Ashley Smith-Juarez rakes in 35 grand from outside Duval

A quick look at her financial disclosure forms and we find
that Mrs. Smith-Juarez brought in about 35 grand from outside the city limits.

Jenkins on the other hand brought in a smidge over 4,000
from outside the city.

I find it troubling that so much outside money is
being funneled into the Smith-Juarez campaign from outside the city especially since
so little of the other money she raised came from public school parents and
teachers inside the city. It makes me wonder who she is really going to represent.

Anne Romney: Let teachers eat cake

From Think Progress, by John Israel

Ann Romney told Good Housekeeping magazine that the campaign issue closest to her heart is taking on teachers unions and dismantling public education as we know it. In an interview, she told the publication:
I’ve been a First Lady of the State. I have seen what happens to people’s lives if they don’t get a proper education. And we know the answers to that. The charter schools have provided the answers. The teachers’ unions are preventing those things from happening, from bringing real change to our educational system. We need to throw out the system.
This attack on public school teachers echoes one that has been frequently heard in her husband’s stump speeches and debates. In his Friday economic speech, he said “It matters for the child in a failing school, unable to go to the school of his parent’s choosing, because the teacher’s union that funds the President’s campaign opposes school choice.”
Both Romneys have it wrong. President Obama has also consistently supported charter schoolsas a supplement to traditional schools. In May, he declared in his “Charter School Week” proclamation, “charter schools serve as incubators of innovation in neighborhoods across our country.” Obama has opposed, however, proposals to take taxpayer money out of public schools and to fund private and parochial schools that do not have to achieve the same standards. Romney has embraced a risky school voucher scheme. Studies have also shown thatcharter schools may not necessarily improve children’s education.
Unlike Mitt Romney, President Obama’s campaign has not taken a single contribution from political action committees — teachers’ unions or otherwise. The National Education Association’s super PAC, NEA Advocacy Fund, has not made a single expenditure on the presidential race. While some individuals employed by the union have donated to the Obama campaign out of their personal funds, those contributions amount to less than one 1/100th of a percent of his total contributions.
Mitt Romney has made the questionable boast that as governor of Massachusetts, he made the state’s public schools number one in the nation. Those schools — with great union teachers — show that standards and certification are part of the solution, not the problem.

Who is Kim Ward and why should we listen to anything she has to say?

Don’t you just love foundations that are named after the people that founded them? The Michael and Kim Ward foundation comes to mind. I kid a little but I do wonder why rich people should think we should listen to them just because they are rich.

Mrs. Ward wrote a letter to the Times Union expressing outrage about the Jenkins (3) and Fischer (7) school board campaigns. Coincidently enough she also mentioned she is supporting the Ashley Smith- Juarez (3) and the John Heymnn (7) campaigns. Um, yeah, hmm.

You will have to forgive me if I find this a little incongruent. For the most part the same people who are supporting Fischer, charter school groups, politician that don’t live here and other outside interests are also supporting Smith-Juarez. Furthermore the same people that are supporting Jenkins, local parents and businesses and the ones supporting Heymann. Mrs. Ward is all across the board. She is basically saying I support Obama and I’ll go ahead and support Romney too. Rich people really are different.

Mrs. Ward also comes off as a hypocrite too. The mail out supporting Jenkins that Ward complains about came out months ago. Shouldn’t she have expressed her outrage then? But worse the mail out supporting Jenkins was correct. Make no doubt about it Gary Chartrand and outside interests are trying to buy a school board seat. Look at Mrs. Smith-Juarez’s donors list and if you had any doubts they will be quelled.

Visiting the Michael and Kim Ward foundation web-site it looks like she has a good and noble mission but rather than interjecting herself into politics, she should probably concentrate on that.

Jason Fischer, candidate district 7, thinks I should run CSX

If you go to his website, he says: As a businessman and a concerned parent, I believe that I can provide the leadership necessary to transform our schools from failure into success.

First our schools aren’t failures, do they have issues, yes, are some struggling, yes, but failures, not even close and many of the issues our schools are experiencing are because of the policies of his backers, Bush, Thrasher and Wise but more on this in the future.

I am a teacher and have been on a train; maybe I should run CSX, where Mr. Fischer works. Or wait I have been to the doctor, maybe I could start performing surgeries. Instead of running for school board, maybe I should have run to be a judge, why not; I have seen a lot of Law and Order.

Education is the one field that people who have nothing or very little to do with think to themselves, hey I can run that or do that and it is partly because of this mindset we are in trouble.

The truth is we need people like Mr. Fischer to be involved, to donate their time and to give ideas but just like we wouldn’t want me running a hospital we don’t want people like Mr. Fischer running our schools.

6 Reasons not to vote for Ashley Smith Juarez for school board

1. She raised 142 thousand dollars, or roughly four years worth of school board salary. Some might argue this just shows her popularity but if you examine who gave her the money, very few were teachers and public school parents. The vast majority and that says a lot because of how much she raised came from the gated community crowd whose disdain for public education is readily apparent. She isn’t so much running for the seat, more like she is attempting to buy it.

2. Her mentor is Gary Chartrand. Mr. Chartrand is the go with his gut facts be damned chairman of education appointed by Rick Scott and where that should be enough I’ll give you a little more. Friends he went from top fifty in grocery store news to running our schools and now he wants to put his protégé on the school board. To say he knows very little about how education works would be insulting to people who know very little about how education works. He is for race based academic goals, high stakes testing, larger classes and doesn’t think teachers are professionals, that their experience and education should count for nothing.
3. She was endorsed by Jeb Bush. You know the former governor who has had his Florida miracle debunked, whose high stakes testing mantra has met resistance statewide and who compared teaching children to picking milk.
4. She isn’t for fixing public schools she is for privatizing public schools. More charter schools, more vouchers, less local control, larger classes, teachers without experience or education and merit pay are all tenets of the corporate reform movement that she embraces.
5. She’s less than honest. On the Shannon Ogden show when talking about her experience she mentioned she taught at an independent school. Um friends that school was Bolles. Was she afraid nobody in Jacksonville had ever heard about it before? And if she is going to be disingenuous about that, well what else is there? Then in an interview on channel 4 she said she was a small business owner and didn’t mention her association with the Chartrand Foundation. This shortly after Chartrand came out for Race Based academic goals.
6. Finally have you heard her speak? She has really mastered talking for three minutes without saying anything. And if you don’t believe me ask her to answer a specific question about education and see if you don’t get anything but, and every child deserves a first class education as an answer. How do we improve reading? Every child deserves a first class education. What do we do about discipline? Every child deserves a first class education. And so on and on and on it will go…

I used to love teaching, now not so much

From Middle Grades Mastery, by Kris Nielsen

 I love teaching. Or, I did love teaching. I loved teaching when my job was to teach. Now, I don’t love teaching, because my job is no longer teaching.

Was that introduction awkward enough? That’s kind of how my job feels: awkward, frustrating, backwards, stifling, and redundant. Breaking away from the comparison to the introduction, I’d like to add demeaning, thankless, exhausting, fruitless, unappreciated, lonely, undemocratic, unfulfilling, and major energy drain.
But, please, let me explain my whining. I’m not generally a whiner, so I feel that when I do moan and complain, I should have some good reasons, and maybe even some solutions. (Before you get your hopes up, I’m not going to offer any solutions. I’ve tried that; it’s pointless.)
I look back and I believe that my entry into the world of teaching had the worst possible timing. I got my teaching certificate late 2006 and spent the first two years of my career teaching Earth science to 6th graders. I created my own curriculum, based loosely on the New Mexico state standards. My kids loved it! I kept them busy with hands-on, student centered learning that built vocabulary and concepts along the way. I based my lessons on real-life problems, invited community scientists into my classroom, let students create their own projects, and had a solid stream of parent volunteers and visitors in and out of my door. My students led their own parent conferences, with me sitting close by to monitor the discussion and answer clarifying questions. My students had good grades and, much less importantly, had high scores on the New Mexico Standards-Based Assessment at the end of the year.
After two years, I believed I had gained enough valuable experience to become more mobile. A college professor told me that teaching was awesome because you could go anywhere in the United States and always have a job. So, I gave my colleagues a fond farewell and moved to Oregon, a state that I had always dreamed of living in. I was lucky to get my job there—I beat out over 80 other applicants to teach math to middle school kids. I taught the Connected Math curriculum and worked closely with a group of professionals who shared my goals. It was awesome. I taught math like I taught science: hands-on, student-centered, constructivist, discovery learning. Again, I saw great success, especially with minority students and English language learners. I had students coming from the high school thanking me for giving them hope when they were sure they wouldn’t make it past 9th grade. Two girls—children of immigrant parents—told me they knew they would be the first to go to college in their families, and they thanked me for it. Teaching in Oregon was amazing.
Then, the floor fell out. I could blame conservatives for the bone-cutting budget reductions, but it was everyone’s fault. My district found itself in deep shortfall and cut over 350 teaching jobs. Having been there only two years, I was on the chopping block. My principal was dismayed, my colleagues were shocked, parents were mad, and kids were upset. My union was apparently powerless, despite my pleas, to do anything. Seniority stays. I was not seniority.
In shock and sadness, I spent over four months looking for a job. I filled out over 300 applications and had three interviews. Those three interviews represented my competition with hundreds of displaced teachers. I was not hired. So, I looked outside the Oregon state borders. After a Google search for cities that were hiring teachers, Charlotte, North Carolina was number two. I went from looking at the nine classified jobs in Salem, Oregon (none of which I could do), to sifting through over 350 teaching jobs in Charlotte. It was mindblowing. How did this city need so many teachers? I applied for about 15 jobs, got callbacks on ten, and interviewed over the phone with three. The first interview landed me a job over the phone. My family and I packed up and drove across the country.
Let me emphasize that: my incredibly supportive (and adventurous) family sacrificed and adjusted just so I could keep teaching.
It was an exciting and daunting prospect and I was nervous. The staff at my new school was pleasant, helpful, and upbeat. The district orientation was disheartening (I felt like I was being hired at Kmart). The students were initially eager and well-behaved. The union was non-existent, which I didn’t really mind after my ordeal in Oregon. The administrators were generally professional and friendly, with only a minor “corporate” stench. I felt good about the arrangement.
What they didn’t tell me in orientation was that I would not have time to teach anything meaningful. I was hired to teach science and the exact same math I had taught in Oregon, but this was different. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is a district that is drowning in its own mandates, risk-taking, and testing culture. I think CMS is a microcosm of what’s to come in American education. It’s depressing. I didn’t like it, so I did some research. An adjacent district was hiring some math and science people and I was attracted to two main things: it was closer to home and they had rolled out a one-to-one laptop initiative recently. Every student was carrying a laptop in class every day. I had to get into one of those classrooms!
To make that story short, I did. It’s no different. Despite the lofty ideals and motivating speeches from administration, everything is the same. I’m not an educator, by the definition I had comes to terms with; I’m an employee of a system that has an agenda. My job is to frontload a small encyclopedia of knowledge to a group of students so that they can pass a test at the end of the year. There are now more shallow and meaningless tests, and my job now depends on the scores. That’s not teaching. That’s not what I do.
I’ve heard this several times already: “If you’re teaching students to learn and letting them discover the knowledge, then shouldn’t they be able to pass those tests easily?” At first, I thought, “Yeah! Totally!” But after trying it, I don’t think it makes sense. Standardized tests are rigidly specific in the knowledge kids should have. They are bent way over into the realm of vocabulary and multiple-choice answers–and they don’t even come close to teaching 21st century skills. If I teach my kids how to think and how to learn, then they will not be prepared to pass state tests, because that’s not what those tests are measuring. The tests measure two things: memory and application. The second one is important, but not in a multiple-choice or short-answer sphere.
So that’s the long story. Here are some more reasons I can’t do this anymore.
I’ve gotten to the point where I feel good about how a lesson played out, only to check my email afterwards to find no fewer than five menial tasks that I must dedicate my time to. This is time when I should be planning more lessons, conferencing with parents, and learning.
I fight against poverty every day, knowing that I can’t save everyone. And no one in power seems to care. All I hear are excuses. I hate excuses.  I’m teetering on the poverty line myself, always running out of money by the third week of the month. And my family lives very frugally.
I have no health coverage for my family, because it would cost over a quarter of my pay.
My take home pay is roughly equivalent to that of a full-time customer service manager at Wal-mart. I make less if you take into account the hours I work.
I worked diligently through a master’s degree program to increase my efficacy as a teacher. I was rewarded with being treated like a disposable cog in a broken gear.
My coworkers are downtrodden and frustrated.
My students are falling apart. They have little hope. I don’t blame them. They are reminded every year of their failure to pass meaningless tests and they watch the news that tells them they are dumber than the rest of the world. That piece of information is not true, by any means, but you can tell it affects them. And no one stands up to tell them they are doing fine.
I wanted to be part of the fix. I wanted to save the world. But every day I see powers greater than me stomp us down and tell us to get back into the classroom and be glad we even have jobs. If this is the way that public education treats professionals, then it’s time for me to find a new field.
I give up. They win. I have joined the ranks of parents who have come to realize that we are only empowered to do one thing: take care of our own. I hope that things change, but I don’t have the energy, the money, or the time to continue beating my head into a wall. And if the choices have run out for my toddler when he’s ready for school, I will do it myself. Maybe I’ll do it for others, as well. Who knows.
I will follow this with my decision(s) soon.

Koch brothers should not be able to buy Florida’s Supreme Court

From the Miami Herald BY CARL HIAASEN


The new stealth campaign against three Florida Supreme Court justices is being backed by those meddling right-wing billionaires from Wichita, Charles and David Koch.
They couldn’t care less about Florida, but they love to throw their money around.
Last week they uncorked the first of a series of commercials from their political action committee, Americans for Prosperity. The targets are Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince.
They were three of the five-vote majority that in 2010 knocked down a half-baked amendment slapped together by state lawmakers seeking to nullify the federal Affordable Health Care Act.
The Florida Supreme Court upheld lower court decisions in finding that the proposed amendment contained “misleading and ambiguous language,” the hallmark of practically everything produced by this Legislature. Stoned chimpanzees have a keener grasp of constitutional law.
Conservative groups have gone after local justices before. In Iowa, a place which has nothing but vowels in common with Florida, three state justices were fired by voters after being vilified for ruling against a ban on gay marriage.
On the November ballot, Lewis, Pariente and Quince are up for merit retention, meaning voters can choose to retain them or not. This simple system was put in place to keep the state’s high court above the sleaze of political races.
The mission of the Kochs, hiding as always behind their super PAC, is to get the three justices dumped at the polls so that Gov. Rick Scott can appoint replacements.
This is worth repeating: If the Kochs have their way, Rick Scott — yes, that Rick Scott — gets to pack the Supreme Court with his own hand-picked crew.
Yikes is right.
The head of the Florida chapter of Americans for Prosperity is a person called Slade O’ Brien, whose job is to keep a straight face while saying things like: “We’re not advocating for the election or defeat of any of the justices. What we’re attempting to do is call more attention to them advocating from the bench.”
Meanwhile the state GOP’s executive board is less coy. It voted to oppose the retention of Quince, Lewis and Pariente, branding them “too extreme.”
Well, let’s have a peek at these dangerous radicals.
Justice Pariente, 63, has been on the court for 15 years. She was graduated from George Washington University Law School and clerked in Fort Lauderdale under U.S. District Judge Norm Roettger, who was no softie.
Justice Lewis, 64, who was graduated cum laude from the University of Miami Law School, has been on the court almost 14 years. Both he and Pariente were appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, not exactly a wild-eyed liberal.
Justice Quince, also 64, is the first African-American woman on the Supreme Court. A graduate of the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University, she worked for years prosecuting death-penalty cases in the state Attorney General’s office.
In 1999, she was jointly selected for the high court by Chiles and that wacky left-winger, Jeb Bush.
Twice before Floridians have voted to keep these justices, but now the Kochs from Wichita say they know better. You won’t see David or Charlie in any of the campaign commercials because they don’t like people to know they’re prying.
Their multinational fortune comes from oil refineries, fertilizers, cattle, commodities, chemicals and paper mills. Next time you reach for Angel Soft toilet paper, think of the Koch brothers.
Both are MIT grads, philanthropists, unabashedly ultraconservative and anti-Obama. They’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to defeat the President and lesser officeholders all over the country who won’t bend to their will. Some Florida Republicans — respected judges and lawyers — are disturbed by the sneak attack on the Supreme Court, which they view as a bald attempt to politicize the judiciary.
The two other justices who voted against the inept Obamacare amendment were similarly singled out two years ago, when they were up for merit retention. Tea Party groups bought TV time blasting justices Jorge Labarga and James Perry, and urging voters to remove them from the court. It didn’t work.
Labarga was retained with about 59 percent of the vote, Perry with 61 percent. Those aren’t bad margins, considering that the justices can’t campaign in their own defense.
This time is different because Americans for Prosperity has a bottomless war chest to use against Lewis, Pariente and Quince. Be assured that Gov. Scott is rooting for the Kochs. He’d love to have three openings to fill on the Supreme Court.
The last thing these guys want is fair judges who know the law; they want partisan judges who’ll obediently support their political agenda
It’s worse than just trying to buy an election. It’s trying to hijack Florida’s justice system at the highest levels.
And all the Angel Soft in the world won’t wipe away the stink.

Read more here:

Cutting higher ed is no way for Florida to attract business

From the Tampa Times Editorial Staff

A decade after Florida voters decided they wanted a centralized Board of Governors to oversee the state’s public universities, Gov. Rick Scott’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Higher Education is poised to recommend to a recalcitrant Legislature to finally let it happen. But the task force’s acquiescence on the other major issue facing higher education — diminishing state funding — is disappointing. The state can’t keep expecting students to pay for most of the costs of a State University System vital to the entire state.

The governor created the task force earlier this year after vetoing a plan that would have allowed the University of Florida and Florida State University the autonomy to raise their tuitions as long as they met certain accountability measures. The universities’ proposal was an understandable, if flawed, reaction to broken promises in Tallahassee, where the State University System has seen its spending slashed, including $300 million just this year. Even though state universities have raised tuition significantly in recent years, it’s not been enough. Students in Florida now pay more than ever for a university education, but due to cuts in state spending less money is being spent to educate them.

Central to the task force’s recommendations, which are expected to be delivered next month, would be for the Legislature to turn over budgeting authority to the Board of Governors in exchange for implementing performance-based funding mechanisms for each of the state’s 12 universities. Such measures, for example, would include quality of research, academic rankings, and whether enough students were graduating into high-wage, high-skill, high-demand jobs.

It makes sense to have a single governing board shaping the missions and distinct identities of universities. And coordination from one governing board — as well as the power of the purse — would help build a unified system that minimizes duplication and avoids political travesties such as the unneeded Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland.

But when it comes to funding, the task force disappointed. The group calls for universities to have tuition matched to their national peers, but it gives the Legislature a pass. The working draft says, “In the absence of state support, the Legislature and Board of Governors, working together, should evaluate tuition strategies to compensate for state funding.”

That’s no way to fund a higher education system that Republican leaders say can help diversify the state’s economy. Scott, incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford and incoming Senate President Don Gaetz need to look past short-term budget issues to make a long-term commitment to building a system Florida can be proud of. Universities are not simply vocational schools churning out graduates to meet the needs of the marketplace, and a bachelor’s degree is not merely a meal ticket. A well-educated citizenry is a benefit both to the state and to the individual. Expecting both parties to pay their share is the smarter approach.

Charter schools have to go

Charter schools are supposed to be public schools where parent/teacher driven innovation occurs. Instead many have become cash making enterprises for business more concerned with the bottom line rather than educating our children. They even have their own lobbies as they attempt to get bigger and bigger pieces of the education pie. Something that actual evidence says they do not deserve.

Consider these recent charter school stories (John Romano Tampa times).

A charter high school in Orlando was recently closed due to poor performance. The principal, who was drawing a salary of $305,000 and was paid a severance of  $519,000 in taxpayer money. The enrollment of the school was 180 students. Our super for 176 schools and 123,000 students makes 275 thousand.

Then there is the case of the charter in Manatee County, which recently ran a newspaper ad offering a free Nintendo handheld game system to any student who enrolled by a certain date.

How about the charter school in Dunedin that operated for more than two years and siphoned more than $1.6 million dollars from the public while failing to provide basic class supplies and posting the worst standardized test scores in Pinellas County.

The list could go on and on… and on. Seriously how many more example do you want me to give, 10, 20, 50?

There may be some great charter schools but to many operators see Florida as a cash cow that requires little accountability, regulation and oversight.

What does Florida get for this money? Charter schools have more than triple the rate of F grades and that doesn’t even count the dozens of charter schools the state didn’t even bother to grade.

Why is accountability something we only require from public schools?

The state in their zeal to privatize public education through charter schools has completely abdicated its responsibility to educate our children and instead of continuing to rob public schools of state funds it is time we said enough.

The answer is to fix our problems, not starve our public schools to death.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher