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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Kirsten Gillibrand's clumsy attack on public education

I listened to Kirsten Gillibrand's announcement that she was going to run for president on the Colbert show and I have to say i was a little insulted by her education comment. 

One of the reason's she gave for running for president was she believes we should have better public schools for our kids because it shouldn't mater what block you grow up on.

Better public schools.

It shouldn't matter what block you grow up on.


Is she running as a democrat or a republican because there she parroted one of the major attack lines that the right has spouted over the last few years against public schools and why they say the privatization of our schools is so important.

What makes a public school bad? Is it a staff that doesn't care and doesn't do its job, or is it because a school is overwhelmed with needs and doesn't have the resources it needs to be successful. I would say it was the latter 999 times out of a thousand. 

You see even in our lowest performing schools, we have great teachers who show up day in and day out with their sleeves rolled up ready to work. I submit it is not schools that are failing society, it is society that has failed many of our schools especially in poor neighborhoods or neighborhoods of color.  

When she says we need better schools so it doesn't matter what block or neighborhood a child is from, she is either parroting what all the people on the right who attack public schools have said or she doesn't understand what the real issues are.

 So I just want to suggest to her and any serious candidate going forward that instead of attacking and blaming public schools, they say something like, I want all public schools to have the resources they need to be successful, because our kids, no matter from what block or neighborhood they come from deserve it.  

A candidate who says something like that, is a candidate I can get behind.  Gillibrand has her work cut out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The city council and the school board need to step up and...

Duval County Public Schools have some of the oldest schools in the state and are in need of over a billion dollars in repairs and upgrades.  The news reported that it would be cheaper to bulldoze dozens of buildings and replace them rather than repair them.   

Duval’s teachers are also some of the lowest paid in not just the state but in the nation and of the six big Florida districts we are dead last. This has led to a teacher shortage that is only going to get worse.

Then the state government keeps sending mandate after mandate to the district including providing extra security but routinely fails to fund them. Last year it funded only an extra forty-seven cents in discretionary spending, but when the costs of the mandates was factored in, Duval actually had less money to spend on its priorities than it had in years past.

So what does Tallahassee do? It now requires the district to share its revenue with dozens of for profit charter schools, many of which are in neighborhoods that already have high performing traditional public schools and year after year after as property values have risen it has restricted the district’s ability to raise revenue through millage increases. Finally, as a kicker, Jacksonville doesn’t even require impact fees from new builds that are supposed to help finance things like schools and roads.

This is beyond a crisis. We would be lucky if we could afford shoe strings and chewing gum, to shore things up.

Our leaders on the school board and city council, as so many others in other districts across Florida have, including very conservative Clay county, need to step up and ask the citizens for a sales tax referendum and or a substantial increase in the millage rate which has remained flat even as property values have risen.   

I get it nobody likes taxes, but what I believe after having conversation after conversation with my neighbors is they dislike teachers having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, more and more classes being taught by subs, schools that aren’t safe and public buildings in disrepair, even more.

Aren’t our children worth, what when divided collectively would only be a few extra dollars a year? I think they are and I believe most of you do too.  Now we just need our local leaders to step up and do the right thing.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Representative Kimberly Daniels admits she violated ethics rules

Kimberly Daniels represents parts of the north and west side of Jacksonville in the Florida house of representatives. She claims to be a democrat but the truth is she has more in common with republicans than the party she says she represent.

Last year when most democrats were getting failing ratings from Jeb Bush's public school privatization organization, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, they crowned her a champion, their highest rating. She also took in thousands of dollars from republican donors in her most recent reelection campaign. 

Being a wolf in sheep's clothing is one thing, but her constantly running afoul of ethics is another. She just reached a settlement agreement with the Florida Commission of Ethics where she admits knowingly falsifying her financial statements.   

She agreed to admit to her guilt as long as the current speaker of the house Jose Oliva could determine her punishment, if any. I wouldn't hold my breath that anything meaningful will happen as republicans have a way of protecting republicans which Danials is in all but name. 

This isn't the first time she was in trouble for less than ethical behavior. In 2015 she agreed to 1,500 dollars to settle an ethics complaint that she illegally used campaign funds on personnel expenses. Like in the current case she did not dispute the judgement of the commission.

All this is made more troubling that she  a pasture where you would think being ethical and honest would be a priority, though over and over again she has proven it isn't.

This latest ethical violation hasn't slowed her town in Tallahassee as she has filed legislation that would make it mandatory for all high school students to study the bible, yes that bible.

Currently schools are allowed to offer classes where the bible is studied as an elective but Daniels wants to take it a few steps farther.  If her bill passed, and remember schools are now required to have in God we Trust predominantly displayed, schools would now be forced to offer courses in religion, Hebrew scriptures and the bible as electives.  That loud crash you just heard was the separation of church and state being smashed with a sledge hammer.

It's a bit of a shock that she is calling for the teaching of Hebrew scripture as she has publicly bemoaned, Jews own everything. Though as outrageous as that was, when she praised slavery, saying,  “And let me say this to you — I thank God for slavery … If it wasn’t for slavery, I might be somewhere in Africa, worshiping a tree,” she really took the "has no business representing anyone in Jacksonville" cake.  

Despite ethics violation after ethics violation, not supporting public schools, anti Semitic and pro slavery comments, Daniels keeps getting elected, though this time she narrowly fended off an 11th hour challenge from former school board member Paula Wright. Had Mrs. Wright resigned to run, something former school board member Jason Fischer did when he first ran for the house, and had more time she could have beaten Daniels. 

Hopefully in two years the residents of Jacksonville's north side will be tired of being represented from an ethically challenged woman, who is okay with ignoring the constitution and who is thankful for slavery, though to be honest I thought her already embarrassing body of work would have been enough. 

To read more, click the links,

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Is the proposal to arm teachers about keeping kids safe or about protecting the NRA

Is the proposal to arm teachers about keeping kids safe or about protecting the NRA

Andrew Pollack, appointed to the state board of education, apparently only because he wants to arm teachers, had this troubling tweet today.

Really CNN is biased but NRATV isn’t. Oy vey, and Rick Scott somehow thinks this guy is qualified to be on the state board of education?

Then two members of the Parkland commission appeared on NRATV

From Florida Politics:

Florida gun advocates expressed anger over the weekend at members of the Parkland commission who promoted pro-gun policy positions on NRATV, a publicity arm of the National Rifle Association.

“NRA is nothing more than a gun lobby group and NRATV is the propaganda arm of that gun lobby group,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the Parkland shooting.

“Anyone who says that they support school safety is WRONG and they know it. They support chaos in schools and gun sales. Sad when some in policy positions buy into that agenda.”

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission formed after a shooter on Feb. 14 killed 17 people in the high school.

NRATV closely followed the commission report and promoted some of its recommendations, including the arming of teachers. Members of the commission, including chair and Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, spoke to NRATV about the findings.

Gualtieri on Friday conducted an interview with NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch for a segment largely focused on a commission recommendation to arm teachers at Florida schools.

“You’ve got to have a good guy with a gun there and somebody who can stop these events when they begin,” Gualtieri said.

Um, why wasn’t Guttenberg appointed to the state board of education, I mean if the requirement are you had a child murdered at Parkland and you have advocated for school safety then he is as good a candidate as Pollack.

Then Gualteieri already said on the radio show First Coast Connect arming teachers was about saving money as much as anything.

This is all beginning to look like nothing more than a scurrilous attempt to prop up the NRA with our children being used as pawns.

It’s no secret the NRA has taken a few hits over the last couple years and there are reports it is bleeding money as well. Is it too much to think that some far right supporters of it might use the tragedy too prop up the NRA?       

We need real solutions to our problems, not solutions done on the cheap, which Gualteieri basically admits what arming teachers is, and definitely not solutions that make our children less safe.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri the chair of the Parkland Commission said arming teachers was about saving money. (rough draft)

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri was on the radio program First Coast Connect today to discuss the recently complete Parkland safety report and he said arming teachers was about saving money as much as anything else.

During his interview with Melissa Ross, he bemoaned that there were 1500 current police officer openings throughout the state and said we would need an additional 2,000 on top of that number to put a police officer in every school and that would cost 400 million dollars a year.

Um so what? We put over a billion into vouchers every year. Charter schools take out about another two. How much do we spend on testing or blame the teacher’s evaluations? We couldn’t find that money if we looked? I mean isn’t protecting our children worth finding the money?

Let me ask you a couple questions, what problem have you chosen to fix on the cheap and did that work? Would you ask a fireman to do surgery, because isn’t that like asking teachers to be cops too? If your child needed medicine, would you use a cold compress and hope for the best? Hopefully your answers were none, no and no, but for some reason the sheriff and so many others think arming teachers is the right way to go?

Remember he and his report said, arm teachers, not raise the money needed for extra police.  
Isn’t doing things the right way, even if it costs a little more the way to go? Florida is one of the lowest taxed states in the union and I get it we all hate taxes, but don’t we hate dead kids just a little bit more.

Arming teachers for many of the right, and I say the right because I can’t find anybody on the left or in the middle who is for it, isn’t about finding solutions, it’s like the wall, it’s just so they can poke a finger in people who they disagree with eye.

Teacher’s having guns, is a symbol, but like the wall, it doesn’t address the real issues.

Parkland had an armed officer. Cruz had to know that, but it didn’t deter him. What Cruz didn’t get was the services and attention he needed.

I have no doubt the Broward County school district made serious and grievous lapses as this young man fell through the cracks, but we shouldn’t forget he was part of an underfunded and over mandated system where this was bound to happen and we are just lucky it hasn’t happened more.
We need real solutions like more mental health counseling and social worker services because often why a kid acts up and does poorly in school has nothing to do with school.

We need manageable class and workloads so teachers can build those relationships that can prevent tragedy and aren’t so overwhelmed they miss warning signs or worse have to many other things on their plate that they get pushed to the side.

We need to move away from high stakes testing and instead prepare children to be productive members of society and that means focusing on emotional and social health as much as we do regular health.

Then we need to limit the availability of these weapons and restrict who can have them.  

Finally, if we still really think we need more guns in schools, then they should be handled by professionals and we shouldn’t care if it adds a few dollars more to our tax bill.

Our choices are real solutions, of sticking thumbs in the eyes of snowflakes. Paying more and doing it right, or doing it on the cheap and hoping for the best.

Those are our choices.

Consider carefully, a child’s life may depend on it.

To listen to the interview, click the link:

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Andrew Pollack is both unqualified for the state board of education and a conspiracy theorist

Andrew Pollack is both unqualified for the state board of education and a conspiracy theorist.

First, let me say that what happened to him and his family is a nightmare and he has my upmost sympathy. However, just because his daughter was killed does not make Pollack qualified to serve on the state board of education, which Rick Scott, in some sort of twisted publicity stunt, did on his way out the door.

Not only are some of his ideas to arm teachers dangerous and myopic, they turn schools into little more than jails. Andrew Pollack has also indulged in far right conspiracy theories.

From the Washington Post:

A father of a Parkland school shooting victim appeared on “Fox & Friends” over the weekend and suggested, without evidence, that Democrats registered the accused shooter to vote from jail as part of an effort to steal Florida’s election.

“It just shows you how despicable these Democrats are that they’ll stoop that low to go into the prison, the jail, and register these criminals,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was one of 17 people Nikolas Cruz allegedly shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. “It’s never been done in 20 years.”

Citing a “tip from deputies at the jail,” Pollack said the plan failed because Broward County — which is now involved in a recount battle that could swing Florida’s Senate and gubernatorial elections — failed to send the inmates their ballots in time to vote.

“They probably shouldn’t be voting anyway,” Fox’s Katie Pavlich remarked after listening to Pollack’s accusations, which neither she nor her two co-hosts challenged at any point, although they contradicted all public evidence.

Indeed, at the heart of the segment and the spiraling social media outrage that accompanied it, there was a kernel of truth, but little more than that: Nikolas Jacob Cruz really did register to vote in July, listing his home address as the county jail where he awaits trial after police say he confessed to the mass shooting.

Like it or not, until Cruz is convicted, our laws say that Cruz has the right to vote.

Is that how Andrew Polllack would approach his duties on the state board, which includes setting policy on many things other than school safety? By listening to tips? By not doing any research? By ignoring the law and just going with his gut?

This is an insulting and embarrassing selection. We can grieve with Pollack and his family and still demand that Rick Scott does better. The board has a startling lack of educators on it. It's time we put an educator on the state board to demonstrate our priority to ensure the best education for Florida's children.

I urge you to contact your representatives and to tell them to vote no

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The continuing debasement of public education in Florida, Andrew Pollack edition

Andrew Pollack is one of the parents of the slain Parkland students. I know two things, I can never understand the depth of this man's pain, what happened is an absolute tragedy and I weep for him, his family, his daughter, and all the other people effected, I know that and that this man has no business being on the state board of education, which Rick Scott on his way out the door appointed him to.

Educators in Florida aren't even invited to the table to discuss let alone craft education policy. On the way out the door, Scott reappointed a businessman, and Pollacks slot would see him replace a rich grocer and Scott financial backer.

Do you ever think, maybe if we would have educators in charge of education in Florida over the last few decades maybe things like the massacre wouldn't have happened? Florida has been so caught up in bashing public schools, and teachers and privatizing the system, all on the cheap, that quite frankly I believe it's blind luck we haven't had more school shootings, more tragedies, more grieving families.

Can you imagine, if educators played a role in crafting education policy, how much things would be different. People can blame public schools for violence, or academic achievement, or whatever but the truth is, in Florida they are often at the mercy of people who want to see them fail.

Pollack wants more guns in schools, he thinks that will stop school shootings. It won't. Parkland had an armed officer but that didn't stop Cruz from going there and taking 17 lives. What would help however is what educators have been calling for but has fallen on deaf ears. More mental health and social work services, smaller classes, so teachers can more easily develop relationships and see warning signs and a system, not run on a shoe string budget where problems will invariably slip through the cracks and a return to the purpose of education which should be preparing children for adulthood instead of preparing them to pass a high stakes test. If Pollack was an educator, what the state board of education should be composed of, instead of a grieving father, he would know that.

We can all grieve with and for Pollack, but at the same time demand we do better. Our children deserve it.
To read more, click the links:

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

It's time we started calling school choice what it is, and that's privatization.

When governor elect DeSantis, made Richard Corcorran the commissioner of education, he put the fox in charge of the hen house. The rest of the foxes he put on his education advisory commission.

DeSantis didn't enlist mental health, and criminal justice experts, or educators, to help plan the future of education. Instead he turned to charter school, and voucher interests. You know those people not interested in improving education but instead who want to expand their piece of the pie.

Did they discuss poverty, over testing, the teacher shortage, a lack of resources, crumbling schools, mental health or any of the important and relative issues related to education? No. They talked about expanding choice, that was the message they delivered to the public and we can no longer let the word choice go unchallenged, because this isn't about expanding choice, this is about the dismantling and privatization of public education and we need to make sure people know and understand that.

Charters do not keep children with discipline problems, nor to they take many special needs or ESOL students, they council out poor performers as well.  Voucher schools have so little over site you could say they practically have none. They can hire and teach whatever they want.

Everything DeSantis has done has signaled tough times ahead for public education and he uses the word choice as an opiate for the masses, because what could be wrong with choice? Well the answer to that my friends is legion, and lets begin with choice just for choices sake is a bad choice.

We can no longer allow DeSantis and the republicans in Tallahassee to pull the wool over the public's eyes and we must challenge them on every front, we must let them know that their true aim is the dismantling and privatization of education to the detriment of us all.