students. Such a big jump was unprecedented and perhaps not even warranted considering their mediocre performance. The discussion became mute however after Gary Chartrand stepped forward with what was called the Quality Education for all Initiative which at one time promised 50 million over five years to DCPS. It ended up delivering just 38 million and much of that never saw the inside of the classroom. At least 5 million was diverted to Teach for America Jacksonville, which has also provided numerous teachers to the KIPP school.  
Did Gary Chartrand of the State Board of Education, buy the KIPP expansion with the QEA initiative and all his school board donations? I can’t say for sure just like I can’t say for sure if his tens of thousand in donations to Fischer, Scott and Curry resulted in millions extra for the KIPP school and just like I can’t say for sure his position as chair of the state board of education brought the KIPP school a 1.6 million dollar cooperation grant or protected its grade from falling but unless you believe in coincidence after coincidence after coincidence, it sure seems like it. 
Are there good things going on at KIPP? I bet you would find plenty of parents and students who would emphatically say yes but at then end of the day despite extraordinary advantages they have a mediocre record and what they are truly good at is securing extra funding. You will have to make up your mind for yourself whether they deserve it and secured it ethically.  
Finally, remember that first class of 88, well only 64 made it through eighth grade and of them only 48 bothered to return to a graduation ceremony that KIPP had for them, that’s just a little over half. I think perhaps that more than anything else speaks volumes.

Jacksonville needs a half cent sales tax to help with education issues

I get it, nobody not even me a so called "far left socialist" likes taxes but you know what I think we all like less? Classes without teachers or with subs, classes to big to have discipline or for proper teaching to occur, schools without libraries, art, music and PE, and kids being shortchanged on a proper education. I like all those things a lot less than taxes.

If we can have a half cent sales tax to rebuild the stadium and build a new baseball ground and arena, if we can spend millions on a new score board then I believe we can pony up a little more for the city's children too. Don't they deserve it and the sad thing is we really haven't been left much of a choice as the republican dominated government in Tallahassee including the republican members of the Duval delegation have let us down over and over.

Politifact calls Rick Scott's claim of historic education spending mostly false. The legislature this past year allocated just an extra forty-seven cents per student in discretionary spending. When you factor in cost of living Florida's teachers are the worst paid in the nation and when you factor in inflation we spend a 1000 dollars less per student now than we did a decade ago and back then school districts had a lot more flexibility with their money. Now districts have to contend with a litany of unfunded or under funded mandates like the recent school security one. 

The republicans had an opportunity to call a special session to address school spending and they declined, which means we can't continue to wait for them to do the right thing any longer. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity.

If our elected leaders aren't going to do the right thing, then it is up to us as a community to do so.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Arts are always the first cut in budget crunches and this year will be no exception. (rough draft)

A couple random thoughts.

The district has been put in an untenable place due to the lack of funding out of Tallahassee. You know I want to raise my fist and get mad at DCPS and where my heart breaks for the students and teachers who are about to be shortchanged I just don't have it in me. Could we have done things different or better, sure, maybe, but the lion's share of blame for where we find ourselves belongs in Tallahassee. 

Vitti should get credit for returning the arts even if it has been done in a ham-fisted fashion. 70 kid PE classes and fifty kid music and art classes isn't much better than not having those classes. 

In the video, when the district spokesman says making art, music and PE teachers at small schools itinerant (that is they will work at multiple schools) is about expanding access, he is being insulting. Come on man why can't you just say, Tallahassee screwed us with funding and we are doing the best that we can. 

Then lets not forget the cuts to librarians and libraries. The get cut even in good years. For a district with a reading problem we never seem to appreciate actual reading.

The poor treatment of the arts isn't just an education thing, it's a Florida thing.

From the Sarasota Herald Tribune:

480 organizations will share a pool cut by about 60-percent from last year’s levels
Arts and cultural organizations take another big hit in the state budget approved by the Florida Legislature and awaiting a signature or veto from Gov. Rick Scott.
The state budget provides $29.8 million in four arts and cultural-related categories, down from $33 million last year and the $43.3 million allocated in 2014. But the category that provides program support for 480 non-profits around the state will be cut by about 60 percent from last year’s levels.
“It’s just disheartening,” said Rebecca Hopkins, managing director of Florida Studio Theatre, which like many of Sarasota County’s larger organizations, qualifies for $150,000 through the state’s Cultural and Museum Grant category. Because of budget cuts, FST expects to receive about $47,550, compared with $97,000 last year.
“It shouldn’t be happening,” Hopkins said. “We’re living in a state where the population is growing by a quarter million people a year. It seems these are self-inflicted budget crises putting us into an austerity plan. It hurts us. We’re not getting the bang back for the cuts we’re enduring.”
Sigh, but we have plenty of money for private prisons, and charter schools.
We can not depend on Tallahassee to do what is right, which means we must depend on ourselves, our community. We  have to step up. I would like to see a half cent sales tax to support public education, resolution. If we can have one to fund the baseball grounds, a giant scoreboard and the arena, then surely we can do it to make sure our children receive a quality education too.  

If we can't blame Florida's republican party for poor education funding, who can we blame?

When I talk about how the republican party has done all they can to kneecap both public education and the teaching profession, I occasionally get push back. 

I have heard education has no political affiliation. Well since the republican party has been in charge of the state government for over twenty years and in that time we have seen the growth of for profit charters, voucher schools without accountability, high stakes testing, woeful education funding and more attacks on the teaching profession I can count, who owns those things?  

I mean it is absurd to think these things just magically happened, when we can see they happened with the passage of bills supported by republicans and signed by a republican governor. 

Some people say both the republicans and democrats are equally bad. To which I reply, I hated Obama's education policies. I thought they were dreadful and did real damage. In this area he was a lot closer to the republican agenda than a traditionally Democratic one.  That being said, the democrats have not been completely in charge of the Florida state government for over twenty years.

I continue by saying, sure the democrats at least nationally and I am looking at you, Ted Kennedy, with your race to the top have been incredibly flawed but once again they have not been in charge in Florida for over twenty years, the republicans have and isn't a commonly accepted definition of insanity to do the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome?   

Whatever you think about democrats, its a fact they have had practically nothing to do with how Florida pays it's teachers and funds our schools.

When you factor in cost of living, Florida's teachers are the worst paid in the nation.

What we spend per student is among the lowest in the nation.

Then when you factor in inflation we spend over a thousand dollars less than we did in 2007. If the republican party who has been in charge for over twenty years doesn't own those things , well then friends, who does?

From the Tampa Times:

Critics of Florida's public education funding system got another piece of ammunition Wednesday, as Education Week rated the state's school spending an F alongside 25 other states.
The publication, which annually issues a well regarded national rating of state education systems, noted that Florida does exceedingly well in finance equity, or the way it allocates across districts.
Florida's A- grade on that metric was the best of all states.
But Its F in spending was among the worst, tracking with past reports from Education Week. Compounding the issue, Florida also ranked lowest of all states in another key area that has gotten plenty of attention lately, its per-student funding.
Yay for us, we treat students equally as sh*tty no matter where they live.
Now will things be better with democrats in charge? I think so and I definitely hope so but what i do know, and I learned after two decades of experience is things will not improve if we keep electing people from a party who wants to dismantle public education and the teaching profession.  
If you support public education and the teaching profession then I hope you think enough is enough.
It is time for a change friends, past time, because we know what the republicans are doing, and if we don't make a change it will be on us.

Need a job? DCPS says you can be a hero for twelve dollars and fifty cents an hour.

Be a on hero, that's what it says on DCPS's school safety assistant qualifications page. 

Here is the job description and qualification.

Job Summary
The School Safety Assistant (SSA) maintains calm, deters crime, and ensures the safety, security, and welfare of all students, faculty, staff, and visitors in the assigned school.  
  • Must be at least 21 years of age
  • Must have or be able to obtain a State of Florida (F.S.S. 790.06, Florida State Statutes) concealed weapons permit
  •  Have a valid State Issued Driver's license 
Training shall at a minimum consist of:
  • Must submit to and pass an initial drug test and subsequent random screenings
  • Must pass a psychological evaluation
  • 80 hours of firearms training
  • 16 hours of instruction in precision pistol
  • 8 hours of discretionary shooting instruction using approved simulator exercises
  • 8 hours of instruction in defensive tactics
  • 8 hours of instruction in active shooter or assailant scenarios
  • 12 hours of instruction in legal issues
  • Must successfully complete annual ongoing trainings, in weapons inspection and firearm qualifications
  • Must complete at least 12 hours of a certified nationally recognized diversity training program
And if you can do all above you can get a gun and be in our schools. Ugh, sadly this seems a bit light to me.

I think we should all acknowledge that with Tallahassee criminally under funding education, they have put DCPS in a deep hole, another problem I see is that DCPS has decided to keep digging.

Dd you know the QEA, the much ballyhooed philanthropist initiative gave TFA Jax 5 million dollars last year? That is money that never saw the inside of a classroom. Um, wouldn't it have been nice to have that money now to spend on actual police rather than little more than gun wielding security guards?

Where is the diversity training, and where is the deescalation training? I have to ask because I am more concerned about one of these assistants shooting a back talking and defiant student more than I am an armed intruder.  

I get it and I agree we want our schools to be made safer, and I cant emphasize enough how poorly Tallahassee has addressed the problem, but I can't help but feel this has made our schools less safe.    

Friday, June 8, 2018

Scott Shine continues to be terrible at his job while Willis makes an unforced error heading out the door.

First let me just say I believe Shine continues to be terrible at his job, when he bothers to show up that is and he should just resign and give his constituents a break.

His latest guffaw is when he asked Superintendent Willis to rescind the promotions of two of her relatives after he agreed to the promotions. He said he didn't know they were his relatives. The thing is it is his job to know. It is his job to ask questions, and I want to remind you it is a job he is being paid to do.

All that being said, Willis promoting her two relatives on the way out the door, sadly leaves a bad mark on her record.

I have been a fan of Willis. I think she was a calming influence after the disruption and abuse that occured under Vitti but at the same time, I think this was mistake on her part and an unforced error at that.

This is where it gets a little wonky.

Just because you are related to the superintendent it doesn't mean your career should be stalled. Heck Willis's son and niece may be the best applicants there were, though the history of DCPS has shown us all to often that some people that go into administration have gotten positions not based on ability but based on who they know.

The thing is Willis wasn't forth coming about her relationships to them. If she thought they were the best applicants she should have made sure everyone knew who they were and walked them through why she thought they were the most qualified and sadly that did not happen.

I am disappointed. This has at the very least the appearance of impropriety. I want leaders who are always above board, even while they are heading out the door.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

No Mr. President, Canada did not burn down the White House

It's like watching a bad Comedy Central show that is parodying the president, except it's not, it is the sad reality we find ourselves in.

So here is what happened, from Fortune: 

 According to CNN, the two leaders were discussing on May 25 new U.S. tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum imports from Canada. Trudeau reportedly asked Trump to justify his view that the tariffs were a national security issue. Trump responded, “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?”

Trump was referring to the War of 1812, which was fought in part over the control of Canada. But it was British troops that burned down the White House during the war.

Oy vey, lets unpack that, first it wasn't the Canadians, it was the British who burned down the White House who we were at war with, though I guess he could have thought the war happened more recently and was holding a grudge, though when it happened, 1812, is right in its name. Has he been holding a grudge against Canada? Is that why he is constantly attacking one of our closest allies?

How bad must have Trump's education been to have this come out of his mouth. This isn't a one off either. Among other things, he bemoaned that Andrew Jackson could have stopped the civil war and extolled the virtues of that up and coming abolitionist Fredrick Douglas. The thing is, it's okay not to know things, and it is obvious our president doesn't know a lot of things, but why does he have to keep opening his mouth and confirming it.

Now some people might think he was joking, but was he joking when he said those things above or when he made fun of a disabled reporter, called African countries shit holes, said he likes to grab women by the %$#^&? If he was joking it wasn't funny and it won't be funny when Canadians and American's lose jobs because of this manufactured trade war.

You know maybe education is not his thing and all you have to do is look at his pick for Secretary of Education Betsy Devos. She has committed one gaff after another as she confirms she doesn't know much either.

Here is a list of things Betsy Devos doesn't know according to Betsy Devos.

Sadly about a third of his followers will now want to get payback from those arsonist Canadians because like our president they don't consider education important.

Friends we are at a fork in the road, we can continue down the president's path, one filled with meanness, hubris and ignorance or we can pivot, we can make education a priority while appreciating and accepting the differences of others. I know which road I am going to take.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Florida's future? Is this how we will protect our children too?

I recently did a piece on how Betsy Devos's commission on school safety wasn't going to address guns at all and as I predicted when I wrote, reasonable restrictions would keep us all safe some people heard, we're coming to pry your guns from your cold dead hands. 

Other's listed numerous other causes that have led to gun violence, but in an almost pathological like resistance couldn't bring themselves to put guns on the list.   

It is true we have a buffet of problems but until people can admit that guns are on the buffet as well I feel like we will never seriously address the problem.

Well that's how I felt until today. You see in Chad's Ford Pennsylvania they may have come up with a solution. (sic)

From the Hill:

The entire graduating class at a Pennsylvania middle school was gifted bulletproof backpack plates as they prepare to head to high school next year. 

Students at St. Cornelius in Chadds Ford, Pa., were outfitted with the "ballistic shields" thanks to a donation from a local company, according to Fox 29. The report notes that Unequal Technologies developed the ultra-thin shield and designed a 10-by-12-inch plate that can slip into a backpack. 
The bulletproof backpack plates were also handed out to 25 faculty members at the school. 
“I never thought I’d need this,” one student told Fox 29
Um look at those kids, they seem as bewildered as I am.

I am reminded of the speech from the American President. We have serous problems and we need serious people to come up with serious solutions. If you can't bring yourself to admit that guns are at least part of the problem then you not a serious person and you are not interested in coming up with serious solutions and that is a shame and as a result children will die.


We could and should be doing better. 

Florida Private Schools teach liquor is responsible for Abraham Lincoln's death.

Oh for ^%#$s sake.

Private schools that take public money can teach whatever they want and hire whoever they want to teach it. While Tallahassee hammers public schools and the teaching profession they want little in regards to over site and accountability from private schools that take vouchers.

The passage below was taken from a Christian private school that takes public money.

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Come on people really?

Look if you want to have your child learn ridiculous stuff that's on you, I am not going to complain, but the public should not be forced to subsidize it.

Some people say public schools aren't for everybody and sure but above and so much more should not be for anybody. What's wrong with making sure teachers at public schools have degrees and their curricula aren't bat sh*t crazy? Especially if the public is subsidizing them.

Some people say but what about poor families that can't afford to send their children (to horrible) private schools, they need the public to help them out, to which I say let God provide. Isn't that what Christians teach.


To read more but don't so with milk in your mouth, because there is a spitting danger, click the link:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Betsy Devos thinks we can discuss gun violence in schools without mentioning guns. Oh for %$#s sake.

Do you know what European, Korean, Australian, and Japanese schools have? They have kids that play video games, watch violent movies, and kids with mental health issues. Some of their students come from broken homes and don't have as much parental support as we like, and heck their are even angry white guys who don't get laid too. You know what they don't have? The gun violence we see in our schools. No matter where you come down on the gun control debate you have to admit the proliferation and easy access of guns is at least part of the problem. Not addressing guns is like ignoring cars when it comes to automobile accidents. Betsy Devos however doesn't think guns are even worth a mention as she continues her march to be crowned the worst secretary of education by far title.

From CNN:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday that looking at the role of guns in school safety was not a focus of the federal school safety commission.
"That is not part of the commission's charge, per se," DeVos said Tuesday during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing in response to a question from Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy about whether the commission would look at the role of firearms.
DeVos said that the commission's focus is "school safety and how we can ensure our students are safe at school."
DeVos chairs the Federal Commission on School Safety, which was formed after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead. The panel also includes the heads of the departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and the attorney general.
The commission recently held its first field hearing, in which DeVos and representatives from the other involved agencies toured a Maryland elementary school that focuses on positive behavioral intervention, which focuses on mentoring and counseling as opposed to punitive discipline practices.
Potential changes to the nation's gun laws were not discussed at that meeting.
Oy vey.
I know some people who read above will salivate like Pavolv's dogs at the mere mention of gun restrictions.
We say, universal back ground checks, insurance, age restrictions, a ban of military style weapons and small capacity magazines will save lives and they hear, we are coming to pry your guns out of your cold dead hands.  
That being said and once again, we have the same issues as the rest of the advanced world except with gun violence and ignoring that is ludicrous.
Betsy Devos is a joke and her commission will be too unless discussing guns in part of the conversation. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Constitution Revision Commission thumbs its nose at democracy.

Home rule is the concept that those closest to the problem are best equipped to manage the problem and it used to be a tenet of Republican Politics, that is until they discovered they could make a lot of money off of education and they have been chipping away at home rule ever since. Their latest attempt includes using the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to diminish the power of local school boards.

The CRC is selling term limits for school board members and they believe they have a winning issue and I don't think it is just a coincidence that Rick Scott has been pushing ads about term limits too. I live in Jacksonville which already has term limits for school board members so I know other localities could do it to without changing the constitution. That being said if this was just on its own I could probably care less but it's not, they have paired it with a measure that would seriously diminish the authority of local school boards and cripple public education in the process.

From the Tampa Times:

But the bottom of the ballot will be filled with more than a dozen amendments that will compete for attention with more high-profile races including U.S. senator and the state's governor. Attaining the 60 percent threshold to win approval could be an uphill climb.
That's why backers of Amendment 8 are kicking off their formal effort to promote the three-pronged education proposal now.
Constitution Revision commissioner Erika Donalds, the Collier County School Board member who sponsored the measure, announced Monday the creation of the political committee 8 is Great. She's joined by Indian River County School Board chairman Shawn Frost and Duval County School Board member Scott Shine in the effort.
All three have announced they will not seek reelection this fall. They each have been vocal conservative voices for education initiatives as participants in the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, a group that sprouted in opposition to the larger Florida School Boards Association's lawsuit challenging state tax credit scholarships.
"Amendment 8 is Great for Florida's future, and we are committed to communicating that message to all Floridians," Donalds said in a released statement. "As school board members, we are convinced that fresh ideas and diverse opportunities for innovation are essential to creating a system of public education that works for every student. When it comes to the policy necessary to deliver that change, Amendment 8 is Great!"
Amendment 8 includes three concepts — term limits for school board members, required civics literacy instruction in public schools, and authority for the Legislature to create new forms of public schools not responsive to school boards.
Um the state wants to create new forms of public schools not responsive to school boards? WHAT THE WHAT?!? Who would they be responsive too? Would they be part of a new charter school system of which over 330 have already taken public money and failed and offer little in the way of innovation. Or would they be part of a new public private system that has practically nothing in the way of accountability.
You know there have been times I have been fed up with my school board but I would still rather have somebody I could remove or swap out every two years than some faceless entity with no accountability. The CRC is giving democracy a big middle finger in the hopes of making a few people rich and the pushers of it could care less if children are hurt in the process.

This is an attempt at a slow moving coup with the future of our public school system on the line.
Eight is not great. It is a poison bill designed to stick a knife in the heart of public education and shame on those pushing it.