Jeb Bush, Kelli Stargel and Michelle Rhee are not above using deception to pass the Parent Trigger Bill

First no parents want it! Read that again. Second no parents
want it! Since that is the case why has it passed the house and is the Senate
now considering it. Third, NO PARENTS WANT IT!

The astro turf groups Parent Revolution, Michelle Rhee’s
Student First and Jeb Bush’s Foundation and their corporate backers are the
ones pushing for it, while parents, civil right groups and teachers has been
fighting against it. Unfortunately the well-financed corporate shills are not
above using deception.
Kelly Stargel the enemy of all things public education and
the Florida Legislatures queen of privatization recently began passing off a
petition supposedly signed by Floridians who support the parent trigger. The
main problem however is that a lot of the signers are crying foul. Not only did
they not sign it but they are against the parent trigger all together.
This sadly wasn’t the pro-privatizations first attempt at
trickery. They also tried floating a pro trigger video; unfortunately nobody
would take credit for it.
Finally the pro-trigger crowd has taken to bad talking the
PTA and all the other groups that are against the trigger saying they are
nothing but shills for the teacher’s union. Friends, no matter what you might
think about the teachers union, you have to know, they aren’t nearly powerful
enough to control the PTA and the NAACP along with other parent and civil
rights groups.
So what we have is a bill sponsored by corporations whose
supporters aren’t against being deceptive that ignores parents and their
wishes, which has already passed the house and has a good chance of passing the
senate. Welcome to Florida
Bob Sykes at Scathing Purple Musings has done some nice work
on the subject. To read more click the links.

No Rich Child Left Behind, NRCLB

From the New York Times, by Sean F. Reardon

Here’s a fact that may not surprise you: the children of the rich perform better in school, on average, than children from middle-class or poor families. Students growing up in richer families have better grades and higher standardized test scores, on average, than poorer students; they also have higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities and school leadership positions, higher graduation rates and higher rates of college enrollment and completion.

Poverty is not an excuse and if we really truly want to see improvement in our struggling schools, if we really truly want to break the cycle the answer is not to outsource our children’s education to corporations but to put into lace things that mitigate poverty.

Florida blames teachers for society’s problems. (rough draft)

And if you want proof just look at what they are doing to Lacoochee Elementary in Pasco County; the state is demanding the district fire the entire staff, rookies and veterans alike. Now the Florida Department of Education admits that Lacoochee elementary is a poor school in a rural and poor part of the state. They admit that the county has had a hard time staffing the school with over half of the staff leaving over the last few years and they admit the vast amount of its students lives in poverty, they however just don’t care and want the entire staff replaced.

Poverty by the way is the number one measurable factor that determines how kids do in school. Students that live in poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t. Poverty is also the number one ignored factor in schools. The powers that be like to dismiss poverty and instead point to this guy or that girl who made it out. You know who they don’t point to? All the people who didn’t!

Pasco County had a plan to mitigate poverty. According to the Tampa Times, The district’s original plan for the school was to increase teacher training, add more instructional coaches and bolster other resources for the school, which serves a high-poverty, heavily minority rural community.

Instead the state said fire everyone. Not that a high turnover wasn’t already a problem something many schools mired in poverty face which is exasperated by the introduction of Teach for America into many of our highest need schools. Teach for America recruits, none of whom have an education background, attend a six week access course and then serve a two year commitment. Undoubtedly there are some fine TFA teachers but most just as they are starting to understand what it takes to be a teacher when they are off to the next phase of their lives.

Pascoe County with no other option is going to advertise for “top replacements” offering a 2,500 hundred dollars signing bonus. Let’s see, after taxes that’s about 1,750 dollars, divided by 26 pay checks, that comes out to around 67 bucks every two weeks. If you were a “top replacement” at an “A” school, because the state would have you believe that is where all the top teachers are, there can’t possibly be good teachers at the schools that don’t do well on standardized tests, would you leave that school to work at a school where the last thing done to improve the school was fire the entire staff? Would you leave that school to work at a school mired in poverty where you would probably have to supply many of the essentials your kids need? Would you leave that school to go to a school where you were under the thumb of the state and their incessant demands for word walls, posted standards and dozens of other requirements that have nothing to do with education? Would you leave your “A” school and potentially give up thousands of dollars in school recognition money, you know the system put in place that practically guarantees the best teachers at so-called good schools never leave? Probably not for 2,500 dollars anyway, not that teachers often make decisions based on money, if they did most wouldn’t be teachers.

Gone will be all the first year teachers, who aren’t responsible for all that happened before they got there. Gone will be all the veteran teachers who have dedicated years working with kids who nobody else wanted to work with, their only sin they couldn’t overcome poverty. Gone will be the principal who has been there just since 2010 and it doesn’t matter that there have been improvements in reading and writing scores. I just can’t help but wonder what’s going to happen if they somehow turn it around and the school grade goes from a D to a C. Is the state going to say, “oops my bad”?

Where are the social workers and therapists because often why kids act up or do poorly in school has nothing to do with school. Does the school have art, music and PE classes, those subjects that often make school worth going to for many? I couldn’t tell from my research but if they are like many poor schools my bet is either no, or kids get to go to them once every couple weeks. A lot of kids in poverty get it coming and going, there home life is often unfulfilling and they come to school and it is not much better.

Friends as long as we ignore poverty and its debilitating effects, as long as we blame teachers for things they don’t have control of we are never going to improve. The best teacher in the world can’t control if their students have enough to eat, if their parents are involved or not, if they are too worried about where their next meal is coming from or the violence in their neighborhoods to focus on school. They can’t control, if the policy makers have decided to eliminate those classes like art and music that make school enjoyable to kids or if every kid is shoved into a one size fits all curriculum regardless of desire or ability or not. There are so many factors that teachers can’t control it’s not hard to believe that some of the best teachers in the world are at some of our “struggling” schools, even where their kids do poorly on standardized tests. Firing the staff is not fairy dust, a magic wand or a silver bullet, firing a staff is not going to improve any school. All it does is show the ignorance about education and what it takes to be a teacher by those who are unfortunately in charge.

Perhaps 11 year old Ayala can sum up the tragedy better than me. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, my teacher barely started this year, and she’s a good teacher. . . . We don’t need them gone, because they make a difference in our lives.”

To read the Tampa Times piece click here:

T. Willard Fair trades children’s futures for 30 pieces of silver

Willard T. Fair a former chairman of the Florida State Board of Education, the president and chief executive officer of the Urban League of Greater Miami Inc., and a member of the Foundation for Florida’s Future board of directors started an editorial in the Sunshine State News saying Senator David Simmons was talking bad about poor parents.

“Put bluntly, it goes like this: Poor people make poor parents. “

I was initially outraged and ready to take the senator to task but then I read the whole article and I realized it was Mr. Fair that has lost all sense of reason.

This is what the senator said, “Let’s face it, the parents are the very people who haven’t been involved in their own children’s lives so as to cause the school to improve. What kind of credibility do you give to the parents in those kinds of circumstances?”

I don’t disagree with the senator one bit. By hook or by crook too many parents have abdicated their responsibilities and that has led to many or our school problems especially those in our poorer neighborhoods. This is not to say all poor parents are bad far from it. What Mr. Fair doesn’t realize, probably because he was too busy being outraged is that there are wonderful things going on even at our so called struggling schools. The thing is the vast majority of these successes are occurring with the students of parents that act like parents. Successes are far and few between for the kids of parents who don’t care.

Mr. Fair then goes on to complain about the historic neglect of these schools and insinuates that school districts and unions have used them as out-of-sight, out-of-mind depositories for ineffective personnel. Now I don’t doubt that in the past there was neglect and some districts did staff them with questionable personnel, not that the union has ever staffed anyone anywhere but this is 2013. Title one makes sure our poorer schools get more resources and it is Mr. Fairs own school choice crowd that makes sure those schools are staffed with an ever revolving door of novice teachers. It is Gary Chartrand, Jeb Bush and Fair himself who set up those policies.

Yes parents do deserve some of the blame perhaps even the lions share but don’t discount the role that Tallahassee has played. They have had a devastating effect on the schools in our poorer, predominately minority neighborhoods.

His righteous indignation hits a fevered pitch when he talks sarcastically about how parents can’t be trusted with improving their children’s schools. He suggests “they will get bamboozled into turning their school over to some nefarious profiteer. And during the process, they will squabble amongst themselves and create discord in the community.”

Well the history of the parent trigger says he is right but the bigger point is parents already have tremendous options. They can join the PTA, every school has a SACommittee, they can volunteer in their children’s schools, petition their school boards for change and even get involved in local politics themselves. Their options are legion!

Giving away public assets to for profit companies more concerned with the bottom line who have a terrible track record should not be one of them. Disregarding democracy which is something you don’t get with a corporation should not be one of them. Furthermore public schools whether they are in our personal neighborhood or not, whether we have a child attending one or not belong to all of us.

His final point after some more union bashing is, “the reason there are a growing number of charter schools, the reason for the long waiting lists, the reason why vouchers are so coveted, is because parents want them. And of course the only intellectually honest rebuttal to that demand is that these parents don’t know what is best for their children.

To which I reply, lies, big lies and damn lies. 226 charter schools have closed in Florida alone over the last 12 years, vouchers often take kids to schools without qualified staffs or effective curriculums and the long waiting list argument has been thoroughly debunked. Those are some things the Fair obviously doesn’t want you to know.

Fair has jumped the shark and any pretence that he cares about the poor kids he laments about is just that, pretense. He has thoroughly joined the corporate reform movement taking his 30 pieces of silver all the way to the bank.

For shame Mr. Fair, for shame.

To read his piece, click the link:

Florida Republicans snub their nose at local control or today’s worst Florida legislator ever Lizbeth Benaquisto

Funny I thought local control was a big deal with republicans. I guess Sen. Lizbeth Benaquisto missed that memo because she filed an amendment Monday to the parent trigger bill which said the state not the local school board would have final say.

It is so bad here in Florida that poor locals are unable to make decisions about our kids.

So much for local control right?

Want to read more? Click the link:

Oy Vey, the Florida Legislature wants us to pay more and get less.

From the Orlando Sentinel By Stephen Hersenberg

A pension bill before the Florida Senate asks taxpayers to do something that will leave many of them scratching their heads: pay more for less. That’s the conclusion of a study I conducted for the Florida Retirement Security Coalition on the impacts of Senate Bill 1392.
The bill requires taxpayers to pay more to enroll a larger number of teachers, first responders and other public servants into a 401(k)-like retirement plan, in which those workers would receive less in retirement benefits years down the road.
Most public employees still take home a pension based on a percentage of their salary and years of service. Good pensions make up for public-sector salaries that are typically far below private ones, especially for college-educated teachers, professionals and managers.
In 2002, Florida moved cautiously toward shifting more public employees to 401(k)-type plans. The state allows employees either a guaranteed pension or their own individual accounts.
Since 2002, Florida’s split retirement-system plan has fared well despite rocky financial markets. The plan remains well above the 80 percent funded level considered healthy and is one of only 11 states to receive Pew Center on the States’ top rating of “solid performer.”
But now, the Senate is joining a national push aimed at undermining the retirement security of public-sector workers — by shifting toward 401(k)-type plans that provide no guaranteed pension and cost more.
The Senate plan would raise taxpayer contributions to Florida’s defined-contribution plan by 1 percent of salary — a $43 million annual taxpayer cost. It also makes the defined-contribution option the default for employees who do not choose a plan.
Paying to get more employees into the defined-contribution plan also raises the costs of the traditional pension by removing young employees who are less costly to taxpayers. With more members in the plan aging, fund managers will invest in less risky, more “liquid” assets, lowering investment returns and raising taxpayer costs.
Taxpayers would shell out more for the defined-contribution plan to push more young workers out of the traditional pension so that it, too, becomes more expensive. Wall Street gets more money to manage individual accounts and Main Street gets a lower retirement income.
Why is this a good idea?
Stephen Herzenberg is executive director of the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, Pa.

The Florida Legislature is consistent on teacher raises — consistently wrong.


Gov. Rick Scott has not been consistent on raises for Florida teachers. He made a $2,500 across-the-board increase one of his two priorities for this legislative session. While that raise would not be tied to a new, mandated evaluation system, he has defended the new evaluations as the proper basis for future raises, even while indicating that the evaluation system will need adjustments to be valid and fair.
The Legislature, on the other hand, is being consistent on teacher raises — consistently wrong.
House and Senate budget negotiators reportedly have agreed to set aside $480 million for school personnel raises. But the raises would not be across-the-board. Instead, legislators would tie it in some fashion to evaluations.
Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, defended the decision. “This is not new for the districts,” he said. “We’ve been moving toward merit-based pay increases for a while now.”
That’s true. The Legislature tried to mandate a radically new evaluation system in 2010. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. But new Gov. Scott made it a priority for 2011, and the Legislature eagerly complied. The problem is that the state has not been able to invent a fair, valid evaluation system.
Instead, the state has cobbled together a jumble of subjective judgments by school administrators blended with complicated algorithms based on high-stakes tests that in too many cases have no connection to the teacher allegedly being evaluated. As Florida Education Association President Andy Ford noted in blasting the Legislature’s decision on raises,” Two-thirds of Florida teachers are being evaluated on students they do not teach or on subjects they do not teach.”
So, Sen. Galvano is right that the state has been “moving toward” a merit-based system. But it isn’t there yet. Gov. Scott recognized that — and the fact that Florida teachers average $10,000 less than the average teacher salary nationally — when he sought the $2,500 across-the-board raises. Not only should teachers get those raises, implementation of the evaluation system should be postponed until the state comes up with a less absurd system.
Politics might explain some of this mess. Republicans might be challenging Gov. Scott on this issue to get a concession from him on another issue, knowing that he proposed the raises because of his unpopularity among teachers. Or the Legislature could just be acting in a knee-jerk, damagingly ideological way. On education, it’s been moving toward that brand of legislating for years.

Education reformers hate black kids. I said it now let me count the ways.

My girlfriend Julie says I am a bit long winded so I am I am just going to get right to it.

1. KIPP and TFA funnel their minions into mostly minority
neighborhoods, meaning black kids get to a school no affluent white family
would send their kid to and they get a novice teacher without an education
background to boot.
2. School recognition money predominantly goes to the
schools in the suburbs or with low amounts of minority children. Why would a
great teacher want to give up a chance at an annual bonus to go teach at a
school where kids could really use their skills but the chance of getting a bonus is almost nill?
3. Charter schools, they aren’t for the rich districts like
St. Johns they are for the poor districts like Duval and if you don’t believe
me just ask John Thrasher.
4. Bright futures are getting a little less bright for
minority kids as the requirements are going up and up.

5. Finally school closings, check out the info graphic
below and cringe.