Jacksonville @#$&* its kids again!

All across the nation people pushed back against the corporate-reform education movement. In one of the reddest states around, Idaho, they said no to Tom Luna’s draconian blame the teachers, wreck the unions and divert money out of the classroom and into the board room agenda. In Indiana, a state that Romney won by nearly 11 percentage points, the people said no to education commissioner Tony Bennet, perhaps the leading figure in the school accountability, re: privatization, movement behind Jeb Bush. There he was beaten by a teacher. Just a simple teacher who said she had had enough.

Then in Florida, the electorate said no to amendment 8; the legislatures less than sneaky attempt to fund more vouchers and siphon more money away from public schools. Heck nationwide the people said no to Romney’s terrible education plans, preferring Obama’s just bad ones.

I should be jumping for joy. All of this should add up to a good day for education as the nation pushed back against the forces that had been systematically dismantling public education. Except I am not and that is because there is one region which zigged when nearly every other place zagged and you probably guessed it by now that it was Northeast Florida.

Now I am not talking about the reelecting of Adkins, Thrasher and Bean who are no friends of public education. That would be too much to ask that we voted for state officials that cared about our public schools. I have long ago realized that people here in Northeast Florida don’t vote for their interests or even their children’s interests, they vote for little r’s instead.

No, what I am talking about is the one election that is listed as non-partisan that is supposed to be above all this political party this or that mess. I am talking about the election of Ashley Smith-Juarez and Jason Fischer to our school board.

As I said the school board race is supposed to be non-partisan. What’s best for our children not what little letter comes after someones name is supposed to determine how one votes. That didn’t happen in those two races. Fischer, despite his lack of experience, despite questions about his integrity and despite the fact this was just another attempt for him to get into politics (his first failed a few years back) he used the endorsement of every big named republican in the state to get elected. Smith-Juarez, with similar questions floating around her and with a few of the same endorsements, used a war chest of nearly 200,000 dollars to get elected. To give you some scale that is more than four years worth of school board salary and if you guessed not much, then the question was, how much of that came from local teachers and parents.

These two campaigned on a platform of privatizing our schools though they used the word choice instead and this despite the fact their districts are populated with some for the best schools in the city and state. Parents in those two neighborhoods who are happy with their children’s schools, which by most accounts are the vast majority of them, voted against their and their children’s self interests! They voted for those that didn’t come to praise Caesar they voted for those that have come to bury him. Except praise is “help improve” and Caesar is our public school system.

Here is a quick glimpse of what they or their chief backers think. They believe in vouchers and charter schools despite the fact evidence says kids that get them or attend them don’t have better education outcomes. This is even worse in Florida because last year if your child attended a charter school they were 7 times more likely to have attended a failing school. They must not believe in accountability or public oversight of public money either, and this is because private schools don’t have the same accountability measures that public schools do and because charter schools can do whatever they want with the money they get from the public. Did nobody read the recent story of the principal at the failing charter school with 180 students in Orange county that was taking home over 300 thousand dollars a year? The superintendent there makes only 240 thousand. Stories of charter school misappropriations and failure hit the papers about once a week too

Smith-Juarez doesn’t believe teachers are professionals nor does their training or experience matter because if she did she wouldn’t have brought Teach for America to the county which then gave them a first in line position. Hillsborough turned down TFA because they want teachers who are professionals and that will have a chance of spending a lifetime in the classroom. Furthermore TFA does the opposite of what we know to be best practices, taking rookie teachers and putting them in our toughest classrooms where they quickly cycle out leaving a never ending revolving door of inexperienced poorly trained teachers, which means Smith-Juarez isn’t interested in following best practices.

Jeb Bush is the architect behind the high stakes testing, merit pay movement and they readily embraced his endorsement. Merit pay has study after study that says it doesn’t work and the value added method that the powers-that-be have chosen to use to rate teachers has more holes than a colander in it. Then high stakes testing, really?!? Nothing has done more harm to the state of Florida’s schools than the FCAT. This punitive diagnostic tool has destroyed higher thinking, the arts, trades and skills and sucked the joy of learning out of untold amounts of teachers and students alike. Hey but Jeb Bush has a little r next to his name so he can’t be all bad, right?

Fischer then painted his opponent as a liberal because the teacher’s union endorsed him. He made it seem like the union is some evil shadowy organization bent on the destruction of education. Here is a clue people that liked Fischer because he denigrated the union (made up of teachers by the way), they don’t create budgets, levy taxes, design curriculum and programs, fire or hire teachers or protect bad teachers, AND, they endorsed Ashley smith-Juarez too! I hope that popping sound I just heard was some clueless San Joseian’s brain exploding at the thought of both Jeb Bush and the teachers union endorsing Mrs. Smith-Juarez.

Smith-Juarez’s chief mentor, Gary Chartrand is just as bad as bush. This man went from top 50 in grocery store news to the chair of the state board of education. He has never been on the right side of an education reform with a basis in evidence and has even come out against the lone one used in Florida, smaller classes, that does.

So instead of picking their opponents, one a woman of the people, Suzanne Jenkins, who grew up and put her children in our public schools and the other, John Heyman an experienced dedicated and strangely enough conservative advocate, both of who were interested in fixing our schools problems, the voters in Mandarin and San Jose gave a big %$# you to the city’s students and picked representatives that aren’t interested in fixing our schools but dismantling them.

Good freaking job!!!!

All over the nation, cities and states and heck even the nation itself pushed back against ideas not based on facts or evidence, millionaires and billionaires seeking to profit off our children, blame the teacher mantras and hubris driven sycophants bowing down to the Gary Chartrand and Jeb Bush’s of the world, but here. Right here in good old Jacksonville Florida all those things get embraced.

So I will try to be hopeful as these inexperienced, bad idea having, hubris driven new school board members take over but it won’t be easy but then very little over the last decade has been as this is nothing new. People here like voting for the biggest name or who they go to church with or who they think might have a little r next to their name. What’s best for the kids and schools is far down the list?

Jacksonville Florida talks a good game by the way. We have the City of Hope with the Times Union, the TPC and dozens of teacher excluding civic groups that all say they care about education but the reality has shown us the exact office because the reality is we have been terrible for way to many for way to long. Pockets of excellence happen in spite of the city not because of it.

But then that’s nothing new either.

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