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Sunday, September 2, 2018

When Tallahassee doesn't properly fund public education, children pay the price

By John Meeks

The first week of school in Duval County Public Schools perfectly illustrates why we cannot afford to stay home on Election Day.

To begin with, Tallahassee created a new evaluation and pay system that depend on student learning gains in their classes.  For the sake of accountability, this is a popular idea among the education reform crowd.  After all, who is opposed to data-based, student-centered education that makes the most of our tax dollars?  More or less, we are asking educators to sing for their supper.

The problem arises, however, when our state legislature imposes unfunded mandates on our school districts, forcing them to make up the difference in cost by either asking their residents to pay more taxes or by implementing this testing regime with subpar infrastructure and equipment.

That is where we found ourselves the first few days of school.  Instead of administering baseline assessments, teachers were scrambling to implement contingency lessons and activities to placate their students.  Instead of measuring students' prior knowledge, teachers were struggling to instruct their classes without skewing the actual baseline scores.

Let this be a cosmic two-by-four across the head for those who sit on the sidelines on Election Day but feign disgust when the same people in Tallahassee coast into office thanks to our apathy.  Our collective silence is tacit complicity with our elected officials who mandate more but fund less.

Every teacher who has been affected by the widespread failure of our baseline testing to go as mandated, please vote in our primary elections this month and please vote in the general elections this November.  If you don't think it can get any worse than where we are now, fasten your seat belts.  It will be a bumpy ride.

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