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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Florida charter school and voucher legislature advocate sentenced to sixty days in jail

One of the biggest advocates of charter schools and vouchers former state Representative Eric Fresen was sentenced to sixty days in jail and a year of probation. Where he had no problem sending tax payer's money to for profit companies that run charters and private schools with barely any over site, he sadly had a problem with paying his own taxes. Welcome to Florida.

From the Miami Herald:

Even though he failed to file tax returns during his entire eight years in the Florida Legislature — a two-term tenure during which he headed a powerful budget committee and preached fiscal responsibility — former Miami state Rep. Erik Fresen still walked into the federal courthouse for his sentencing Friday expecting to get slapped only with probation.
He walked out with a jail sentence.
The Miami Republican will have to serve 60 days in jail — and a year of probation — after pleading guilty to the crime of failing to file a 2011 tax return on $270,136 in income.
He will begin his jail term on Nov. 17 and serve 15 days in jail per month for four months, an intermittent sentence intended to keep him earning some income to pay back his remaining tax penalties.
“I want him to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas in jail so that every holiday for the rest of his life he’ll think back to that,” U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said.
During his time in the legislature despite close ties to charter schools Fresen routinely pushed the sending of more tax payer money to them.
Also from the Miami Herald:
A familiar face is back at the center of a perennial tug-of-war in the Florida Legislature between privately-managed charter schools and district-run public schools over taxpayer money for construction projects:
Erik Fresen, the Miami Republican who controls the purse for education funding in the Florida House. His connections to the charter school industry continue to raise questions about conflicts of interest.
He has fast-tracked a mid-session bill that would limit school district spending on capital needs. It would also force districts to share their construction tax money with charters.
Fresen is a $150,000-a-year land consultant for Civica, an architecture firm with a specialty in building charter schools. Many of those schools were built for Academica — which has been described as the largest charter school management company in Florida and which counts Fresen’s brother-in-law and sister as executives.
Fresen says he simply wants to hold districts accountable for the money they spend and ensure equitable funding for charter schools, which are classified as public schools.
“Nothing in this bill has anything to do with anything that I do for a living,” he said.
But Fresen, 39, is dogged by questions that his goal isn’t so well-intentioned. His ties to the charter school industry — well-documented during his eight years in the Legislature — have long rankled public school supporters and made him the subject of at least one ethics complaint since he was elected in 2008.
“Our Legislature should not be for sale. I think that seems to be what’s happening,” said Kayla Rynor, who helps lead the advocacy committee at Miami Beach Senior High’s PTSA. “The appearance of impropriety just doesn’t sit well and I’m not sure why it’s not a violation of state ethics laws.
I am not sure why writing legislation for charters while having close associations with them doesn't violate state ethics laws either but if it did, about a dozen other republican legislators would have or be violating them as well. 
Sadly in Florida our ethic laws are so porous you have to be caught with a live boy or a dead girl for anybody to take notice.
It's beyond ironic and insults the senses that he wanted to send our tax payer money to charter schools while thinking at the same time he didn't have to pay taxes. 

Is Willis listening to the people about weather days?

I really think so.

First I think the new schedules placement of the bulk of the weather days at the end of the year was masterful. That being said, nobody really has the appetite for making up the weather days and Superintendent Willis seems to be listening.

From the Times Union:

The School Board will vote at its Oct. 3 meeting how to make up the six school days lost to the storm. One proposal from Interim Superintendent Patricia Willis would have one weather day and six early release days be restored to full school days

Using the early release days is a suggestion I and many others have given, and even from an instructional point of view makes sense. What's more valuable, time in the middle nine weeks, or time at the end of the year when nobody wants to be there. 

Superintendent Vitti got a lot of credit for going on listening tours and there was a time even I applauded him, that is until I realized he wasn't listening. I doubt there was one substantive change made from all the listening tours and community meetings he did, they were all just for show. Willis is already leaps and bounds ahead of him on that front.

If you like Mrs. Willis's plan, and I love it, please let your school board member know. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Scott Shine says teachers don't need raises.

Are you $#^ing kidding me? #$%^& #$%@ on a stick What is wrong with this $%#& *&%@!!!!

Deep breaths, deep breaths. Also symbols above only replaced the words puppies and kittens, so please nobody write me up or threaten to sue me.

From the Florida Times Union: Among its requests is a general bid for more state money to raise teacher salaries beyond the one-time bonuses. Florida is the 36th lowest paying state for in the nation for teachers, according to the Florida School Finance Council, a group of district officials which advises the state.

Board member Scott Shine pointed out that those rankings don’t consider the cost of living differences among states.
You know because the cost of living is so low here in Jacksonville. Teachers are riding high on the hog.
Mr. Shine a millionaire by the way has the chutzpah to imply teachers salaries are just fine because the cost of living in other states is higher and the the thing is he couldn't be more wrong.
Want to see how wrong, play around with this.

There are plenty of places that have a lower cost of living and pay more but hey facts...
District 2 is this really the guy you want representing you? How many of you think teachers are paid to much?
You have to do better.

John Meeks: use early release days to make up weather days!

Dear Editors,

After the damage has been done by Hurricane Irma, there is still a storm to be weathered with the remainder of the school year in Duval County.

The school system has built-in 'weather days' on which are treated as additional days off until they are needed to make up for school closings.  There were five weather days allotted for this school year.  Hurricane Irma closed Duval County Public Schools for six days.  And hurricane season is not over yet.

I know that it is essential for us to recover lost learning time for our students.  I also know that we cannot win any war debating which days to sacrifice to play a futile game of catch up.  For example, December 21 is slated to be a make up day.  Do we really think that attendance will be high on that day?

Instead, I think that we should suspend early dismissal days for the remainder of the school year.  First of all, those 'half days' wreak havoc with block schedule planning, parent pick up times, and after school programs.  

For those who would lament the loss of professional development and faculty collaboration, don't worry.  Teachers have PLC (department or team) meetings, monthly faculty meetings, and online training that can do the job just as well if not better than early dismissal days.

For those parents who still can't quite pin down when their child gets out of school on any given Wednesday, this is your chance to have one less thing to worry about after the storm and the school system can make it happen.

I know that I am not alone in this sentiment.  Please prove me right, community.


John Louis Meeks, Jr.

DCPS should use early release days to make up weather days

Last year, Duval was the only county in Northeast Florida to make up the days missed due to hurricane Mathew. Every district missed days, but we were the only ones to make them up.

I also have to say I think Willis and the board were masterful with their placement or weather days, putting the bulk of them at the end of the year.

That being said, I don't want to be staring at the few kids that come that week, asking them what they want to do, when the truth is neither of us will want to be there.

Several people including teacher/advocate John Meeks have suggested we use our early release days to make up at least some of the weather days, a suggestion I also made last year, and a suggestion I wholeheartedly agree with.

We could make up two or three days using early release days.

You might be asking about the training we would be missing, well let me tell you about the training I received last year. Now there were a couple good trainings that I thought had value, but there were also three or four times were insurance agencies and banks came to sell us their products, and there were a couple times the PTA fed us too and have you seen me, I love to eat, but they could probably feed us during the day.

Then there were the district trainings consisting of remote power points where if we managed to stay awake or not go mad from boredom we weren't allowed to ask questions. As close to being a waste of time as possible.

Principals are allowed to call staff meetings where teachers are supposed to stay late and where not a fan of those times either, if there were relevant trainings, we could have them then.  

I will say, I thought the district did a good job with the hurricane, unlike last year when nobody seemed to know what was going on, but let's join the rest of Northeast Florida and build a schedule where weather days are no longer needed or lets show some more flexibility and use time, early release days, which for most people could be better used.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Becki Couch points out how important public schools are while Scott Shine twiddles his thumbs

I think we re going to miss Mrs. Couch when she is gone next year as she has been a fierce advocate for our public schools and this was on display once again when it was pointed out how important DCPS was during Hurricane Irma.

From the Times Union
Board member Rebecca Couch pointed out that 11 of the 12 shelters open in the storm were public schools. District public schools have construction requirements that make them withstand storms and enable them to be used as shelters, she said.
Charter schools do not have such requirements and frequently are located in private buildings, which are not open to the public during storms, she said.
This is an important issue, she added, because the district is legally challenging a new state law which will force districts to share its school construction dollars with charter schools, even though many charter school buildings are privately owned.
While Couch is sticking up for our schools it shouldn't be forgot that board member Shine was for House Bill 7069 a public school kneecapping bill that favors charter schools and partly because he believed union teachers would eventually lose their jobs, and voted against joining a law suit pushing back against it. Inexplicably he also called the republican delegation to Tallahassee who voted for it both gutless and uninformed as well. Saying they only voted for because they were both afraid of speaker Corcoran and didn't know what was in it
My question is, ten years from now if Shine has his way and most public schools have been replaced by charters and a hurricane is bearing down on Jacksonville where will people go? Probably just one of the many things he nor his ilk have considered.

District 2, you have to do better?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The class size amendment is under attack... again

Once again, the class size amendment is under attack from Dominic M. Calabro, CEO, Florida Tax Watch and Bob Ward, CEO, Florida Council of 100, and once again they use faulty reasoning in the editorial they sent to the states papers to do so.
A little history about the class size amendment, it was overwhelmingly passed by the people of Florida in 2002, and then reapproved in 2010. However, since then, the Florida legislature has systematically tried to water it down and dismantle it until today when it is just a shadow of what was originally approved with loopholes so big you could drive school buses through, yet still it is under attack and the reason is money, people like Calabro and Ward and sadly the Florida Legislature don’t want to invest in our public schools. Florida consistently ranks in the bottom five of student spending on education and without the class size amendment funding we would undoubtedly be lat.
Calabro and Ward talk about reforms that don’t work, but they don’t mention the hundreds of millions of dollars the state has sent to charter schools of which over 350 have taken public money and closed leaving children and neighborhoods in a lurch and tax payers on the hook for their losses. They don’t mention the hundreds of millions annually filtered away from public schools to vouchers, which have practically no oversite, most of them don’t even have to report how they used the money. Then there is the best and brightest bonuses, which teachers earn based on their SAT scores and yes, it is as ridiculous as it sounds. No, the only reform that has drawn heir ire is the class size amendment.
They point to a Harvard study which says smaller class sizes play little role in achievement after third grade and that study undoubtedly does exist, but it’s not the end all be all as there are many studies that say smaller class sizes are beneficial. I prefer to ask teachers what they think. If they think they can make more of a difference with 20 students at a time or 30 or 35. I think you already know their answer. I also don’t think it is a coincidence, especially considering our poor funding. that our graduation rates have skyrocketed since the class size amendment was initiated.
What’s always been amazing to me is these critics of public education, that want to experiment with fringe ideas (best and Brightest), jack up class sizes, the one reform that has evidence that says it works, or want to push privatization under the guise of school choice, is they never suggest reforms that will help teachers.
This is what always baffles me about the ed reform movement, they never say, you know what we have to pay teachers more, a lot more, and they never say let’s take some pressure off teachers, lighten their work loads, give them more resources, let’s back them up with discipline or you know common sense things that teachers have been begging and clamoring for. Nope, it’s let’s make YOUR children’s classes larger.

The class size amendment has already been approved twice by the people of Florida, instead of continuing to ignore the will of the people, the Florida legislature should do what the people demanded they do, after all, we are supposed to be in charge.

If you want to support your children and the state’s teachers ignore the proposal to further gut the class size amendment and please demand the legislature properly fund education.

Chris Guerrieri

School Teacher

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jason Fischer's lackluster and tone deaf's response to hurricane Irma

This guy, deep breaths, don't want to get written up by the district, two disciplinary hearings, threatened to be sued and being called a parasite by a school board member in a little over a year have taken their toll, but Fishcer, this guy takes the $#%^ing cake.

On his Facebook page he posted pictured of the shelters that people could seek refuge in during hurricane Irma and they are almost all public schools, you know those schools he wishes to starve and dismantle in favor of who pays his campaign bills, charter schools.

Oh and how many people did the local charters take in? Zero as far as I can tel and partly because they are blood sucking parasites who for the most part only really care about the bottom line but partly because they aren't built too, while public schools are required to be built that way because they are part of our emergency infrastructure.

Something Becki Couch pointed out on Facebook, Yet, they will receive property tax money equivalent to district public schools whose staff, food service, and schools were serving during the hurricane. Also, they are not built to code (SREF) like our schools. Take a look at Representative Fischer's FB. He is taking pictures at the hurricane shelters (all but 1 are public schools) and doesn't even see the irony that he is trying to starve public schools.

Here is a link to his page,, if you want to point out what a hypocrite he is.

Thus far he has a ton of money and no opponent in what is considered a safe republican district, but he's terrible and we can and should do better. If no democrat steps up and I have to believe Fischer who ran a scorched Earth Campaign against his republican opponent last year is very beatable, then a decent republican needs too.

Come on folks we deserve better.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Why would Lenny Curry freeze out the non-profit community?

I believe it is so he could benefit one of his biggest campaign contributors, Gary Chartrand and his pet charter school KIPP.

From the Times Union article, Mayor's plan to reform Jacksonville's Children services took place in secrecy

Critics of the mayor’s sweeping overhaul have said not only that they were excluded from the process, but they were intentionally shut out. Notes from a meeting with more than 40 nonprofit and children-serving organizations show that none of them had been asked for input on the legislation, or knew anyone who had.
Curry’s office said it called on a team of “child resource advocates” to advise about the reforms. But, records obtained from the city and the commission — and comments from the Jacksonville Children’s Commission CEO and board chair — seem to directly contradict claims by a city spokeswoman that current commission leadership was “empowered by the mayor to oversee the study and analyze the information provided.”
Instead, emails show that input on the process was kept to a small group, including current Jax Journey leadership and two past commission board chairs selected by Curry himself.
Some invested observers have said the legislation will give the mayor — and subsequent mayors — too much influence over children’s programming. City council members who once stood beside the mayor in support of his reforms before ever seeing his plan are qualifying their statements now that the legislation has been made public.
“Ultimately, this legislation … becomes a marketing ploy put together for politics, not kids,” Children’s Commission Board Chair Matt Kane wrote of the reforms in an email to the Curry administration. “It’s renaming some things. I like the term ‘at-hope’ kids, but you don’t need legislation to call them that.”
Silly non profits, why would you expect to have any influence over Curry? Your history of good works? No you need to pony up to his super pacs, like Gary Chartrand did, if you want a seat at the table. 
Jacksonville is officially becoming a banana republic.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Former Teacher of the year says the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, isn't all that

And a bag of chips, okay I added that last part.

From a former teacher of the year, I have chosen to keep their identity anonymous because of the influence JPEF has in the district.

As a former T.O.Y., I was invited to take part in a forum of teachers sponsored by JPEF, a round table type talk to discuss issues facing teachers and what we hoped district leaders would do towards resolution. 

Some highly regarded teachers from across the district were in attendance when I was there. 

I was in attendance for only a few such sessions to end up feeling very dismayed. 

After sharing that I had attended, several people in different settings strongly implied that JPEF was more interested in working by Vitti's side rather than on behalf of educators. 

The process seemed sincere, yet clearly wasn't in the best interests of teachers or their students.

If you look at JPEF's political leanings and the actions of its board members you can definitely tell they don't have the best interests of public schools, teachers and students at heart.

An organization that zealously advocates for and supports public education would be a boon for our community, unfortunately we don't have that with JPEF.