The Jacksonville Public Education Fund (JPEF) is bad for our schools!

Yes I am talking about the same group that announces Jacksonville’s
teacher of the year finalists, the group that has been instrumental in generating
community involvement in our schools and who has connected donors with teachers
who need supplies too. Yes I am talking about the same JPEF whose members are
so cheery and nice that I have no doubt that in their free time rescue puppies
and help old ladies across the street. Despite all of that I feel more than
comfortable saying they are bad for our schools.
When the JPEF strays over into suggesting policy, their name
and their cozy relationships with the chair of the state board of education
Gary Chartrand and with superintendent Vitti, gives them instant credibility
and this despite the fact they have done nothing to earn it and noting in their
background suggests they should have it.  
There is not one person in the entire 11 person staff that
has public school teaching experience in Jacksonville or Florida for that
matter. According to their bio’s only one has what I would consider real and sustained
public school experience, while two others mention their brief time working as
Teach for America teachers and in KIPP charter schools. You could find more teaching
experience in the lounge of any European Street on a Friday afternoon during
happy hour. Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying they are bad people, on the
contrary I have met several and find them all affable and earnest but like how
you wouldn’t want me, a short chubby teacher with zero ups on your basketball
team especially with the game on the line, we shouldn’t want them suggesting or
developing policy either.
When the JPEF takes 11 million dollars to bring more Teach
for America recruits, which exacerbates our teacher turnover problem and
assures students in our neediest schools will have a constantly changing band
of novices, to town; they hurt schools, professional teachers and students.
When the JPEF advocates for schools to have a value added
measurements (VAM), which by the way is something both education experts and
mathematician alike say shouldn’t be used to make high stakes decisions (like
grading schools and teachers) they hurt schools, teachers and students.  
When the JPEF shills for Common Core which doesn’t address
poverty the real problem in education, siphons untold millions out of schools
and classrooms and doubles down on the high stakes testing culture we have that
has ruined education for countless teachers and students alike, they hurt schools,
teachers and students and I can’t help but think their lack of real experience has
led to their horrendous policy ideas and positions.
Sadly in education a lack of experience almost guarantees
you a leadership position or a policy development role, because in no other
profession where the people that actually do it are ignored or marginalized
like teachers are.  
Gary Chartrand the chair of the state board of education who
is also on the JPEF’s board and is responsible for bringing the KIPP charter
school, Teach for America (TFA) and the scab Professional Educators Network (PEN)
to town recently said what the state board needs was a citrus grower and since
he is a grocer that makes a certain amount of since. He said this on the same
day the state board of education welcomed Rebbecca Fishman-Lipps a recent transplant
from New York who has two years of Teach for America experience under her belt,
which by the way is two more years of experience than Chartrand has.  That’s right the state’s leading education
figure has zero teaching experience. Could you imagine a day when Jacksonville’s
sheriff had a background in accounting rather than law enforcement? Would the
people of Jacksonville stand for it?
Then there is Arne Duncan the nation’s secretary of education
who recently said teachers come from the bottom of the academic barrel and who also
said that the reason white suburban soccer moms did not like Common Core was
because it showed that their children weren’t as smart as they thought there
were. He wants America’s schools to be more like Singapore and South Korea’s (I
guess Finland’s schools are too unionized) and like Chartrand he has never
taught a day in his life. Can you imagine that? The nation’s top teacher has
zero teaching experience. That’s the equivalent of a Supreme Court justice who
has a background in plumbing not the law and who’s only judging experience
comes from the pie contest at the county fair. Do you think the American people
would accept that?
Gary Chartrand never taught a day in his life. School board
members Jason  Fischer and Fel Lee never
taught a day in their lives, Jeb Bush the architect of Florida’s education
system and who plans to run for president on it never taught a day in his life
and the staff of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund whose name and close
relationships with Gary Chartrand and Dr. Vitti gives them instant credibility
have zero public school teaching experience in Jacksonville, in Florida and of the
11 member staff have just a handful of years overall.
It’s no wonder our schools aren’t reaching their potential.
The people in charge, the people making policy and signing the checks, for the
most part have either no or a laughably inadequate amount of experience. Nobody
with legal problems would hire somebody whose experience consisted of watching
a Law and Order marathon. Nobody would look to somebody with only first aide
training to perform surgery either. And it’s not like there aren’t lots of choices
too. There are hundreds of thousands current and former educators who have
dedicated their lives to children and who better know what education needs in Florida
but instead Rick Scott choose a grocer, a Teach for America Alum with zero
experience in Florida and two years over all and is about to pick a citrus
grower to be on the state board.
Our public schools undoubtedly have problems but the biggest
one by far is a lack of qualified leadership and our schools will undoubtedly
continue to have these problems as long as we allow arm chair quarterbacks who
never played a down in their life to run the show.
The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, staffed with a bunch
of good eggs does some very nice things but they should concentrate on those
things and they should without a doubt also stay as far away from dipping into
the realm of policy as possible.
They however aren’t the only ones.

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