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Monday, January 19, 2015

Poverty, the class size amendment and giving money to for profit charter schools.

These are the letters I sent to the states papers today. I would urge you to send something similar as well. If more people know, more people will want better.

According to the Washington Post 59 percent of Florida’s public school children are considered low income, that’s eligible for free and reduced lunch. Poverty is also the number one measurable statistic in education, quite simply those kids that live in poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t.
How does stripping teachers of work protections address poverty? How do charter schools and vouchers? Does Common Core make a student feel less hungry, safer and get their parents more involved? What about high stakes testing or blame the teacher evaluations? How do any of those things effect poverty? The answer is they don’t.

Instead of blaming teachers for not being able to overcome the dehibilitating effects of poverty, maybe we should thank them for what they do because many of our children would undoubtedly be much worse off without them. Also maybe it is time we stopped ignoring poverty or treating it like an excuse and in their place put in things like wrap around services for our neediest children, a longer school years so children can have more time to learn what they need and less time to lose it and smaller classes so children can get the individual attention they need.

As I see it, we can either try and mitigate poverty or we can continue to blame the teaching profession and double down on reforms that have failed.  

Giving Money to for profit charter schools
 Governor Rick Scott wants to give the states 600 charter schools 100 million dollars in maintenance and construction money while giving the states 3,000 plus public schools a fraction of that amount. His reasoning being that public schools have other ways to raise money for maintenance and construction costs. There are two important things the governor is leaving out.

The first is public school districts are run by elected officials who have had their power increasingly eroded by the state. Charter schools however which are increasingly being authorized by the state board of education after being rejected by local districts are run independently and as a result don’t answer to tax payers. Since that is the case why should they have the ability to raise money from them?
Next many charter schools are run by for profit management companies and for chains like Mavericks and Charter Schools USA and a few other business is good. These chains take home millions and millions in management fees. Why don’t they use that money to pay for maintenance and construction costs? Some people might not like nor appreciate public schools but they all spend local and nobody is getting rich. Charter schools often siphon money out of communities and some of their owners are becoming incredibly wealthy.
Over 270 charter schools have taken public money and closed in Florida leaving families and communities in a lurch and these schools have wasted untold millions of dollars. It’s my bet that if the governor canceled his 100 million dollar give away that no charter schools would close shop, the reason being is even without the money they are already taking home a lot. The bottom line is the governor should not be giving millions of dollars to for profit companies whose profits show they don’t need it.

The chair of the state board and the class size amendment
Gary Chartrand a grocer by trade is the chairman of the state board of education and he is not a fan of the class size amendment. At the last state board of education meeting he said, “It's a bad law. The intentions are right, but the end results. Your electives get filled up with more kids than they should." He would rather see the legislature pass a new law so schools and districts would be able to average the sizes of their classes, rather than comply with the law which is something the people of Florida rejected in 2010.

Here is another option, how about instead of repeatedly gutting the class size amendment the Florida Legislature properly fund it which is something I have to believe the people of Florida assumed they would do when they passed the amendment.

Smaller classes by the way, not merit pay, charters, vouchers, VAM scores, Common Core and high stakes testing, is one of the few education reforms that has evidence that says it works

Since Gary Chartrand has never taught or worked for a school he might not know it, “but give me five or ten more students and I will be a better teacher”, said no teacher ever. Maybe if he were an educator he would have a greater appreciation for the amendment but either way I would urge him and the state legislature to follow the will of the people and properly fund it rather than water it down again.

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