Jax Chamber of Commerce wants to get rid of the elected school board, make it appointed instead

In the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce most recent education agenda they stated they wanted to, “Advocate for reform of the current Duval County School Board governance structure to ensure, Jacksonville has the foundation to build a world class educational system” This in short means they think the school board has done a poor job and they want the city to go from an elected school board to an appointed one, flowery language aside. I wonder if they would have felt the same way had more of their candidates won election to the board over the last few years? Think about that, they want to take away the citizens ability to pick their representatives. That is the lead but before I continue we have to agree on a set of facts.

No matter how you feel DCPS is doing, we must agree that they spend their money locally. Their budget, around 1.7 billion dollars annually is almost entirely spent in the city. DCPS also pays their teachers, on average more than charter schools and private schools pay theirs, which means DCPS teachers have more buying power. Furthermore a lot of those charter schools that pay their teachers less are managed by for profit management companies that are not based in Jacksonville and this means a large percent of the money sent to those schools is funneled out of the city. DCPS is also the second largest employer in the county after the navy and controls a massive amount of real estate.

Since these are all facts that I hope we can agree upon, I ask, then why does the Chamber, or should I say Chamber leadership consistently tries to undermine Duval County Public Schools, and public schools in general? For years they have pushed for the expansion of charter schools and now they are calling for the dissolution of the board.

Are rank and file members of the chamber saying, what we need is less money coming into the city and that they want the people here to have less money to spend? It always boggles my mind when organizations like the Chamber rail against public schools, because at the same time they are fighting against their members ability to make more money. They are fighting for fewer goods and services being exchanged for cash and against fewer houses to be built and sold as well. I may just be a teacher but that doesn’t sound like smart business to me.

I don’t believe for a second that is what the rank and file members of the Chamber of Commerce  want but that is what their leadership, many of whom are charter schools supporters, are fighting for and I think it is past time their membership asked why.

Now some of you might be saying, but elections have consequences, and if the people voted for a mayor, they would most likely want that person to be in control of education too. Well fortunately for this thought experiment Tallahassee has shown us how that would look. Ron DeSantis won the governor’s race by a mere 33,000 votes. About a quarter of one percent. Then despite the fact the vast majority of Florida’s students attend its public schools, we are routinely at the bottom when it comes to funding and their is a critical teacher shortage, in his first education speech he said he wanted to expand Florida’s school voucher programs.

DeSantis then appointed lawyer and public education foe, Richard Corcoran, whose wife operates charter schools and who while speaker of the house pushed through legislation often in the dead of the night, that would benefit her, to be commissioner of education.

Let’s keep going. Newly elected senator Manny Diaz was appointed chair of the senate education committee. He  is also paid six figures to be the chief operating officer of Doral College in Miami which runs a charter school that funnels its students to the college and yes that sounds convoluted but this is Florida where we bend over backwards to charters or the legislators and their family members that run them.

The house is not any better as they appointed Tea Party darling Jennifer Sullivan to the chair of the powerful house education committee. It’s not her being part of the Tea Party that has me down, it’s the fact she is completely unqualified for the position.

Sullivan is a 27-year-old homeschooled high school graduate who worked in a Tea room before being elected, while taking classes here and there from a Christian college. In effect she will be in charge of making policy for schools she would not be qualified to work in. Though since private schools that take vouchers don’t require degrees let alone certification, she could probably find employment at one of them.

She has even said her lack of knowledge is a strength, “There is something to be said, in my opinion, for someone who has not been subjected to good teachers or bad teachers, good schools and bad schools, or unions vs charters. My perspective is a unique one and one that lends itself to being more concerned with what works than with who benefits.”

The state board of education likewise isn’t even better as it hasn’t had a true educator in years and instead has been made up of powerful donors like local grocer Gary Chartrand, also a member of the chamber, who has no business being anywhere near education.

So is that who you want making up the school board and setting policy? Zealots, mercenaries and check writers to a mayor you may or may not agree with? Well if the Chamber gets its way that is who will make up the board.

I have been a frequent critic of many of our school board members over the years, some have definitely been much better than others but I believe fervently that having a board accountable to the people is better than having a board that is not.

Now not all of the chambers education proposals are bad though once again they attack the class size amendment, calling for fewer teachers, which would translate into fewer people contributing to the local economy. No for the most part they just call for more and more accountability to a be added to a system which is already cracking under the burden while ignoring that charters have little and schools that take vouchers have practically none. 

Don’t we deserve a chamber that works with our public schools and board rather than constantly trying to undermine it while supporting inferior competition that brings less money into the city and speaking purely economicaly don’t it’s members deserve leadership that pushes for them to make more money as well? I certainly do.

Port St. Lucie is the latest district to go to the citizen’s to make up Tallahassee’s shortfall, when will Duval?

Republicans’ are starting their 21st year of complete control of public education and if you haven’t noticed things are getting worse not better.
Instead of investing in our public schools, they insist on diverting more and more money to for profit charter schools of which hundreds have failed and voucher schools that have barely any accountability, don’t have to have certified teachers, or teachers with degrees and can have junk curriculums.
Then the cherry on top is Tallahassee keeps heaping one unfunded mandate after another upon our schools severely limiting what they can and cannot do and its requiring districts to share what money they do have with charters many of which are run by for profit charter schools.
Help is not coming, not from Tallahassee anyways but that doesn’t mean we can’t help ourselves.
Port St. Lucie is about to join over a dozen other districts state wide that have decided they can no longer tolerate the abdicating of their responsibilities out of Tallahassee and that they are going to step up to the plate to make up at least some of the shortfall by voting on an extra mill to fund education. They are going to join, Martin, palm beach and even very conservative Clay county in doing what’s right for their children.  
Duval’s schools need over a billion dollars in repairs and upgrades. Their teachers are the lowest paid in the six big counties in a state that has some of the lowest paid in the nation. Math and reading coaches and libraries have all been drastically cut. So what are the super and board waiting for, things are already beyond bad?
I understand nobody likes taxes, but I believe there are things like children being ill prepared for life, that they like worse.
It is time Duval joined the other counties that have already done so and made our children a priority.

Gary Chartrand in a new TU op ed wants you to think he cares about your kids, he doesn’t.

Gary Chartrand a grocer by trade parlayed huge donations to Rick Scott into a spot on the state board of education despite the fact he had zero education experience and in an op ed to the Times Union he wants you to believe he cares about your children but the truth is he doesn’t.

He says that being in a good public school depends on the zip code you live in and nothing can be farther from the truth.  There are great public schools in every zip code even though there may be a difference in performance on state wide tests. The reason is poverty, something he has spent his life ignoring. Quite simply put, children as a group that live in neighborhoods mired in poverty don’t do as well as children who don’t. Chartrand would have you believe it is the schools fault ignoring the fact that here in Florida we invest very little in education when compared to other states.

Chartrand says, if there is a school that is doing as well as he thinks it should, then parents should be allowed to leave and take their children to any school, he says this while neglecting to inform the public that he sent his children to expensive and exclusive private schools, that had small classes, a wealth of electives and weren’t required to take standardized tests, or the opposite of where he expects our children to go.

What he calls choice, is really a hodge-podge of privatization where children can go to charters many of which are for profit and offer little or nothing in the way of innovation and private schools that accept vouchers, that don’t have to have certified teachers, or even teachers with degrees and where many teach junk curriculum, that says slaves were really free if they had Jesus in their heart and humans lived with dinosaurs. Furthermore the vast amount of these private schools don’t even have to report how they spend the money which has been diverted from the tax rolls. This all happens at the expense of public schools who every year are required to do more with less. 

Then you have to be careful, not to listen what he is saying but to watch he is doing. For several paragraphs in his op ed he extols the virtues and accomplishments of traditional public schools, how well they did on the NEAP and with A.P. classes. While behind the scenes no one has been a bigger champion of vouchers, charters and other corporate reforms which include putting temporary workers in class rooms and these things are done at the expense, to the detriment of traditional public schools.

If school choice was about giving more parents high quality public school options, then nobody would have an issue, but that’s not what choice is and that is also not what Gary Chartrand is selling.

If we want to have better schools, and I freely concede that our public schools have issues, though I hope you concede that many of these issues were created by people like Chartrand who seek to replace them, then we need to properly invest in our public schools. Something Florida does not do.

Chartrand is the villain of the story a zealot who thinks because he is rich who hates organized labor  he knows it all. He should be dismissed as the charlatan he is.

To read his op ed, click the link, https://www.jacksonville.com/opinion/20190127/guest-column-parents-want-opportunity-to-choose-best-school-for-their-kids

Is anybody else concerned about DCPS partnering with JPEF? I sure am.

A few months back Lori Hershey who i both like and think is doing a fantastic job said she wanted to re-partner with JPEF.  I was gobsmacked. I had spent the last five years fighting against the corporate interests seeking to privatize our schools of which JPEF has been an up front partner.

Among a litany of things their former president sad he wasn’t for good public schools, he was for good schools whether they be charters, voucher schools or public schools. An interesting position I felt for the president of an organization with public in their name. Then its founders Gary Chartrand is a huge force in Florida’s privatization movement and is on record sayings its a good thing that teachers lost their work protections and can now be easily fired.  Then there is all the time they have pushed charters and privatization too.

Fast forward to today and they have a new president, a former director of Teach for America, in fact most of their staff is former Teacher for America corp members and you will have to forgive me if I am not convinced they have turned over a new leaf.

Darryl Willie said a while back, he had to get his district some “Monies” and its true JPEF is dialed into the donor class, but the problem is the donor class hasn’t been our friend, insisting we do things their way and threatening the district when we didn’t.   

Instead of depending on the mercurial and often misguided ideas of the local donor class, many of who are also part of the privatization movement. I think a better plan is to have a sales tax referendum or a millage increase that way not only can we rely on experts in the field to make the right decisions, but we aren’t beholden to the ultra rich who are more interested in control than anything else. I like the super and most of the board but I fear they are making a devils bargain.

Also exactly what does JPEF bring to the table? What do they do that the Friends of NW JAX schools or some other group with a track record of supporting public ed couldn’t? My bet is nothing.

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Scott Shine rears his ugly head, wants to privatize our public schools.

Shine was an epically bad school board member who flamed out spectacularly. Instead of slinking off to the shadows where he should remain, he has reared his ugly head in a new campaign to privatize our schools.  

From WJCT,

A new Florida advocacy group is pushing for more school choice, as well as term limits for school board members and charter school independence.

The School Choice Movement, which launched in Tallahassee Wednesday, is led by three former school board members, including Jacksonville’s Scott Shine.
In an interview Thursday with WJCT News, Shine said school choice leads to academic achievement.    

“When parents and students own the decision about what school they go to, it has a very positive and engaging affect on how well the student will do,” he said.

To promote that, the School Choice Movement will push for more scholarships and funding for transportation to allow more students to attend the school of their choice. Florida’s scholarship programs have come under fire by traditional public school advocates, who dislike that they divert education dollars to private and religious schools, which don’t have to operate under the same standards as public schools.

Florida already has one of the nation’s highest rates of privately run charter schools, as well as strong support for school choice in the state Legislature. The election of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his appointment of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran gave the school choice movement an additional boost.

First by now we should all know that choice means privatization and I would hope the thousands of parents who went to charter schools that suddenly closes would disagree with Shine.
Furthermore, some parents may think it’s a good idea to send their children to schools that teach junk science and history, that don’t have teachers with degrees, and that would be fine accept the tax payer is paying for it.

Then let’s talk about accountability as those schools practically have none while public schools have been buried so much that accountability, like choice is another word for privatization, might as well be replaced with punishment.    

By the way there isn’t one serious study that says choice leaves to achievement in Florida but hey Scott has never been dependent on things like facts and evidence.

Can you imagine an unregulated charter system, not that they have much now? It would be worse than Ohio, where billions of dollars have been wasted and thousands of children’s futures have been handicapped, please google it.

What we need are high quality schools, schools with standards, not a hodge-podge of charters, and voucher schools, some of whom do it right but most of whom we don’t need and traditional public schools.

Shine joins two other former school board members Shawn Frost (Indian County) and Erica Donalds (Collier) who are known for their open distain for public schools, and support of privatization. It’s my opinion they should all be ashamed of themselves.

Scott, I hoped we were done with you, but I guess a leopard really can’t change his spots.   

Janet Cruz files legislation to give the people the ability to pick the commissioner of education.

Former speaker Richard Corcoran spent a legislative career proving he was no friend of public education and enriching his family by ramming through legislation that would benefit his wife who runs charter schools.  So what does governor DeSantis do? Why, despite a complete lack of education experience makes him commissioner of education and gives him over a quarter of a million dollar salary. Well where we may not be able to do anything about this ridiculous pick, Senator Janet Cruz wants to make sure we have a voice going forward by putting the commissioner of education back on the ballot.    

From Florida Politics,

State Sen. Janet Cruz filed a bill Tuesday that would return the state Commissioner of Education job to the ballot.
“Floridians deserve the right to vote for who is leading our education system,” the Tampa Democrat said. “Voters currently have no direct influence on state education policy and this resolution seeks to put an end to that.”
Cruz’ bill (SJR 422) comes after former House Speaker Richard Corcoran was selected as the state’s education chief. Corcoran is a proponent of school choice, making him an unpopular pick among Democrats, many of whom believe state funds should be reserved for the traditional public school system…
…“Going forward, we should remove politics and personal agendas from the selection process” she said.
“The commissioner of education needs to be a champion of Florida’s traditional public education system. This resolution restores transparency to the process, and, most importantly, ensures that the voters are heard.”
In 1998, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment restructuring the Cabinet and making Education Commissioner and Secretary of State non-elected offices.
The bill would place a constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot. If approved by 60 percent of voters, the position would then be on the 2022 ballot, aligning it with Florida’s elections for Governor and Cabinet.
I think we need to be honest with ourselves. Just because she filed the legislation doesn’t mean it will pass and in fact it is unlikely too, it would interfere with the republicans in Tallahassee agenda to privatize our schools.  
That being said, this is a good first step to bringing sanity back to Florida’s education system. It is most likely going to take a citizen driven campaign to get it in the ballot, but that’s okay, teachers have never been afraid of work.
So thank you senator Cruz, it’s past time Tallahassee started looking out for public ed. 

Florida has a teaching shortage, so what do they do? Make it worse!

I work at an ESE center school and for time immemorial teachers were able to do so with their ESE K-12 certification. Well that has come to an end as now they are being required to take multiple subject area tests. Many of these teachers are veterans with decades of experience.  
Speaking of these subject area tests, they now cost hundreds of dollars, have been made more difficult and failure rates have sky rocketed.    
This has happened while according to the Florida Education Association, Florida currently has 2,200 teaching vacancies, 700 more than this time last year.
One of the reasons is pay as Florida teachers are some of the lowest paid in the nation, but others include a lack of job security, teachers hired after 2010 can be let go at the end of a school year for any or no reason. The erosion of creativity and flexibility as many teachers are forced to teach to a high stakes test. A lack of resources, teachers routinely spend hundreds if not thousands of their own dollars. Their classes are too large. People might not know it but the class size amendment through changes has all been but completely gutted.  They are evaluated by a complicated and often inaccurate measure that was designed to predict fertility rates in livestock. Then there is also a lack of respect. Teachers have been scapegoated and blamed for society’s ills, often done so by people who want to profit off of education. It is inexplicable to me how the teacher shortage isn’t even worse.
None of above is anything close to being a secret.
So what does Governor DeSantis do when addressing education? He talks about expanding vouchers.
If you didn’t know it, teachers at voucher schools, don’t have to have degrees, don’t have to have expensive certifications, and don’t have to teach to the test, because their kids aren’t required to take standardized or high stakes tests to graduate, while public school students do.  They also aren’t required to have recognized standards or curriculums and more than a few teach junk science, people lived with dinosaurs and history, slaves that had Jesus in their heart were actually free, among other ridiculously, paid for with public money, subjects.    
Now are all private schools that take public money in the form of vouchers terrible? The truth is we really don’t know, because there is so little accountability, most of them don’t even have to report how they use the money. Failed charter school operators have been known to start private schools that take vouchers to get around the very modest requirements that charters have.   
Voucher schools also only educate about five percent of students. This would make one think DeSantis might be more interested in helping public schools but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Traditional public schools educate the vast majority of Florida’s children but they are treated like pariahs and as we can tell they system is about to break.
I tell my students if they are in a hole to stop digging, while unfortunately it seems Tallahassee has requested a backhoe.

When bad administrators get promoted up.

Vitti had a thing for former principal Alvin Brennan despite a long history of bullying his staffs. Vitti put him in charge of First Coast high an A school on the rise and Brennan mostly through massive staff defections dropped its performance in no time.

There are at least three administrators that I know of working in the ivory tower that if a teacher would have performed as bad or as unethical as they did when they were principals they would have been out of a job but instead they were promoted down town. While they were principals they held the fate of many teachers in their hands, some had their carers cut short.

This is why the following is so troubling.

From the Sarasota Herald,

 Members claim they were not informed about a state investigation into superintendent Cynthia Saunders

When Cynthia Saunders became Manatee County Schools superintendent last June, the board that elected her was unaware she was under a state investigation for fraud.
Her superior — and longtime friend — never informed them, board members say.
Diana Greene allegedly withheld information in a report from the Office of the Inspector General that concluded Saunders inflated graduation rates by ordering school administrators to creatively re-categorize students who were dropping out so they would not count against the district. Greene also disregarded the OIG’s recommendation that a copy of the investigation be placed in Saunders’ personnel file.
“A lot of people were in the dark,″ said current School Board member and former chairman Scott Hopes.
Hopes, along with board members Dave Miner, Charlie Kennedy, Gina Messenger and former board members John Colon and Karen Carpenter all say the same thing: Greene initially downplayed the accusations against her top deputy and did not update the board on the increasingly consequential investigation, including the OIG’s conclusion that Saunders committed fraud, even as she was being considered for the superintendent position. Ron Ciranna, the former deputy superintendent for operations who sat in on board member briefings, confirmed those accounts.
Greene disputes the accusation, which means somebody is lying. Six school board members or Greene.
Administrators have a way of protecting administrators and often to the detriment of teachers. 
So I don’t know who is lying, I do however know there are several former principals working in high paying district jobs that would be unemployed if they did the same thing as teachers.

DeSantis pulls back Andrew Pollack’s nomination to the state BOE, he must now appoint an educator.

I didn’t vote for DeSantis. I don’t agree with many of his education ideas. I think the privatization movement which he calls choice has been a failure and is harming our children and state and I believe the evidence backs me up. Though I have to say just a few weeks in I haven’t been hating DeSantis either like I did Scott from day one. 

He has called for change to the rules of medical marijuana and the environment which I would call baby steps in the right direction and he pulled back the nomination of Andre Pollack to the state board of education a position he was wholly unqualified for.

What happend to Pollack’s family is a tragedy, but a tragedy is not a qualification. This man who admits he never voted until he did so for Trump who seems to have completely embraced has also pushed right wing conspiracy theories, quit the safety commission he was nominated too and drips venom and vigor, telling his opponents he is going to get them, to make them pay.

It’s no doubt that balls were dropped and signs were missed in Parkland, but the reality is this tragedy has many fathers including Tallahassee for not adequately education and putting unrealistic expectations on the system while giving their darlings charters and vouchers a free ride.

DeSantis has done the right thing by pulling Pollack’s nomination back but the truth is that’s just a baby step. Now he should appoint a true educator to the board something the board is and has shockingly not had. Our teachers and students need a long overdue voice on the board a voice if DeSantis truly cared about education he could provide. 

To read more, click the link, http://www.wlrn.org/post/desantis-rejects-parkland-fathers-appointment-board-education 

Corey Booker, Kirsten Gilibrand and the democrats that don’t understand and respect public education

I am a big fan of Barrack Obama but that didn’t stop me from looking hard at other candidates when he ran for reelection in 2012 and that’s because his education policies were dreadful. Race to the top, brought blame the teacher evaluations and doubled down on high stakes testing and in my state of Florida led to the end of teacher protections for every teacher hired after 2010. Now they are all on one year contracts and can be let go for any and no reason. 

I am a big fan of Barrack Obama but he didn’t understand education. This seems to be a problem for at least some of the next group of democrats running for president.

Kirsten Gillibrand said she wants to fix public schools, um spoiler alert they aren’t broken and parrots the talking points of the right wing privatizers. 

Then there is Corey Booker who has long favored charter schools to traditional public schools. 

From the Gadfly on the Wall blog, 

In California, 30,000 Los Angeles teachers are on strike because charter schools are gobbling up their funding without providing the same level of quality services or accountability.

That wouldn’t be surprising if Booker was a Republican.
He has also been a fan of Vouchers that allow children to go to schools where some teach as long as slaves had Jesus in their heart they were more free than people who didn’t and other nonsense.
Obama wouldn’t have gotten elected twice without the help of teachers, I have no doubt about that, but while in office, with his myopic secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, he attacked and damaged the profession. It’s funny, people rightfully complain about DeVos, but Duncan wasn’t much better, and was not an educator either. 
Public education as we can tell by what has happened in state after state, despite being far and away the best option is barely hanging on, suffering attack after attack by people who want to privatize and profit off it. We can’t afford another president who doesn’t understand or appreciate its importance.

Public education more than anything built this great country. It’s not broken and shouldn’t be replaced by private schools that take vouchers and don’t have standards or charters that don’t offer innovation and instead just fill their owners pockets with silver. 

In 2020 we can’t afford to let another smooth talker who gives good speeches run the show. We just can’t. 
The candidate that gets my support will be one that unequivocally supports public education, something I can’t say about Booker and Gillibrand. 
We need somebody who has this position on education
Someone who can figure it out.