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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Why I took my daughter out of public school.

From a long time reader:

As you know when we moved, we were told we were in a better public school district. Having had our oldest in private school since preschool, we thought we would give our local public school a try. We had heard great things about it and rightfully so. The Principal is outstanding and so are the teachers and staff. I joined the PTA and dove in. Our daughter loved her school. Her teacher was vibrant and you could tell she was deeply passionate about her students and learning. Then, budget cuts came....

A month into school we were given a note that said our children would be moved to another classroom. Their teacher would be moved to teach K. What had actually occurred was a shortfall in attendance and the required budget cut as a result. So a month in to our blissful first grade year, the newest teacher was let go, my daughter's first grade teacher took over her K class, my daughter was moved to a second grade teacher's class, and the second grade class was dispersed to other 2nd grade rooms.

It was an adjustment filled with disappointment, but we adjusted. It certainly wasn't optimal but I did know the Principal was doing the best she could with what she had. I did not fault her, I faulted the state for essentially forcing a multi classroom move a month into school.

Our new first grade teacher was much different but just as kind. My daughter adjusted and continued to enjoy school.  Then we got the mail in October. It was a first warning for possible non matriculation.
I will never be the parent who thinks her child is flawless or capable of no wrong or Mensa bound. I will however recognize insanity when I see it. Our daughter was and is a curious, happy, avid reader. Her father and I are educated and encourage her love of learning all things as much as possible. We filled out the paperwork to request a non matriculation warning conference.

Our daughter received continuously great 'comments' in her weekly folder and when I spoke with her teacher she was always doing great. She was also making good grades. This paperwork was slightly bewildering.
At the conference I was told that in August our daughter was given a FAIR test which was explained to me as the first grade equivalent to the FCAT. She did not pass the FAIR test and I was told her reading was under par.

My daughter's reading abilities might be 'under par' but without a television at her disposal she came home and happily read everyday along with her other activities. She was a voracious reader often reading before school and in the car. It was unfortunate she could not pass this test.

I was told that she would be given several more FAIR exams and if she couldn't pass she would need to attend summer school. After summer school she would be given an SAT10. If she couldn't pass this exam she would be held back. They seemed hesitant as to her probability of passing any of these tests. So I inquired in disbelief that despite her having glowing report cards and social progress they could still fail her and hold her back because of a test? The teacher apologized and told me her hands were tied. And yes, they would still hold a child back despite good report cards if she or anyone didnt pass the FAIR or SAT10. I sat in disbelief that our educational system had come to this. I thought about her attending summer school and how that would affect her. I also thought about how heartbroken she would be to not go on to second grade with her friends. I was annoyed that a bright and curious child would be held back because of an exam. I asked if the non matriculation was a real possibility and was told yes. I really was stumped in disbelief that they would hold a child back passing on all accounts except for a standardized test. She was in first grade not high school. The school said all of this was really out of their hands and this was the protocol they had to follow. I was stunned that this is how we go about educating our youth in the public school system. I was also stunned that in our non matriculation warning paperwork they predicted she would not pass her next FAIR exam.

I was saddened that in this sweet and tender age where children are curious and excited about school that this is the method we choose to educate them. I also knew our daughter would be confused if she had to spend her summer at school and was held back despite knowing her report cards were always great.

Though the school is full of warm and caring professionals, the state system that hovers over our schools is not.
Over Christmas break we moved her to a nearby private school. They gave her admissions testing- to determine her learning style- and placed her in the appropriate classroom. She started there when school resumed in January and is flourishing. She is also reading. A lot.

What a sad state of affairs that we have taken the true love of learning and replaced it with an obsession with testing. It's not the school's fault. We were at a great school.

In this process I thought of all of the bright young kids whose desire to just simply be curious of the world around them is stumped by the state's desire to have them pass standardized tests. I also thought of those without the financial means to switch to private school when they would like to.

My daughter got in the car one day and exclaimed they had so many resource classes at her new school. 

What if we took all the millions spent on these FAIRs, SAT10s and FCATs and put them back into our schools? 

What if we actually let teachers teach and children learn?

It's sadly not rocket science, but we continue to fail our children despite this common sense.

A teacher evaluation system that would work!

Teachers stomped their feet and yelled from the rooftops that the Florida legislatures attempt to legislate evaluations was between misguided and foolhardy but like most education subjects, the Florida Legislature ignored them. Now that the system is unraveling many in the Florida State Government are scratching their heads wondering why.

Here is the thing that most legislators can’t seem to fathom; teaching is more an art than a science. Is there a rubric for assessing Rembrandts or Picassos? Is there a complicated mathematical formula that you employ when you listen to music? No of course not but for some reason the Florida Legislature thinks we can employ those things and instantly know who is a good teacher and who should be brushing up their resumes.

To paraphrase Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart, I may not always be able to describe good teaching but I definitely know it when I see it.

Senate president Don Geatz and others can’t fathom how teachers at supposedly poor performing schools can get effective or highly effective evaluations. Since the vast majority have never been in a classroom and they don’t listen to teachers they don’t understand that the best teacher in the world can’t control if their students have had enough to eat, if their parents are involved or not, if they are too worried about where their next meal is coming from or about violence in their neighborhoods to focus on school. The best teacher in the world can’t control if the policy makers have decided to eliminate those classes like art and music that make schools enjoyable to kids or if every kid is shoved into a one size fits all curriculum regardless of desire or ability or not or if social workers and guidance counselors are often the first to be let go during budget cuts. There are so many factors that teachers can’t control its not hard for those in the school system to understand that there are lots of great teachers at schools even where their kids do poorly on standardized tests.

If you want a great evaluation system the trick is to put great, impartial leaders in our schools, people who care both about their students and teachers and who are dedicated to improving both. We can no longer have principals and administrators in place because of whom they know, skin color or other reasons that have nothing to do with ability. Leaders inspire, they don’t threaten, cajole or intimidate. They also listen which is something the legislators in Tallahassee rarely do. We need people in place that take a holistic approach to both the child and teacher instead of just seeing numbers on a spread sheet and an opportunity for advancement. Bad leaders give bad evaluations and bad legislators give bad systems used to evaluate teachers.

The truth is there is no formula that will identify great teachers’ verses those who should be brushing up their resumes. Value added this, standardized tests that, it’s nonsense put in place by those that just don’t get it.

The Florida Legislature loves to blame teachers

From the Tampa Times, by John Romano

They love to talk about education in Tallahassee.
Love to talk about providing opportunities for students, holding teachers accountable and, especially, the quantifiable results of standardized tests.
Okay, so let's talk about numbers and education.
Let's talk about how, when Florida students lag behind the rest of the nation in test scores, lawmakers always seem to insinuate the blame lies with unproductive teachers.
Yet our legislators never consider that they may be part of the problem.
Here's what I mean:
Recent studies have shown that the amount of money a state spends on education affects how well its students perform.
Specifically, a report from the Kids Count Data Center indicated that states above the national median for per-pupil spending are also more likely to be in the top half of student performance nationally. Twenty of those 25 states, to be exact. Which means only five of the bottom 25 states in spending are above the mid-point in student performance.
That's fairly persuasive, don't you think?
Spend above the national median and you have an 80 percent chance of a better-than-average school system. Spend below the national median and your chances of having a quality school system drop to 20 percent.
(For clarification purposes, the 2012 Kids Count Data Book adjusts for regional cost differences. Its student performance numbers are based, among other factors, on standardized test results from fourth and eighth grade and graduation rates.)
This is not to suggest that backing a Brinks truck up to a school auditorium is the answer to all of our educational shortcomings. The school systems in West Virginia and Louisiana are fairly well-funded, for example, and still do not produce adequate results.
My point is that money does have an impact, and it's incredibly disingenuous and self-serving for lawmakers to act as if the problem should be dumped at the feet of educators.
Particularly when Florida consistently shows up in the bottom-third or bottom-quarter of most per-pupil spending surveys.
The most recent U.S. Census ranks Florida 44th in per-pupil spending. Taking into account regional factors, Kids Count has Florida 39th.
So what does all of this mean?
It means legislators now have a chance to make a difference.
Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday that he wants a $1.2 billion increase in education funding in the next budget.
Now you're free to question the governor's motivation. It does, after all, have a whiff of political opportunism to it. But shouldn't we appreciate good decisions, no matter what the impetus?
Freeing up an extra billion dollars in the budget is not going to be easy, and I do not envy lawmakers who will feel pressure from the governor's mansion to get this done.
But for those legislators who continually whine about the performance of teachers and students in this state, this is a moment of reckoning.
This is their opportunity to show whether they are serious about education, or if they simply use it as a political platform. This is their chance to put up.
Or, for heaven's sakes, shut up.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It is official Jeb Bush's education reforms are all about making him and his supporters money.

Today the Washington Post followed the money from Jeb Bush’s corporate donors to legislation he pushed to make them money. To read the whole piece check out the link below but before then this is how his corporate cronies benefited from his policies in Florida.  

• FEE staff sought legislation that would count the state test, known as FCAT, as more than 50% of the state’s school accountability measure. FEE staffer Patricia Levesque wrote to a state official that she had negotiated the related language with state legislators, who were now “asking for the following, which the Foundation completely supports: FCAT shall be ‘at least 50%, but no more than 60%’ of a high school’s grade.” Pearson, the company that holds the $250 million FCAT contract and sponsors FEE through its foundation, has an obvious financial stake in ensuring that FCAT continues to be at the center of Florida’s education system.

Levesque writes, I think we need to add a sec onto this bill to give you/the department authority to set a stateapproved list of charter operators or private providers so districts cant pick poor performers to implement turnaround. At least one FEE donor, the for-profit Florida-based Charter Schools USA, could benefit from being placed on such a state-approved list.

• Charter Schools USA also could benefit from a “parent trigger” law, the passage of which, as Nadia Hagberg of FEE wrote, was the goal of a partnership between Bush’s Florida-based organization (the Foundation for Florida’s Future) and Parent Revolution: “The Foundation for Florida’s Future worked closely with [Parent Revolution] throughout the process in Florida and they proved to be an invaluable asset.” Parent trigger, which failed to pass during Florida’s last legislative session, is a mechanism to convert neighborhood schools to charter schools.

A Failure of Leadership at Mayport Middle School

If you don’t remember, a few weeks back the principal at Mayport Middle released teacher’s evaluations to the general public, she says it was an accident. That the evaluations were an attachment on another document and she just didn’t notice.

When this happened I was asked what I thought and I said, if she has been a good principal and has supported her faculty and staff then we should let bygones be bygones, but if she has been a bully masquerading as an administrator then there should be consequences, though I used the words, fry her.

Well as more information has been released and more teachers have come forward, though anonymously because they fear retaliation, it is looking more and more like the district should do the latter.

Katrina McCray has been at Mayport Middle School since 2007.  She was placed in her position by then-superintendent Joseph Wise. She claims that she released the CAST evaluation data by mistake because she was emailing the EOC student scores and the CAST evaluation attachment was embedded in the message. 

The problem with this excuse is Education Matters has been told that she had already sent the EOC scores out in a previous message. If this is true it shoots down her already flimsy excuse.

People might be asking what the big deal is, aren’t the evaluations going to be public notice anyway? Well yes they are after a year but the real problem is twofold. First the evaluation process itself is so flawed that it is not to be believed. Senate President Don Geatz said just the other day we have a looming accountability disaster. Evaluations are pretty much divided into two sections, how kids did on standardized tests using a very complicated and wildly unpredictable formula called value added and the principals personal feelings about a teacher. If the principal doesn’t care for you even if your students score incredibly high you can get a bad evaluation, likewise if the principal likes you but your kids score at the bottom of the heap you can get a good evaluation. 

The second problem is poor leaders throughout the district. Many are vindictive and petty and have a desire to squeeze out veteran teachers and to replace them with easily malible rookies who will either do anything to keep their jobs or who don’t stick around long enough to know any better. There is a huge leadership problem in the district because whom you know rather than your ability determined promotions for the last half dozen years and bad leaders give bad evaluations.

It seems Mrs. McCray may fall into the second group as this is how she was characterized to me, sadly you could hear the same about dozens of other principals in the district.          : 

The principal has repeatedly said that she does not care if she hurts teachers' 'feelings' because she is working on behalf of the students.  This is a false argument because it implies that she is the only person who cares about the students.  While she has begged for mercy from the superintendent, she rarely affords the same second chance to her subordinates.  The school's FAME morale surveys are rather telling about her abuse of the faculty.  Furthermore, faculty and staff have left in droves because she fails to support them in light of student misbehavior and she forces them to work themselves almost to death without anything close to a thank you. The school has also had more than its share of faculty hospitalized due to stress and mental issues and yet she continues to move full speed ahead.

She doesn’t care if she hurts teacher’s feelings. Bullies and sociopaths are two other groups that don’t care if they hurt people feelings.

The superintendent should revisit this matter and if it turns out she runs her school like a kingdom where she is free from consequences and teachers bear the brunt of her injurious actions then she should be removed and a leader who cares about the entire school community should be put in her place. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The garbage that passes for education reform in Florida

The republican dominated Florida legislature passed a bill in 2010 that fundamentally changed the teaching profession. The student success act ended job protections for teachers making them at will employees, required 50% of their evaluations to be based on standardized tests, whether they taught a test subject or not and called for but did not fund merit pay, which has no evidence that says it works and plenty that says it doesn’t.

This is what Don Geatz, senate president just said about the bill formerly known as senate bill 736 and mind you, he said it after he helped pass it.  If you can't explain it, then you can't defend it."  He added that lawmakers who passed it, including himself, would be hard pressed "to explain how this system works and how it's fair and rational."

This begs the question why is the Florida Legislature passing bills that they can't defend and that fair or rational. The answer is they want to kneecap the teaching profession to hasten their public school privatization plans.

Do you want our schools to improve? Do you care about Florida’s children? If so get Tallahassee out of education.

Chris Guerrieri
School teacher

Florida Senate President Don Geatz admits lawmakers are clueless when it comes to education

 From the horse’s mouth when talking about senate bill 736, "If you can't explain it, then you can't defend it."  He added that lawmakers who passed it, including himself, would be hard pressed "to explain how this system works and how it's fair and rational."

Did I say horse's mouth? I meant Jackass. Why are they passing laws when they don’t understand how they work, when they aren’t fair or rationale? Oh I know, it's because they want to handicap the teaching profession to facilitate the privatization of public education. Friends, Geatz as much as admits that when he admits he voted for an unfair, irrational and defenseless bill that became the law of the land.

Read more here:

Hernando teacher of the year just effective in the eyes of the state. Some evaluation system huh?

From the Tampa Times, by D Valentine

In the eyes of her peers, Central High School health science teacher Bethann Brooks is exceptional.

From her administrator’s perspective, she’s highly effective. Within the Hernando School District, she’s this year's Teacher of the Year.

As for the state? Not as glowing.

Brooks earned an “effective” grade under Florida’s new “value-added” teacher evaluation system that takes into account student scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test to determine her mark.

While she said she was initially graded as “highly effective” at the school level, her mark dropped when the FCAT scores came in.

As a career technical teacher who teaches mostly seniors, she said she wasn’t graded on the scores of her students but rather the school’s grade as a whole.

“Which is sad,” she said. “It’s not so much grading me at that point. A lot of the students I have are seniors. They are not even taking the FCAT.”

“I think it would be more fair if it were your own students,” she said. “You have responsibility to prepare them for the test.”

That’s a frequent criticism of the new “value-added model,” or VAM.

The plan has come under fire, because many teachers are evaluated based on the performance of students who aren’t even in their classrooms. In such cases, many say they are being rated on students who they have no interaction or contact with, and therefore no involvement in their learning.

In the new system, teachers can be classified as “highly effective,” “effective,” “needs improvement,” “unsatisfactory” or “developing” - with the final term reserved for teachers with three or fewer years of experience.

In Hernando, 16.8 percent of teachers were graded as “highly effective” while 81.9 percent were marked as “effective.” Only 1.3 percent of the district teachers were ranked as “needing improvement” or “developing.” None were “unsatisfactory.”

Brooks will eventually be graded on her own students when end-of-course exams are implemented.

But those aren’t around yet.

“We do not have an EOC for her subject area,” said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association. “The state, in its infinite wisdom, wants to force everyone into the same square before we are even ready.”

If Brooks was graded on her own students, Vitalo said “we’re greatly confident she would have scored ‘highly effective’ in there.”

Vitalo said the current model is not the best.

“When you’re trying to use something before all of the components are built, of course it’s not going to fly,” he said. “I don’t think the Wright brothers figured they could have a jet before they even started flying.”

Where is the quality in Florida's quality counts grade?

From the Palm Beach Post, By Jac Versteeg
We know from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything is: 42.
A similar quest seeks to boil down the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Education to a single number or letter grade. But while the late “Hitchhiker’s Guide” author Douglas Adams was (probably) kidding, some politicians and education bureaucrats aren’t.
The Ultimate Answer for Florida apparently is: 6. Gov. Rick Scott and his usual amen chorus were ecstatic that the latest report from Quality Counts, which is affiliated with Education Week magazine, ranks Florida sixth. Although the Hitchhiker’s Guide provided the Ultimate Answer, it never spelled out the question. Gov. Scott, in contrast, thinks that the ranking answers this question: Is Florida’s education policy working? That No. 6 proves, the governor said, “that we’re taking the steps needed to ensure our students succeed.”
The FCAT was useful when the state used it to show which students needed help in reading, math and science. Then the state misused the FCAT to grade entire schools and school districts. Quality Counts grades the whole state and even the whole nation. Its a respected source, and its formula doesn’t rely totally on FCAT results. Still, that 6 is quite a stretch.
In any case, Florida’s details are not as shiny as that score might indicate to those, and there will be many, who look only at the number. Florida’s overall grade is B-minus. That looks good only because the country as a whole gets a C-plus. (Maryland was tops with a B-plus; South Dakota last with a D-plus.)
The Quality Counts ranking also succumbs to the “participation ribbon” syndrome by giving states like Florida extra credit for implementing an alleged accountability policy — like FCAT testing — without delving too deeply into how the accountability system works. Some educators say, for example, that Florida’s policy of holding back third-graders who flunk the reading FCAT inflates fourth-grade results on national tests, which have shown stellar improvement, primarily by keeping struggling readers in third grade while better readers take the fourth-grade assessments.
Quality Counts shows Florida improving its graduation rate, but the numbers are from 2008 and rank the state 44th. Plus, Florida gets a D-plus in school finance. Even so, the rush is on to show that our 6th-place ranking vindicates the FCAT, corporate vouchers, a charter school fixation and the latest merit pay scheme for teachers.
Gov. Scott did cite Florida’s No. 6 Quality Counts ranking last week when he announced that he will seek $2,500 across-the-board teacher raises. Previously, all signs of success were attributed to “reforms,” with teachers getting little or no credit. Of course, Gov. Scott began praising teachers when his 2014 opponent began looking like Charlie Crist, who is popular with teachers.
In “The Hitchhiker’s Guide,” the supercomputer Deep Thought required 7.5 million years to spit out its conclusion. It won’t take that long to sort out what Florida’s ranking from Quality Counts signifies. But educators and politicians need to dig into the details. Taking the time to do so is preferable to Tallahassee’s recent rush to claim that anything stamped “school choice” is the No. 1 answer.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Florida to spend half billion dollars to wire schools so kids can take tests on-line

From the I can’t make this up file Florida has hit a new low in its testing madness. On the heels of stealing three percent from teachers and dozens of superintendents and school boards asking the state to slow down on tests they are proposing to spend nearly a half billion dollars to wire schools so kids can take tests.

From the Tampa Times Grade Book, by Jeff Solochek

The days of all-computerized state testing are fast approaching for Florida schools. The push toward digital textbooks and instructional materials also is moving quickly.
But many schools built more than five years ago lack the infrastructure to make the move. They don't have adequate electrical wiring or internet Wi-Fi capability to handle the load.
The Florida Board of Education has proposed a 2013-14 budget of $441.8 million to outfit schools with internet bandwidth, wireless capacity and other technology tools. There's some talk in Tallahassee that the request will get serious consideration among lawmakers, who already have been asked by Gov. Rick Scott to give all full-time classroom teachers a $2,500 raise.
"We've got to put resources in that area" of technology, said Sen. John Legg, chairman of the Education Policy committee and a member of the Education Appropriations committee. "The Senate proposal we're putting together is pretty aggressive to do that."
He expected a bill to emerge in the next few weeks that will look at a two-year plan to improve schools' computer capabilities. The bill also will include other overarching issues including more closely connecting education standards to college and employment demands. 
Legg told the Gradebook that he hoped to keep the discussion tightly focused on "real reform" such as these ideas, with a longer-range impact, and away from politically-tinged diversions
"It's my desire to get these long-term policy initiatives up and out early in session," he said, noting that some heated debate could surround the proposals. "It's my desire not to get distracted."

Jeb Bush, the Rasputin of Education Reform

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

Jeb Bush’s recent hyperbole is that of a man who knows he’s under fire. Consider this fromMetro Pulse reporter Cari Wade Gervin:
On Monday, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush came to Nashville for a press event with Gov. Bill Haslam.
“This is a time of great importance for our country, and this is the single most important thing we can be doing,” Bush stated at one point.
What was this matter of such urgency? Did it involve national security? A fiscal crisis? The battle over gun control?
None of the above. Bush was referring to school vouchers (and, by default, education reform in general). In a brief media avail after the event, Haslam announced that he would indeed be introducing legislation to enact a limited voucher system in Tennessee.
Like most republican governors, its clear that Haslam has fallen under the spell of education reform’s Rasputin. Are some of these man-crushes political posturing? Bush after all is being touted by the media as a presidential candidate – and Bush has done nothing to dispel such speculation - so guys like Haslam might be looking to kiss the ring. Besides, the biggest stack of education corporation poker chips sits in front of him at the table.
Gervin points out that Bush’s Florida model isn’t all that.
While Bush was governor, from 1999 to 2007, the state instituted a series of educational reforms like a statewide voucher system, distance learning, and a universal pre-K program (for which vouchers could be used to send one’s children to church-run preschools).
On Monday Bush said the state had made the “greatest learning gains in the country” thanks to his reforms, which have now become the basis for his non-profit work. But several reports have called those gains into question. A Reuters investigation last fall pointed out that the test scores, which dramatically increased while Bush was in office, have dropped in recent years, and high-school graduation rates still lag behind other large, diverse states such as California and Ohio. Critics also note that studies commissioned by the state have not shown low-income students who use vouchers to attend private schools to have higher test scores than their peers.
Despite that, Bush stated confidently on Monday, “All schools do better when there’s competition.” He compared the use of vouchers to a grocery store with multiple kinds of milk. “World better because of choices [sic]. Radical idea,” Bush said.
Bush knows recent news hasn’t been good from Florida. A close political ally said late last week that Bush’s multiple test-based accountability measures were said to be  “in danger of imploding.” It is these he so desperately needs to call public schools failing for his voucher and charter school schemes to gain traction. Bush’s switch to irresponsible hyperbole  and flippant metaphors  instead of evidence smells like desperation.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Florida’s looming teacher crisis, or why would anybody want to be a teacher in Florida?

People forget that just a few years ago we were recruiting in the business world and in the countries of India and Canada because we couldn’t find enough teacher’s to staff our classrooms. What’s going to happen when the economy turns around and people have options?

Lets examine Florida.

Florida has some of the lowest paid teachers in the nation, 47th out of 50. I as a 12th year teacher am paid some 14 thousand below the national average.

A recent three percent pay cut to balance the books of Florida.

Florida’s drill and kill education philosophy where the standardized test, not what’s good for the child, is king.

Teacher’s are now at will employees able to be let go at the end of any year for any reason.

If Will Weatherford has his way there will be no more teacher pensions, this despite the fact the Florida Retirement Fund is very healthy and one of the best around.

And finally no longer does a teacher’s experience or education matter. Pretty ironic if you ask me that in education, a teacher’s education beyond a bachelors degree, doesn’t matter.  

People forget that just a few years ago we were recruiting in the business world and in the countries of India and Canada because we couldn’t find enough teacher’s to man our classrooms. What’s going to happen when the economy turns around and people have options?

Florida’s invasion of the body snatchers

Governor Scott wants to give teachers a 2500-dollar raise.

Ed Commissioner Tony Bennett wants to test kids at private schools that get vouchers and says senate bill 736 has to go back to the drawing board

And finally Senate President Done Gaetz, gets it right but for the wrong reason when he says our school accountability system is a looming disaster.

Is the pendulum shifting back and they see that the people are finally waking up to their public school hating, teacher bashing policies or is there something else afoot.  

Senate president Don Gaetz says Florida’s school accountability system is in danger of collapse. He is right for the wrong reasons.

By the way, various teacher’s unions and education experts have been saying for quite some time that Florida’s school accountability system is a looming disaster. Senate President Geatz thinks it is in danger of collapse because to many teachers are rated as effective of better.

Complaining about our school accountability system, Mr. Gaetz said in the Florida Current, “If you have a C school, 90 percent of the teachers in a C school can’t be highly effective. That doesn’t make sense.”

Well if it doesn’t make sense to Gaetz then how can it make sense to anyone? (sic)

Here is the thing that Gaetz and other teacher haters don’t get, the best teacher in the world can’t control if their students have enough to eat, if their parents are involved or not, if they are to worried about where their next meal is coming from or violence in their neighborhoods to focus on school, if the policy makers have decided to eliminate those classes like art and music that make schools enjoyable to kids or if every kid is shoved into a one size fits all curriculum regardless of desire or ability or not. There are so many factors that teachers can’t control it’s not hard to believe that there are lots of great teachers at schools even where their kids do poorly on standardized tests.

What, Gaetz, and Rhee, and Gates and so many others don’t get is teaching is a form of art that cannot be quantified by some mathematical formula or replicated on a standardized test.

Gaetz is right, the school accountability system here in Florida is all jacked up but he got it right for the wrong reason.

Why is the Jacksonville Public Education Fund having a hard time getting community endorsements? Guilt by association? (rough draft)

The JPEF is a local organization dedicated to the improvement of local education, a pretty laudable goal. To help facilitate this they have galvanized many of the city’s most influential citizens and held a series of one on one conversation with locals that culminated in a congress of sorts held earlier this month where they outlined what they believe the city’s education priorities should be. Superintendent Vitti and several school board members were there as well. They crafted a community agreement and have been working towards a goal of 2000 ratifications ever since. Mayor Brown among others even signed it.

One of their goals is a quality teacher in charge of every class and where that sounds great it plays into the narrative that our classrooms are staffed with substandard teachers just marking time until they can retire or collecting an easy pay check. I vehemently disagree with this notion, but okay lets move along.

So here we have this organization apparently supported by the superintendent, the mayor and a whole host of influential citizens, in a city of nearly a million people and some three weeks after they had their meeting attended by around 200 people they still haven’t reached their goal of 2000 signers. How is that? Do people in Jacksonville not care about education?

The answer to that is a partial yes, we do have too many absentee citizens that either can’t be bothered or who really don’t care and that’s a shame because the better our education system is, the better the city is and the better their lives will be but I think it is more than that too. I think there is some guilt by association, that turns people off, involved as well.

I have not signed the community agreement and have no plans to and it’s not because of their slight to teachers. It is because of their association with Gary Chartrand. Mr. Chartrand is the chair of the state board of education and one of the biggest foes to public education around. He went from top fifty in grocery store news to running our schools and is not swayed by evidence or facts and prefers instead to go with his gut. He doesn’t think teachers are professionals, he believes in race-based goals and is on record saying there is no evidence smaller classes work, when there is tons of evidence that says it does. Oh and he’s on the JPEF board as well.

Mr. Chartrand is not interested in improving our public schools, no he is interested in blowing our public school system up and I can’t help but think in this city of almost a million there are a lot of people like me who disagree and since he is associated with the JPEF struggle with supporting them and their goals as laudable as some might be.

To find out more about the JPEF, here is a link to their site.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Will Weatherford wants to put a knife in the heart of future teachers.

From the Tampa Times, by Micheal Van Sickler

House Speaker Will Weatherford will battle state workers to get one of his top priorities passed.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has called Florida's current pension plan a "ticking time bomb" because he fears it could require a costly taxpayer bailout in the future. To prevent that, he says he wants to require new employees, starting on Jan. 1, to enroll in 401(k)-style accounts rather than rely on getting regular pension payments.

On Thursday, a week after the Florida Supreme Court ruled against state workers and upheld a 3 percent levy on their salaries to shore up the pension plan, a retirement reform plan supported by Weatherford was discussed at a House Government Operations Committee workshop.

The draft legislation prevents new employees from joining the pension plan and requires them instead to enroll in a plan in which they direct the investments. It also eliminates an option to apply for disability benefits for new employees, although Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford, said it will be replaced by another option that has yet to be determined. Many other details won't be known until a report on the Florida Retirement System and its $125 billion pension plan is completed in the next three to five weeks.

Participants in the new plan will have more flexibility in deciding their investments, while taxpayers won't be left on the hook if market conditions change, Brodeur said. "There will no longer be a blank check written by taxpayers," he said.

As vague as they were, the changes were denounced by representatives for state workers.

"What are we trying to fix?" said Rich Templin, political and legislative director of the Florida AFL-CIO. "A defined benefit pension system is the best way to attract employees because we can't match the private sector."

A recent report said that the worth of the fund itself compared to what it owes is 86.9 percent — while the average level is 77 percent. While that shortfall is enough for Weatherford and other Republicans to say the fund is dangerously underfunded, Templin said concerns are overblown.

"We all know we have one of the strongest and most stable pension funds not just in the country, but in the world," Templin said.

Rowan Taylor, president of the Metro-Dade County Association of Firefighters, said the plan would expose many state workers to the uncertainties of the marketplace.

"As firefighters, job security is one of the most important things to us," Taylor said. "When you go in and fight a fire, you shouldn't have to worry about how the stock market is doing and whether your family will be taken care of if something happens to you. That's the last thing you should worry about."

For nearly an hour, state workers told the committee they like the pension system the way it is now. With Weatherford pushing this and Senate President Don Gaetz pushing similar reforms with municipal pensions, this issue won't go away.

"We're going to talk an awful lot, I have a feeling," Brodeur told the crowd.

Don Gaetz, Florida’s most mediocre lawmaker

When talking about giving teacher’s raises Mr. Gaetz said that:

"The best teacher in Florida and the worst teacher in Florida should not be treated the same when it comes to this raise.”

Funny I looked and couldn’t find the salary structure that differentiates the best Florida legislator from the worst. Nope they all get paid the same.

If Florida comes up with a fair system for identifying the state’s best teachers and wants to pay them more, then fine but what the Governor is talking about is increasing the base pay for all teachers, a better lawmaker might have picked up on that.

But worse, Gaetz is a hypocrite of the first order.

Here is a story from the Miami Herald about how concerned Gaetz is with saving the citizens of Florida money.

By Mary Ellen Klas

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida’s new legislative leaders handed out hefty raises and salaries to many of their top staff members and newly hired talent even as thousands of state workers went for a sixth year without a bump in pay.

Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford, who were sworn in last month, immediately hired new chiefs of staff and paid them more than taxpayers pay state Cabinet officials. They are paying 62 top policy advisors and staff directors more than $100,000 a year. And they gave salary increases totaling $252,000 to their 17 highest-paid employees.

Giving the most in raises was Gaetz, R-Niceville, who promoted 10 people who were already making more than $100,000 a year in state jobs. The biggest promotion went to his top aide, Chris Clark, whose salary jumped from $77,000 as an aide in Gaetz’s legislative office to $150,000 as the Senate president’s chief of staff. Clark started in the Legislature in 1994, making $12,771 a year. Gaetz said Clark’s salary is commensurate with those of previous chiefs of staff.

Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, gave more-modest pay increases to his highest-earning staffers. Seven employees, who earned more than $100,000, got raises totaling $52,000.

The salaries were “based on a number of factors including increased workload, matching offers made by other organizations, merit, recommendations from supervisors and years of service,” said Ryan Duffy, a spokesman for Weatherford. (Duffy is paid $95,000, a $20,000 increase over what he was making last year as spokesman for the House Republican office.)

State workers, by contrast, have not seen a pay raise in six years. Last year, the Legislature also tapped into their take-home pay by deducting 3percent to pay the annual contribution to the Florida Retirement System. The result is a 15 percent drop in earning power for most state workers, labor unions say.

Unions have challenged the pension law, which was sponsored by Gaetz and supported by Weatherford, and are awaiting a ruling by the Florida Supreme Court.

“The mantra of legislative leadership is: ‘Do as we say, not as we do,’ ” said Rich Templin, spokesman for the AFL-CIO. “They want to slash funding for teachers and go after state worker pensions, but they also see the taxpayer as funding their own little fiefdoms.”

Not everyone received a pay raise. Some House and Senate salaries remained the same despite years on the job or increased education and training. And salaries for many returning staffers in the House and Senate Democratic offices remained unchanged.

The legislative leaders also brought in new talent and paid them top dollar.

Weatherford hired Kathy Mears, a Tallahassee political consultant, for $145,000. She had previously worked as a deputy chief of staff under former Gov. Charlie Crist, and was the communications director for former House and Senate leaders.

Gaetz lured Lisa Vickers, the former head of the Department of Revenue, to be one of his senior executive assistants. She now earns $135,000, a $15,000 boost from the $120,000 a year she made as an agency head.

The Senate president’s communications director, Katie Betta, was hired as Gaetz’s deputy chief of staff. He gave her a $13,000 salary increase over the $107,000 she was making doing the communications job for former House Speaker Dean Cannon. Betta’s salary is higher than the $76,000 paid to the previous Senate president’s communications director, Lyndsey Cruley.

Jim Rimes, a former director of the Republican Party of Florida, was hired to be the director of the Senate Majority Office at $120,000. He last worked as a lobbyist representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AT&T and Home Depot.

Together, the top members of the executive staffs of the two presiding officers earn $7.2 million a year — with $3.5 million spent by the House and $3.8 million by the Senate, according to a Herald/Times analysis.

The total cost to taxpayers of all legislative salaries, including district staff members and the legislators’ own pay is $27.8 million for 1,645 employees in the House and $21.8 million and 1,644 employees in the Senate. Legislators earn $29,697 per year; Weatherford and Gaetz earn $41,181.

Not every union official objects to the staff pay raises. Doug Martin, spokesman for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, believes “the Legislature needs the best it can get because a poorly written law costs billions, not millions.”

He said Florida already has the smallest, least-expensive government per capita in the nation, “and one of the primary reasons for that efficiency is to have excellent long-term employees.”

But, Martin added, many of the people he represents were willing to forgo a raise to avoid layoffs during the economic crisis. “Now that the economy is improving,” he said, “they deserve a raise too.”

Read more here:

Florida Legislators against giving teachers raises

From the Tampa Times Gradebook, by Steve Bosquet

Gov. Rick Scott's plan to give every teacher a $2,500 across-the-board pay raise is in for a rough ride in the Florida Legislature. House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz on Thursday both reiterated their views that it's a great idea to pay teachers more money, but that it must be tied to performance in the claassroom.

Scott's proposal is to give every teacher in the state a $2,500 pay boost, and in separate interviews, Weatherford and Gaetz both seemed less than overwhelmed with enthusiasm.

Gaetz was more critical. He said he was "struck uncharacteristically speechless" when he learned of Scott's plan, and said Scott had an obligation to specify to legislators and the public where he would get the $480 million to pay for the raises in next year's budget (which Scott did not do).

"I think the governor would have more credibility with teachers if he would be able to identify where the money is coming from," said Gaetz, a former School Board member and elected superintendent in Okaloosa County. The senator said he was surprised when a visiting delegation of Panama City teachers reacted coolly to Scott's proposal in a Capitol visit this week.

Gaetz said Scott made his pitch for raises "in good faith," but he faulted Scott for not making distinctions between excellent teachers and mediocre ones. "The best teacher in Florida and the worst teacher in Florida should not be treated the same when it comes to this raise," Gaetz said, noting that until this week, Scott insisted that higher teacher pay be tied to performance. "A $2,500 per teacher across the board raise would seem to be counter-intuitive to what the governor has supported in the past."

Weatherford said that historically, longevity and college degrees have determined teacher salaries in Florida, and that while raises are laudable, a "merit pay component" has to be part of the conversation, he said.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Texas says "no more" to standardized tests. In your face Jeb Bush.

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

In late December last year, Jeb Bush penned an opinion piece for the Dallas Morning News I which he wrote the following:

Today, Texas has the chance to lead again. Moving above and beyond the testing of basic academic skills, the new STAAR exams include end-of-course exams. This is a common-sense improvement to the Texas system of accountability and transparency.
If Texas taxpayers are going to invest in the classroom facilities and personnel to provide students with a physics or history class, it follows that they have the right to know how much students learned about physics or history.
The STAAR exams represent a logical and necessary next step for reform. End-of-course exams provide a deeper level of transparency across a wide array of subjects beyond reading and math.
The anti-accountability activists discuss ideas for improving schools, but ironically — without testing — lack a credible system of evaluation to judge whether they succeeded or failed.
Looks like those “anti-accountability activists” include republican members of the Texas House. From Valerie Strauss’ The Answer Sheet:
The revolt against standardized testing in Texas has taken a new twist: The Texas House has put forth a draft 2014-15 budget that zeroes out all funding for statewide standardized assessment. By way of explanation, Speaker Joe Straus said, “To parents and educators concerned about excessive testing, the Texas House has heard you.”
The Dallas Morning News said that the draft budget is not likely to stand, given that the Senate’s preliminary budget has about $94 million allocated for the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, the standardized test known as STAAR. The two budgets will have to be reconciled and it is hard to believe the state will get rid of the testing altogether. Besides, federal law requires standardized testing under the No Child Left Behind law.
But the House move underscores growing discontent with high-stakes testing in the state where it was born when George W. Bush, as governor, implemented the precursor to No Child Left Behind, which he took national when he became president.
Texas over the last year has been in the forefront of growing protestsacross the country against standardized testing, which has become the main metric in school reform, used to assess schools, students, teachers, districts and states.
Wow. What a concept. Republican legislators actually listening to parents? No way.
Even though the funding for STARR will be maintained, the House’s action represents a symbolic rebuke of Bush’s test-dominated accountability system. Bush’s personal lobbying was unpersuasive in a state whose residents have seen enough of his brand. It is state’s like Texas where his test-first system has been in place where resistance is occurring. And it’s no longer possible to brush aside opposition as former Florida ed boss Gerard Robinson tried with, “people just don’t like tests.”
Insulting and misrepresenting the positions of opponents as “anti-accountability activists” clearly doesn’t fly. Nor do the tiresome litany of justifying themes  like  ”accountability,” “job-readiness” or “competing in a global economy.”  How any of these ambiguities could be measured in any way by a standardized test persists as something guys like Bush can’t sell to anyone besides his true believers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How teachers and Democrats saved Florida

The governor announced Florida is about to have a surplus but before we throw him and the republican dominated legislature a parade lets examine how this happened.

First the Federal Government came through with the stimulus to the tune of four billion dollars a year for a couple years. This stopped us from going into the abyss but didn’t get us over the hump. No that took the state taking three percent of all teachers and other government workers salaries.  They said it was for us to pay for our pensions but funny enough the money they took went into the general fund not the pension fund. How’s that for laughs.

So Florida as the economy starts to look up, instead of demonizing the president and the state’s teachers how about a tip of the hat and a realization that maybe some of you don’t know what you think you know. 

Is DCPS misusing A.P. classes?

It’s a commonly known that Duval County pumps up the numbers of many of its Advanced Placement classes so schools can get bonus points. The way the system is set up students don’t have to pass the class or the tests for schools to get points towards their grade.

A.P. classes used to be for the top students to have a college like experience and where they could earn college credits too. When I went to school you had to get permission to take them while now kids are just placed in them and some leave their intensive reading class and head to their A.P. literature class.

It is made worse because kids in A.P. classes are required to take the A.P. tests and Duval has the worst passing rate in the state and at 70 bucks a pop we pay over a million dollars a year on failed tests. But worst of all is the way Duval does A.P. classes bastardizes the whole system and gives underperforming schools cover. How can we know where we are really at and what improvements we need to make when we game the system?

Now out of Broward County there are reports that kids are being placed in A.P. classes to help with the class size amendment. The legislature in their (lack of) infinite wisdom, when they decided to gut the class size amendment, said A.P. classes were no longer core classes. This in effect means that students who have no business being in those classes are now filling those classes to the rim.

The way we do A.P. classes now has nothing to do with enriching our students education or giving them a leg up, instead it is just districts gaming the system in order to avoid doing the things the right way which is sometimes harder and more expensive but let me ask you this, would you rather your kids education appear good or be good?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dear Gov. Scott, are you kidding me? You are going to pay me more?

Rick Scott said today he wanted to use some of Florida’s expected surplus to give teachers a raise. That’s great news, except they got the surplus by stealing three percent of teacher’s salary. Now it’s not so great news.

Also last I looked, the DCSB sets my salary not the state of Florida but I guess it would be asking the governor too much to know that. Maybe he’ll give districts more money and ask them to use that on teachers, though right off the bat its got to be 3% to get me back to what I made in 2011 and five percent to get me back to what I made in 2010, oh the district skipped a step increase too, it would be nice to get that back as well.

Look, gov, I understand you are mad scrambling to create some good will to help you get reelected and where I am appreciative of the pay me more sentiment, not optimistic it will happen mind you, do you really think no matter what you do teachers are going to forgive and forget all the damage you have wrought over the last few years? Probably not.      

Though I could be wrong. John Thrasher is still there after all.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

“It confounds me that the State Legislature believes it’s OK for taxpayer dollars to line the pockets of for-profit corporations at the expense of the children who attend our public schools.”

From the Palm Beach Post, by Jason Schultz

Some Palm Beach County School District officials are incensed at a state proposal to offer once again millions of dollars next year for capital improvements at charter schools — and none at traditional public schools. 

That plan, those officials say, has set up a political fight for the legislative session that begins in March. School officials in Palm Beach County have estimated their buildings and grounds have $1.4 billion in capital improvement needs over the next 10 years. 

"It’s absurd,” said Chuck Shaw, county school board chairman. “I don’t know where the state seems to think we’re supposed to come up with the money to maintain our schools.” 

Advocates of the funding point out that public schools can levy property taxes to raise money for their capital improvements and that charter schools cannot. 

Charter schools are alternatives to traditional public schools. They receive taxpayer funding but are freed from meeting some state requirements — such as in curriculum, hiring and classroom sizes — in exchange for targeting specific classroom results from their students. They often are run by private companies, some of them for-profit. 

The state Department of Education last week gave a Florida Senate subcommittee a report on the state Board of Education’s requested budget for next year. The budget includes a request for about $64 million for capital improvements at charter schools. Last year charters received about $55 million for school construction. 

If approved, that budget would mark the third straight year the state has given capital outlay money to charter schools but no capital funding to districts to build and maintain traditional public schools, said Vern Pickup-Crawford, the county school district’s state lobbyist. 

School board member Frank Barbieri was as upset as Shaw at the proposal and called it proof “the State Legislature is hell-bent on the privatization of education.” 

“It consistently allows charter schools to play by a different — and much more favorable — set of rules than traditional public schools despite charter schools using the same — and shrinking — pool of taxpayer dollars allocated to public education,” Barbieri said. 

“It confounds me that the State Legislature believes it’s OK for taxpayer dollars to line the pockets of for-profit corporations at the expense of the children who attend our public schools.” 

Palm Beach County’s estimated $1.4 billion in capital improvement needs over the next 10 years range from repairs, for safety and to make schools more accessible to people with disabilities, to rebuilding old schools such as Addison Mizner Elementary in Boca Raton and to building new high schools in Riviera Beach and suburban Boynton Beach. 

Also, in the wake of the school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, district police are doing a school-by-school review of security needs. The district expects to the review, which is expected to be finished this month, to recommend “significant” amounts of spending on school safety. 

The state’s budget request reflects the Board of Education’s priorities to assist charter schools, said Pam Stewart, chancellor of public schools for the state Department of Education. Stewart also pointed out that individual school districts can levy local individual property taxes of $1.50 for every $1,000 of taxable value to raise money for their local capital needs. 

Districts statewide raised about $2 billion from local property taxes for their capital improvements last year and received another $401 million in sales tax revenues that could be used for capital improvements, said Tiffany Cowie, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. 

“Unlike public school districts, charter schools are not taxing authorities and may not levy taxes,” Cowie said. 

Last year charter schools tried unsuccessfully to get a state bill passed to require districts to give charter schools some of that local property tax revenue as well. 

Shaw said leaving public districts to cover all their construction needs out of property taxes wouldn’t work in Palm Beach County. The district had to borrow so much money to build new schools over the last decade to keep up with growth and state-mandated class size limits that almost all of that property tax money now goes to repay bond debts for those existing schools, he said. 

Allowing the district to levy more property tax could solve some of the capital needs of traditional schools, Shaw said. Districts used to be able to levy $2 per $1,000 of taxable value until 2010. The school board has made lobbying for the return of that lost 50 cents a top priority this legislative session. 

The issue of capital funding for charter and traditional public schools “will be the crux of one of the hottest education issues in the coming session,” Crawford said.

Our looming teacher shortage

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr would be disapointed

With a nod to Mike Klonsky's Small Talk Blog, it's amazing how little has changed since Martin Luther King Jr's time. -cpg

"...The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient schools, to compensate adequately its teachers, and to surround them with the prestige our work justifies. We squander funds on highways, on the frenetic pursuit of recreation, on the overabundance of overkill armament, but we pauperize education."

-- From March 14, 1964 speech by Dr. Martin Luther King upon accepting the John Dewey Award from the United Federation of Teachers.

Crony capitalism and charter schools go hand in hand.

From Scathing Purple Musings, by Bob Sykes

Big charter school operators have been whispering about getting their own independent board to approve charter schools. This week, Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education editorialist Mike Thomas unsurprisingly made the case that it was time for Florida to do just that. Writes Thomas in The Edfly Blog:

Charters are competitors. They steal customers, deplete revenues and increase costs. When charters siphon off kids, they not only take the money that comes with them, they often cause nearby schools to operate under capacity. This increases inefficiencies and per-student costs because all that empty space still must be maintained.
As charters continue to expand, they will force districts to make more and more tough choices on personnel, closing schools and redrawing attendance boundaries, both political poisons. We are seeing this play out in spectacular fashion in some older urban areas.
So there is a serious conflict of interest in play and it only will get worse as school choice expands.
To manage this conflict, states like Florida have guidelines for districts to follow in approving charters, and an appellate process to the State Board of Education for charters that are turned down.
This is not ideal in the long run.
I think Tennessee is headed in a better direction. It is contemplating an independent board to approve charters. This follows the recent denial of charter school applications based solely on protecting the turf of existing public schools.
The school districts are fighting this idea, arguing for local control of public education.
Of course they would like to pick and choose the location of charters to fit within the framework of their existing schools, giving them control of where choice and competition occurs. This pretty much negates the concept. History is not on their side as the free market plays a growing role in education and successful charters open up franchises in other states.
Two years ago, my kid’s name got picked out of the hat for the best charter school in the region. I kept her in the neighborhood public school because it sold me on quality and had a heck of a band director.
Long term, the future of public schools will depend not on blocking competition, but winning the competition.
As Thomas makes no proposal which addresses budgetary issues, I must assume he presumes his new independent charter school board will be dictating to local school boards they will have to fund the charter schools. When this untenable dynamic comes to light, it’s easy to see that his proposal is a non-starter. Never mind just  how preposterous it is that a distant appointed board should dictate to an elected board the manner in which they spend taxpayer dollars.
But Florida’s current system which Thomas bemoans as “not ideal in the long run,” is already rife with serious conflicts of interests. Let’s look at them.
* The Foundation Thomas is working for has received funding from two charter school corporations which do business in Florida – Charter Schools USA and K12 Inc. Moreover, the Foundation also accepts funding from several faux education philanthropies  like the Gates Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation  and the Eli Broad Foundation which fund countless pro-charter school entities across the nation. It is these which Thomas’s boss, Patricia Levesque boasts as providing 90 percent of the Foundations funding.
* Florida’s new education commissioner, Tony Bennett, accepted campaign contributions from Charter Schools USA and K12 Inc while running for Indiana’s education superintendent. He also received $50,000 from Eli Broad (Eli Broad Foundation) and $200,000 from Alice Walton (Walton Family Foundation). Bennett has a seat on the charter school commission which hears application disputes now. Neither the legislature, the Bush Foundation nor Bennett have expressed any concern for these clear conflicts.
* The chairman of Florida’s Board of Education, Gary Chartrand, is chairman of KIPP charter schools of Jacksonville.
Thomas’s justifies his proposal as it’s in the interest of “free markets” and “competition.” No mention of “accountability.” It’s next to impossible for parents to hold a distant politically appointed board accountable, while a locally elected school board is.
The contradictions don’t end there. The Foundation for Excellence in Education has been advancing legislation which actually manipulates markets with legislation that gives unfair advantages to charter schools by circumventing local oversight and, yes, choice. In conservative circles this is referred to as government choosing winners and losers.
Thomas’ anecdotal comparison of local school boards as a burger joint monopoly is morally inverted. Unlike the burger joint, local school boards aren’t seeking to have their franchises operate at a profit. Thomas’ charter schools do and it is they who seek to game the system.