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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Make education decisions in communities, not Tallahassee

One of the biggest problems in education is politicians meddling with education. -cpg


As reported in Monday's column by state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, lawmakers were recently invited to a screening of the movie "Waiting for Superman." This movie purports to show how our public schools are failing our children. Many Florida lawmakers hailed this movie as a reality that must be dealt with.

Unfortunately, legislators are not being given the entire picture.

Yes, some schools, both public and private, do not meet the needs of all students -- and that must be corrected. However, most schools in our state perform exceptionally well.

While the theatrics in the movie focus in on five schools that continue to struggle, one has to ask why the makers of the movie decided to ignore high-performing schools.

The movie also paints charter schools as the solution. Again, the producer ignores the fact that more than 80 percent of charter schools perform no better, and in most cases worse, than public schools. The producer even ignored the fact that one of the charter schools in the movie kicked out its entire first class of students because they were not showing signs of growth.

Imagine that: Students don't do well and they kick them out. That does not sound like a model we would want our traditional public schools to follow.

In Volusia County, we have long been progressive in looking at how to improve student learning. We adopted longer school days at many of the lower-performing schools years ago. We are currently redesigning our teacher development and evaluation system so that we can ensure that teachers have the support they need to be successful, and guarantee students always have the best teachers in front of them. We are also continuing conversations about how we can better structure our curriculum and assessments to meet the needs of all students.

Even during this time of drastic budget cuts, we are getting the job done by working cooperatively with all stakeholders. We still have much more work to do, but we are establishing a mechanism for this work to happen.

By contrast, Florida lawmakers believe they have a mandate to take control of local schools and dictate what they wish. They apparently plan to again force an anti-teacher bill through the Legislature like the one Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed last spring. Lawmakers are talking about bringing back vouchers, even though the Florida Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional a few years back. They are also telling districts to expect more cuts, even though student enrollment is expected to increase again statewide. Florida's lawmakers seem to be continuing the practice of shortchanging our children and blaming teachers.

So the question is who really cares about our children? Is it the parents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, office specialists, child advocates, police officers, firefighters, small business owners, pastors, rabbis and priests in our community, or the wealthy, powerful elite in Tallahassee? I think the answer is pretty clear. Decisions about our schools must be made in our communities, not in the halls of the state Capitol.

Taken from the Daytona News Journal:

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