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Thursday, February 28, 2019

Teachers, Unions and school boards have a common enemy, Tallahassee

Florida’s teachers, unions and school boards have a common enemy and that is Tallahassee, which if you think about it doesn't make much sense because most children in the state by far go to public schools, which are staffed by union teachers and managed by duly elected school boards. You would think Tallahassee would want to partner with them to improve education, but no, they take every opportunity they can to harm all three. 

Florida’s teachers are some of the lowest paid in the nation. They have had creativity and flexibility nearly eradicated from their tool box as they have been forced to teach to the test, which determines everything from pay to if you still have a job and speaking of if you have a job or not, teachers since 2010 are all on one year contracts where they can be fired for any or no reason at the end of a school year.

Furthermore, they have been subjected to harder and more expensive and some cases even required to get additional certifications, while Florida sends over a billion dollars to voucher schools where the teachers don’t have to have any certification let alone a degree.

The state’s school boards have also been a victim of Tallahassee. This is what it says in the state constitution:

Text of Section 4:
School Districts; School Boards
(a) Each county shall constitute a school district; provided, two or more contiguous counties, upon vote of the electors of each county pursuant to law, may be combined into one school district. In each school district there shall be a school board composed of five or more members chosen by vote of the electors in a nonpartisan election for appropriately staggered terms of four years, as provided by law.
(b) The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein. Two or more school districts may operate and finance joint educational programs.[1]

What a joke as they have stripped school boards of the power to manage charters and private schools that take public money through vouchers. There are now thousands of schools in Florida that take public money that school boards have little or no over site over.

They have also hampered how much tax money they can raise and what they can do with it as well as sending one funded mandate after another to the districts and now they even want to regulate how long somebody can be on the board.

Then there are teacher unions which despite not having the power to strike, something they need to challenge, that are blamed for everything under the sun. They are so powerful they have gotten us to 46th in spending with their teachers being some of the lowest paid in the nation, who are only on one year contracts.

Despite this you can’t go more than a few minutes without some yokel blaming unions for the ills in public education.

Oh by the way Tallahassee passed a law requiring unions, only teacher unions, police, fire and prison unions were deemed to important, to decertify if they have less than fifty percent membership. You know because unions are the puppeteers pulling the strings in Florida. (sic)  

Tallahassee wants to destroy public education and replace it with private schools that take vouchers and for profit charter schools and they don’t care that those two options aren’t responsive to the public and perform worse and to do so they have to neuter school boards, weaken unions and destroy the teaching profession and they are full steam ahead.

I used to think school boards and unions were enemies, but the truth is they have a lot in common, like Tallahassee trying to destroy them both.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

DTU and DCPS team up to save jobs, this is how it is supposed to be, sort of...

Last fall after a series of brutal attacks on staff at the center schools for disabled students, DTU organized a town hall between teachers and several members of the administration.

After the town hall where teacher after teacher expressed issues and brought up concerns, many of us thought once again our fears would be ignored, but happily that wasn’t the case.

In November the members of the union, the union reps at the three center schools and several members of the administration began to meet to go over issues and come up with solutions. In my 18 years in the district I had never seen either group so motivated, and I don’t think it had much to do with my email to the super where I let her know after an attack, that  if I was attacked my first call would be to the police and my second would be to a lawyer.

So we started to meet and go over issues and the district was very receptive and promised, finances permitting, to arrange additional trainings and put additional personnel in place.

Then at the last meeting we also talked about the additional certifications that teachers teaching content area at the center schools were going to need. Earlier this year dozens of teachers were told to get extra and expensive certifications or they would lose their jobs. Up to now teaching students with significant cognitive abilities could be done with an ESE certification but now they wanted teachers to have a content area certification as well.

As you can imagine this caused a lot of stress for a lot of teachers as they started to sign up and take the tests which cost two hundred dollars a pop. The district was in danger of losing dozens of experienced teachers at the center schools as the end of the year quickly approaches.

We were about to be in real trouble.

Realizing this the district working with the union came up with an alternate plan that teachers could use instead of spending hundreds of dollars to add additional certification. Now teachers can use years of service, effective evaluations, in-service points and other things to become in-field. When the district told us this there was a collective sigh of relief.

DTU and DCPS working together to save jobs is how it is supposed to be, sort of.

I say sort of because this was far from perfect, and DCPS has to become more receptive to teachers needs. You see some teachers spent hundreds of dollars and even more went through lots of unnecessary stress that they wouldn't have had to if the district would have created this plan months ago rather than saying, hey get this additional certification or lose your jobs.  

This isn’t the first time the district has been dismissive of teachers this year either. If you are a teacher you have probably heard about the debacle that getting certified and recertified has become.  What took place in a few weeks or months in the past has now stretched into a year or longer.

Well in the fall when teachers got their lead money, many, those who had attempt to re-certify found themselves left out. The district at first didn’t say anything. There was no heads up, or anything, now eventually the district did say once their certifications were approved they would get the money but wouldn’t it have been professional, wouldn’t it have been right, if they would have let teachers know beforehand, instead of having them find out when they got their checks?

I am glad the district and union are working together to solve our ese issues. It makes me hopeful that they are working together in other areas as well. This is the thing though, to the district teachers have often been an afterthought and if we want to be the district we can be, that has to stop.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Senator Manny Diaz thinks he’s a lion and we are all sheep

In Florida you have to be caught with a dead girl or a live boy for there to be an ethical violation. If not, then how do you explain all the legislators in Tallahassee who craft legislation that benefit them, their family members or their big political donors? Perhaps the worst of the worst is Senator Manny Diaz of Miami.

Diaz makes six figures working for Doral College a small private college that also runs a charter school, that siphons its students to the college, when he is not in Tallahassee. While in Tallahassee he passes legislation that benefits him and his employer, yet no one blinks an eye because numerous other legislators do the same thing too.

Furthermore, Manny Diaz could give a flying %$#& what you think as evident by this tweet.

The sheep in this analogy would be the 200,000 public school teachers, 2.6 million public school students and their millions of family members, or you know, the ones he constantly tries to harm while he benefits himself.

A few years back Senator Thrasher of St. Johns county who as bad as he was is nothing compared to Diaz said the golden rule is, he who has the gold makes the rules, so this attitude from the republicans who have been completely in charge of public ed for over two decades.

Welcome to Florida where we aren’t being led and instead are being ruled.   

Florida's Teachers want raises not guns

In Tallahassee a bill to arm teachers is racing through the legislature despite push back from unions, teachers and most districts.

A bill to give teachers a raise at the same time is nowhere to be found despite the fact Florida’s teachers are some of the lowest paid in the nation. Now there has been a new bonus scheme introduced that would make about a quarter of teachers eligible for a bonus if they met some arbitrary requirements.

A measure that would cut some of the red tape from a program to arm educators and school faculty in Florida passed a key committee this week. The bill, SB 7030, was reported favorably by state Senate Education committee 5-3 on Tuesday.
The proposal would allow school or contract employees as well as law enforcement officers to be armed under Florida’s new Guardian Program provided they are appointed by the local district superintendent and approved by the school board. Currently, the program is more limited to who can participate.
“My eight grandchildren, and their generation, they deserve to have someone ready to protect them if they are available,” state Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said. “I am asking you to understand that we want to empower those people who can do something, they are the only ones who will be there in a narrow amount of time to save those lives.”

Um they have people they are called police but the Florida legislature apparently doesn’t want to spend the money to put an officer into each of our schools. 

Also Baxley apparently doesn’t think teachers who he wants to put their lives on the line a decent salary.

Teachers’ union reps around the state say the bonuses are nice, but teachers should make more in salary. The bonuses are a one-time thing, while a raise would enhance their standard of living long term. It is a fair concern, given that Florida ranks 45th in the nation in teacher salaries.
We get it. DeSantis’ idea is to reward high performers, as the Legislature sought to do when creating Best and Brightest in 2015. But he also wants to make that easier by ditching the asinine wrinkle pertaining to college entrance exams. Moreover, the current criteria rewards individual achievement. But under DeSantis’ initiative, if the school’s score improves just 1 percent, then all “highly effective” teachers in the school could benefit.
Yet, there is no escaping Florida’s national ranking on teacher salaries — something that is being blamed, in part, on the growing teacher shortage — there are more than 2,200 teaching openings statewide. And it is worse in Marion County than the state overall. Consider: The average teacher in Marion County earns $45, 651 a year. Statewide, the average is $48,651. Nationally, it is $60,483.


Florida wants to arm teachers because it doesn’t want to hire more cops and then pay teachers on the cheap. Since Florida if it was a country would be the 17th largest economy in the world, and the governor proposed a 91 billion plus budget, does this seem right to you? 

I guess Tallahassee thinks guns not raises will solve the exodus of teachers from our classrooms, though to be honest I don’t think they want to stop, I think they want to exacerbate it. We are looking at ten thousand vacancies in Florida next year. Hmm who would have thought if you demonize and do all you can to hurt the teaching profession, teachers would leave, well Tallahassee, that's who.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Florida teachers and unions have to fight for the right to strike while there is still something worth fighting for. (rough draft)

West Virginia teachers strike, win more money and better working conditions.

Arizona teachers strike, win better pay for teachers and support staff.

Colorado teachers strike, win pay increase and resetting education budget to pre recession levels which if happened in Florida would see a 1,600 dollar increase in school funding. 

Kentucky teachers strike win increase in salary.

Los Angeles, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kentucky, Denver teachers all strike and teachers win every time.

West Virginia strikes again and this time they didn't strike for more pay but to stop the privatization of their schools and they won again.

Every time teachers strike they have won.

They also win with the support of the people because not only do most families send their children to public schools they support them as well. They know that teachers working conditions are their children's learning conditions. 

Now you might be saying teachers can't strike in Florida because it is in the constitution and they can lose their jobs and pensions. Well friends, the Florida Constitution is not some hallowed list of laws and if you want proof of that just look at how Tallahassee has treated the class size amendment, what they have done with vouchers and charters, how they have criminally under funded education and how they have usurped the power of school boards.  No friends Florida's constitution is more like suggestions scribbled down on a napkin.

I am not an expert on the law but I know The United States has something called the supremacy clause and it states  that all laws made furthering the Constitution and all treaties made under the authority of the United States are the “supreme law of the land.

It seems to me not being able to strike violates the 1st (freedom of speech and assembly), 5th (due process), and 8th (unusual punishments) amendments.

This is the thing, I believe my union and district have done as good as a job as possible when it comes to pay and benefits, but the sad truth is there is only so much you can squeeze out of a rock. It's Tallahassee that is squeezing teachers and school boards alike, in their zeal to privatize public education and destroy the teaching profession, who are the true villains of the story. I would think most school boards would be receptive of strikes because they are the victims of a legislature that wants to privatize education too.

If teachers can't strike it doesn't matter how many red for ed t-shirts we wear, letters to the editor we write or rallies in Talley we have because the republicans that run the show aren't moved by things like decency, fairness and what's right for teachers and students and I for one would like somebody to challenge the law that says we can't strike. What are we waiting for friends, the house is already on fire and that noise you hear is Tallahassee fiddling.   

Friends we have to fight for public education and the right to strike because because nothing else we have done has mattered.

It's only the future of public education and the teaching profession which are on the line.

In Tallahassee’s zeal to destroy education they take a sledge hammer to home rule.

I guess emboldened by DeSantis’s 33 thousand out of 8.1 million votes cast victory, the republicans in Tallahassee are rushing to destroy public education and in doing so are attempting to take a sledge hammer to local control of education.

State Senator Travis Hutson out of St. Johns has introduced a bill that would tell districts, how they should spend any extra funding they get from local millage increases or sales tax referendums. Since Tallahassee has criminally in my opinion abandoned their responsibility to properly fund education. 

More and more localities have taken it upon themselves to step up and do so. Hutson’s bill has one incredibly rich and powerful constituent and that’s the charter school lobby. Also do you know what district doesn’t have charter schools? That would be St. Johns where Hutson represents.
From the Miami New Times,

 In 2018, Miami-Dade County residents passed a ballot initiative that gave a $232 million pay raise to public schoolteachers. That seemed logical since Florida teachers rank among the lowest-paid educators in America. While the ballot language clearly stated the raise was to go only to public schools, Florida's huge, powerful network of charter schools — which teach public school kids but are privately owned and in some cases managed by for-profit companies — have launched a campaign to get their own cut of that money.

Last Thursday, North Florida State Sen. Travis Hutson filed S1028, a bill that would give the state control over how "local funding approved by voter referendum" is apportioned. The provision applies to Florida Statute 1022.33 — the state law that authorizes charter schools.

"District school boards shall receive a proportional share, based on student enrollment, of local funding approved by voter referendum, including referenda authorized by s. 1011.71, for all funds that are not otherwise provided in the Florida Education Finance Program under s. 1011.62 or the General Appropriations Act," the bill reads.
That may sound like esoteric legal jargon, but United Teachers of Dade president Karla Hernandez-Mats is crying foul. She tells New Times the bill's impact is clear: The "proportional share" clause would all but certainly guarantee charter schools get a "portion" of any money that's supposed to go to public schoolteachers.
"Here we see how they're trying to circumvent local control of school boards," Hernandez-Mats told New Times yesterday. "We’ve always been really clear: This money was for public schoolteachers. Now that the referendum is out, charters have been trying to get money from this referendum. There's been a concerted effort."

Then this is what the Florida Constitution says about school boards,
Text of Section 4:
School Districts; School Boards
(a) Each county shall constitute a school district; provided, two or more contiguous counties, upon vote of the electors of each county pursuant to law, may be combined into one school district. In each school district there shall be a school board composed of five or more members chosen by vote of the electors in a nonpartisan election for appropriately staggered terms of four years, as provided by law.
(b) The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein. Two or more school districts may operate and finance joint educational programs.[1]

Well friends DeSantis’s latest voucher scheme would see a hundred million in direct public dollars be put into private school’s coffers. Well do you know who is not in charge of private schools? School boards, that is who.

We all get it, DeSantis packed the court with judges he believes will rubber stamp his agenda, but if giving public money to private schools doesn’t violate the state constitution then nothing does because the document is meaningless.

I thought republicans were supposed to believe in home rule? That those closest to the issue were best charged with solving it. That’s not true however, it’s something they tell their members to busy or too lazy to do any research because time and time again they have stripped the local school boards of their ability to educate and do their jobs.

My republican friends, is this okay because republicans are doing it? Or is it not okay that anyone no matter what party behave in this manner? If it’s the latter, when will enough be enough?

Um, why can’t Tallahassee just give teacher’s raises.

For years’ teachers got bonuses based on if they had high ACT or SAT scores, not on how they did in the classroom.

DeSantis proposed giving some teachers bonuses if they were highly effective and met a few other metrics leaving the vast majority of teachers with nothing.

Now Tallahassee is proposing principals be in charge of giving some teachers bonuses. Anybody else want to spend two minutes and find a dozen problems with that idea?

You know what teachers want? A raise, and they don’t want to have to fight for a bonus something no other public employee has to do.

Halfway through the 17-18 school year there were 700 vacancies. That more than tripled to 2200 in the 18-19 school year. What’s it going to e next year or the year after that, if things continue the way they are?

Do you know what’s not going to stop the exodus? Arming teachers isn’t. Stopping common core, something that all teachers with six years or less experience, i.e. most of them have ever known, isn’t. Continuing its high stakes testing mandate, that destroys creativity and flexibility and the joy or learning and teaching for so many, while exempting private schools that take public money isn’t either and neither is any of the bonus schemes, that come one after another.

Why is this so hard for Tallahassee to grasp? Or is it that they don’t want to, that they want to harm the teaching profession and public education until it goes away and all we are left with is unregulated voucher schools and for profit charter schools.

DeSantis proposed a 9,000-dollar bonus for about 25 percent of teachers, instead why doesn’t he and Tallahassee just give all teachers, or all teachers considered effective and above a 2,500-dollar raise. That’s what the vast majority of teachers and the public want, but of course they don’t want the destruction of the teaching profession and public education either.

This is not rocket science. This is an easy fix if they want it, the problem is the neither the governor nor the legislature seem to want to.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The FEA needs to get off its a** and challenge the law that says Florida's teachers can't strike. (rough draft)

In West Virginia the legislature was about to pass laws privatizing public education and the teachers there said nope and threatened to strike. It was a day before the legislature backed down.

From MorganCountyUSA,

Teachers in West Virginia went on strike today.

The reason?

Retaliatory privatization.

Last year, state legislative leaders were embarrassed when teachers stood up to threats of firing and won their pay increase.

Teachers 1. Legislature 0.

This year, to retaliate for that embarrassment, those same legislative leaders want to privatize state teacher jobs with charter schools and push public schools teachers to the brink.


Here in Florida however the governor proposes over a hundred million dollars in vouchers a terrible teacher bonus scheme and drop in the bucket in extra school funding, following a decade of withering attacks on public education and the teaching profession and all we hear is crickets.

If we can't strike it doesn't matter how many red for ed t-shirts we wear, letters to the editor we write or rallies in Talley we have because the republicans that run the show aren't moved by things like decency, fairness and what's right for teachers and students and I for one would like somebody to challenge the law that says we can't strike. What are we waiting for friends, the house is already on fire and that noise you hear is Tallahassee fiddling.   

A little history of teachers not being able to strike in Florida, Wusfnews,

Some of you might be saying its against the law to strike in Florida, well if you haven't noticed laws when it comes to education don't mean much here. Look at how the class size amendment has been so gutted it is nearly unrecognizable. earlier this year when the supreme court threw out the fund our schools lawsuit, despite the constitution saying it was the states paramount duty, they basically said, constitution, schmostitution. Also we are supposed to have a uniform education system, well friends, billions on vouchers and charters at the expense of public education is far from uniform.

Tallahassee is dismantling public ed and the pace has quickened, and they are no longer doing it behind closed doors.

It's passed time we did something and step one should be to see if those laws preventing strikes are legal.

We have to do something because time is rapidly running out.

DCPS must immeadiatly change the way it evaluates teachers

Governor DeSantis has proposed giving teachers that are highly effective and work in schools that move forward about one percent a 9,000 dollar bonus and this is a terrible idea for a number of reasons. That I won't get into here.

Though if you are interested in some of the reasons you can click the link:
I have no doubt like all of his other terrible education related ideas, some form of this will pass through the legislature in Tallahassee that is all to focused on harming public education and the teaching profession.

Sine that is the case DCPS must immediately change the way it evaluates teachers.

Right now we use the ironically named C.A.S.T. system to evaluate teachers and it's not quite as convoluted as the VAM equation is but it is it's not to distant cousin.

Last year state wide 56.1 percent of teachers were rated highly effective, in Duval that number was 33 percent.

In Clay county 95 percent of their teachers are considered highly effective.

Of the 67 counties, we are 52nd in terms of percentage of teachers getting highly effective and only one county bigger than us has a smaller percentage with most of the other 14 being relatively small districts.  

Look I think DeSantis's proposal to give a few teachers 9 grand is patently ridiculous but at the same time DCPS has to give as many teachers as possible a chance to get it. We should copy Clay county's model as soon as possible.

This is what I think, in Duval they could make movies about three percent of our teachers, you know like Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds type stuff, and there are probably about three percent of teachers, who need to be taught up themselves or maybe even shown the door and that leaves the vast majority of students who are good. They show up, they work hard and their students are better off for having them. We need to give more of them a chance to benefit from the Mad King's scheme.

Besides we all know the reason the district's evaluation system is so convoluted is to save money. Our salary schedule says HE teachers not on the grandfather schedule get a bigger step than effective teachers. Fewer HE teachers saves the districts a few shekels well now friends there are a lot of shekels on the line and its time DCPS gave (more) of its teachers a chance to get them.

It's a little small but below is teacher ratings by district.

No photo description available.

DeSantis basically said Florida’s accountability system is a fraud, so why doesn’t he do us all a favor and end it? (rough draft)

I think we know why but I will get to that in a second.

DeSantis redefined what public education is Friday; he must feel like he has a mandate what with that 33,000 vote margin of victory in 8.1 million cast.

He said, if the public pays for the school it's public school and it doesn't matter where they go as he called for another voucher program, this time to be paid for directly with public money. The other big one involves a complicated money laundering scheme where money is diverted from the state coffers and into vouchers.  

From the Florida Phoenix, 

Setting up the potential to reverse a 13-year-old court ruling that blocked the expansion of school vouchers, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday outlined a dramatic new “scholarship” program that would allow thousands more students to attend private schools with public dollars.

The program, called the “Equal Opportunity Scholarship,” is scarce on details, but DeSantis wants to start off by helping about 14,000 kids who have been on a waiting list in connection with another program called the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship.
Later on though, the new program will blossom, allowing 1 percent of Florida’s public school enrollment statewide to receive Equal Opportunity Scholarships if students are eligible. That would mean about 28,000 students, based on the current statewide student population of about 2.8-million.
But each year after that, the number of scholarship students would grow by an additional 1 percent of statewide enrollment, according to the governor’s office.
And unlike corporate donations for the tax credit scholarships, the new Equal Opportunity program would be funded the way traditional schools are funded – with so-called general revenue dollars that are largely from sales taxes. Lottery dollars and other funds also go into the state pot for schools.
The scholarship amounts would be a “slight discount” of the per-student funding in each district, according to the proposal. The statewide per-student average is about $7,400 this academic year.
The new scholarships, often called vouchers or voucher schemes by critics, come as traditional public schools are fighting for higher pay and benefits and public charter schools overseen by private groups have grown significantly over the years.

That’s right, we are going to directly pay, with tax payer money, to send children to schools that don’t have to have certified teachers or teachers with degrees or recognized curriculums where more than a few teach junk science and history, that have so little accountability you might as well say they have none. Since that’s the case, DeSantis is basically admitting Florida’s steroid filled accountability system is meaningless.  

If that isn’t head scratching enough, these children are also going to be required to take the FSA and adding insult to injury, local districts are going to be required to administer it.

But why?

How the students do isn’t going to affect a teacher’s evaluation, like it would in a public school.

How the students do isn’t going to affect the school grades either, because private schools don’t get school grade.

I don’t know if how they do will affect a district grade but I wouldn’t put anything past this governor.

Here is the thing, if none of those things matter for a student taking public money to attend a private school, then why should they matter for the students attending public school?

The answer is they shouldn’t.

Florida’s accountability system isn’t really here to evaluate, public schools and the teachers and students, that go to and work in them. It’s to bash them over the head… repeatedly until they submit or go away. Something DeSantis basicaly admits with this new voucher program.

You can’t honestly say testing is so important over here, while at the same time saying it doesn’t matter a hill of beans over there, or you shouldn’t be allowed to anyways.

Bush tried to do something similar 15 years ago but the Florida supreme court struck it down. Now that DeSantis has packed it, he thinks it will pass this time. That however won’t make it right.