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The Times Union misses 5 million reasons to get rid of TFA

Every time the Times Union does a piece about Teach for America they leave out a very important detail, and that is they are expensive. The district has committed six hundred thousand dollars to Teach for America, then with the QEA donations that goes up to five million (over three years), finally throw in the 5,300 they each TFA teacher receives a year for two years in loan forgiveness and and we have now spent almost 15k extra per teacher.

Now you might be saying only 600 grand comes from the district but even that means we are spending, sans training and first and second year teachers get a lot more training than veterans, the same amount on these novices which create an ever revolving door of and exacerbate the teacher retention problem what we spend on a 7th year veteran.

What would happen if we spent that five million dollars to attract veterans or top grads? Why don't teachers get the same loan forgiveness?

It's because the powers that be behind Teach for America dislike labor and want to reduce the teaching profession and every time the Times Union does an article about them and leaves out all the extra expenses then they have joined the wrong side on the war against teachers.

To read the TU piece, click the link:

How absolutely bad Rick Scott has been for teachers retirement.

The FEA's really bad week. Unions letting teachers down.

I am a member of my local union, DTU which is affiliated with the Florida Education Association. I believe in unions and am grateful for them too but at the same time I have to scratch my head at some of the poor choices they have made this week, which is ironic because they are currently having their annual convention and this should be a celebration of all they do.

First they gave 500 dollars to local school board candidate Scott Shine. Some of his other contributors are Gary Chartrand, Thomas Baker and Charter Schools USA, three of the biggest advocates for school privatization in the state. How can I go after him and point out all of Shines dubious allegiances when the FEA chooses to support him too?

Then they are giving an award to another supporter of the privatization movement. 

From the Tampa times: The statewide teachers union on Friday will honor Bishop Victor T. Curry with its Human and Civil Rights Leadership Award.
Look I am sure this guy has done some good work but at the same time he's snubbing his nose at what the FEA knows is the right thing to do. Were they trying to smooth things over or did they just not know or care.
Either way the FEA has to get with it and stopping supporting privatizers who would get rid of the FEA if they could should be step one.

The despicable behavior of voucher supporters

The supporters of vouchers led by Tampa Millionaire John Kirtley have deep pockets, unfortunately they don't want to use that money to pay for vouchers, instead they want to make sure that you do and to facilitate this they have created a group called the Florida Federation of children to further their aims but make no mistake it's not public school children that they care about.

Instead they have pledged to use their considerable wealth to influence school board races and that's despicable. School board races are supposed to be intimate affairs where neighbors pick one of their own to represent them and their schools. Now if the supporters of vouchers have their way then people will be represented by board members who prefer privatization to improvement and school board races which have typically been low budget affairs are the perfect places for them to buy seats because money typically outweighs message.

Message is a problem with voucher proponents too. Instead of answering legitimate concerns about accountability they try and drown them out with money provided by Charter Schools USA and John Baker of Jacksonville a man with close ties to several charter schools who along with Kirtley are the backers of the Florida Federation of Children. Ask yourself, do you want millionaires and charter school owners influencing your school board races, electing board members who are loyal to them not to you?

It's already happening too. Misleading mailers in Miami, John Kirtley bragging about getting school board members not from where he lives defeated and the republican party of Jacksonville threatening board members with political retribution if they don't support vouchers.

You know if these ultra rich individuals wanted to pull their money to provide vouchers nobody would have a problem. They however don't want to do that and instead expect the citizens of Florida to make up the losses to the state treasury that the scholarships incur. Last year alone that was 714 million dollars. Read that again.

People must ask themselves do they want school board representatives to be people who are dedicated to improving our public schools or to be people who are dedicated to replacing our public schools, the voucher group falls into the latter.

To read more, click the link:

Another terrible report about Florida's charter schools!

When will Florida wake up and stop wasting money and harming young people's lives? 

From the Sun Sentinel:

But more than a thousand pages of public records obtained by the Sun Sentinel raise questions about the private company’s management of its six charter high schools, including five in South Florida, which are publicly funded but independently operated.
 Many of the company’s schools have been investigated and asked to return public dollars. Three have closed. Local, state or federal officials have flagged academic or other problems at Mavericks schools, including:
 • Overcharging taxpayers $2 million by overstating attendance and hours taught. The involved schools have appealed the findings.
 • Submitting questionable low-income school meal applications to improperly collect $350,000 in state dollars at two now-closed Pinellas County schools.
 • Frequent academic errors that include skipping state tests for special-needs students, failing to provide textbooks and using outdated materials.
 The schools are overseen by volunteer governing boards, which pay the West Palm Beach-based company to manage the schools’ academics, finances and operations.
 Administrators defended the schools, despite the financial issues and low grades.
 Mavericks schools have been repeatedly cited for flawed enrollment and attendance numbers, which Florida uses to determine how much public money charter schools get.
 The Miami-Dade school district counted no more than 200 students during four visits to the Homestead school in February 2011. Yet the school had reported a 400-student count and 100-percent attendance on those days, the district found.
 A Broward school district official discussed a similar discrepancy in a June 2012 email to district staff members. Broward school district officials accused the Fort Lauderdale school of inflating attendance numbers, according to the email.
 An audit released by the Palm Beach County school district in 2013 found 300 discrepancies between the attendance records logged by teachers and those reported to the school district, and no evidence that 14 students enrolled by the Palm Springs school were actually taking classes, the report states. The school was forced to return $158,815…..
 Jim Pegg, who oversees charter schools for Palm Beach County school district, “said problems with Mavericks in Education have frustrated district officials. State charter-school laws do not address the performance of management companies.
“The statute doesn’t give any kind of authority to hold those management companies accountable; we can only hold the schools accountable,” Pegg said. “We need to be able to have some authority with [management companies]. They are the ones taking the tax dollars.”
From Diane Ravitch: Mavericks and the many other for-profit management companies flooding Florida are an integral part of former Governor Jeb Bush’s “Florida miracle.” The schools can be accountable, but the management company that gets paid cannot be held accountable.

Councilman Richard Clark willing to endanger children to bring Charter School to town

Duval County has 31 charter schools, 31, that's more than some Florida counties have public schools and council man Richard Clark thinks we need one more and is willing to bend the rules and endanger children to make it happen. 

From the Times Union: 
The property falls within a “school regulation zone” that bars new schools in certain areas within the vicinity of airports. The city can waive that restriction by determining the public benefit of a school outweighs the risk of a plane crashing into the school.

City Councilman Richard Clark filed legislation saying the benefit of expanding the city’s network of charter schools would justify granting a waiver.

But the city planning department had not done any report on the legislation, so it had no recommendation for or against the waiver. The city had not posted signs at the property or mailed out notices to nearby residents about the proposal, which also is standard for city decisions affecting how property can be used.

The “school regulation zones” extend 5 miles from the end of airport runways. The width of the zones varies depending on the airport because the width is equal to half the length of the runway.
State law lets local governments grant waivers for new schools on a case-by-case basis.

Clark’s legislation argues a waiver is justified because Duval County competes with surrounding counties on public school performance, and “new charter schools have demonstrated a successful alternative to the existing, traditional public school system.”

Why aren't our elected leaders required to be informed about issues? Duval's charter schools as a group grossly under perform when compared to public schools.

From Context Florida: 
In Jacksonville, with its areas of almost intractable poverty, it’s easier said than done. While some school-grade calculations are still pending, 32percent of Jacksonville’s elementary and middle charter schools graded so far this year have earned F’s.* By contrast, so far, only 12.5 percent of Duval’s traditional public schools scored F’s this year. Speaking in proportionate terms, and without accounting for sample sizes, Jacksonville’s charter schools, as a district, have 2 ½ times the number of failing schools than do our traditional-district schools.

We are paying for it dearly — not only in terms of student failure, but also in terms of diffused resources. Test-based accountability is a little too high-stakes in Jacksonville as compared to our nearest-peer district, Hillsborough. (Hillsborough County is exempt from the provisions that count test-scores as 50 percent of teachers’ evaluations.) Nevertheless, standards-based accountability permits educators to zero-in on students’ specific academic needs in order to better serve them.

But here is Richard Clark, at best ignorant, perhaps compromised willing to bend the rules, possibly endangering children to bring another unnecessary charter school to town.

Florida forces us all to support religion!

The First amendment of the constitution allows me to participate in the religion of my choice or not to participate in religion should I choose not to. So why does the state of Florida think they can get away with forcing me to support religions and their activities which is exactly what it is doing with the states Tax Credit Scholarship program better known as school vouchers,

Last year corporations donated 357 million to Step up for students, who by the way is allowed to take a three percent cut, the corporations then received a dollar for dollar tax credit. That means 714 million dollars, a number that can rise by 20 percent every year, did not go into the states coffers. That is revenue lost that could have paid for a lot of things or a 36 dollar rebate every person in Florida could have received. Well who is forced to make up that loss? I was, my wife and neighbors were and if you live in Florida so were you. Then since 90 percent of the voucher money goes to private religious schools, many affiliated with churches, the state is in effect forcing me to support organized religion and most likely not my religion.

Also if it is such a good program why can't ordinary citizens donate to it after all we all know corporations don't really pay taxes they just pass those expenses on to their customers. The state takes plenty of money from me in the form of fees and taxes. Why can't I write a check and then get the same amount back from the state?

I submit only private citizens should be able to donate to the voucher program and then they could pick if the money went to a religious institution or not. Right now none of us are given that choice.  Either that or we should amend the constitution because I an sure this is not what the framers intended. But if the state does want to give a tax break to corporations let it be for money they would give to public schools, something Charlie Crist has proposed but Rick Scott has rejected.

I believe supporting religion should be a personal choice not one forced upon us, after all this is the United States not some middle eastern theocracy. This back door trick that forces the citizens of Florida to subsidize and support religion should not be allowed to stand.

Which Vitti do you want to be your superintendent?

I have to say the concept of charter schools is an appealing one. They are supposed to be parent/teacher driven laboratories where they experimented to see what was best for the child. Unfortunately what Florida has created are publicly funded private schools and they are often sold that way too, which care more about making profits for their owners than educating our children. They don't work with districts to fill needs and instead they work to undermine public schools and siphon resources away.

Superintendent Vitti has had a Jekyll and Hyde relationship with charters, sending letters to the state to apply for grants to bring charter schools to town and attending conferences with the same goal. All the while saying below to the people of Jacksonville.

Way to go Superintendent, way to push back. The man in the video is somebody I can get behind, unfortunately that is the same man from the first part of the post and him I can't.

Vitti might not get it but public schools are at war with the forces of privatization and to be frank I would prefer a super that took a side, instead of taking both. 

Marco Rubio only offers bad choices.

Marco Rubio writing for Fox News criticized the opponents of school choice in an op-ed. I don't think the venue should be overlooked because it says he is playing to a far right base rather than willing to engage in meaningful discussion.

I think the people of Florida should have grave concerns about the direction Rick Scott and the republican dominated legislature have steered education. They have signed us up for an experimental curriculum, common core, that does not address poverty. They have constantly marginalized the teaching profession They have starved our schools of resources, they have put non-educators in charge, look at the make up of the state board and they have created an accountability system that the states superintendents, teachers and parents, feel is so unfair they  have rebelled against. In short they have created crisis after crises and Rubio like politicians often do is now seeking to take advantage of them and is using choice to do so. The problem is the choices Florida are offering are bad choices.

Private schools that take vouchers, that's money that would normally have been paid into the states coffers, resist accountability and aren't required to have certified teachers and recognized curriculums. Charter schools, of which over 260 have taken public money and failed often exclude poorer students, disabled students and students who speak English as a second language. Neither of these options despite having sizable advantages like who they take and keep and being able to put requirements on parents, perform better than public schools.

Instead of playing to a far right base, Senator Rubio should encourage Tallahassee to work to improve our public schools, anything else does us a disservice .

Who do Smith-Juarez and Fischer really work for?

These are the two school board members who voted for the resolution that was against the voucher lawsuit. I ask who they really work for because it is obviously not for the people who elected them. You see I am sure those people voted for representatives who they thought would fight to improve our public schools.

We know Fischer works for the Tampa Millionaire John Kirtly who has made it his life's mission to dismantle our public schools. That's right, he is the one who signs his paychecks.

Smith-Juarez undoubtedly takes her marching orders from Gary Chartrand, the foe of public education grocer who inexplicably is also the chair of the state board of education. Chartrand is not only her former boss but got her elected too.

During the meeting Connie Hall and Smith-Juarez basically said the same thing to explain the rational behind their votes. They both said it had become a distraction and they needed to focus on our kids. They then voted the opposite of each other.

Hall by the way represents the district where voucher kids come from and Smith-Juarez doesn't.

We should have school board members who love public schools, will fight to improve them and work for their interests. Unfortunately we have two Fischer and Smith-Juarez who don't.

Jason Fischer's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I hope the parents of District 7 finally woke up Tuesday night and realized that Jason Fischer is not representing them but instead represents corporate interests whose want is to dismantle public education.

On the same nigh a teacher and guidance counselor from Crown Point, one of the schools he is supposed to represent, gave an impassioned plead for help, asking if the school grade has to drop to a D before any one does so, he brought partisan politics to the board and pushed for vouchers. Fortunately his measure failed 5-2 as only Gary Chartrand protege Ashley Smith Juarez joined him. 

But then it got worse. Instead of joining the tidal wave of push back against high stakes testing and the states punitive grading system, he said, wait a minute the are not so bad. It's almost like he doesn't know that the state is switching to an entirely new and different curriculum and test. Not even Smith -Juarez could go that far against our children and he was the lone vote against the resolution calling for a moratorium. 

He is consistently on the wrong side of important issues, wastes the boards time, brings partisan politics into our schools and even refuses to help the schools he is supposed to represent. It's time District 7 said enough.

To read more click the links: 

Fischer’s concern for taxpayers is rich and the voucher program has no such accountability. Voucher schools aren’t burdened by Common Core and don’t have to take the same tests as do public schools. It’s called separate and unequal, Jason.

However, most of the other board members didn’t see it that way. Scbool Board Member Connie Hall countered that Fischer's resolution was the distraction.    
“I’m very disturbed that my time and this board’s time is really distracted by this,” she said. “My vote tonight is going to be a ‘No’ because we cannot politicize our students.”

A lack of guidance counselors sets children up to fail.

From a reader:

Yes, ASCA recommends a student:counselor ratio of 250:1, but we know we'll never see that because of budget. I work in a high school, and I'm responsible for a little over 500 students. College applications for my seniors, 504s that need to be updated, constant schedule changes, keeping up with my"at risk" students since they're so important for our school grade, dealing with helicopter parents, etc. It's overwhelming. 

Then throw in a student with a crisis (cutting, depression, suicidal) and there aren't enough hours in the day or in the school year to do everything that the district expects. Focusing on putting out fires and keeping the district off our backs, no time for being proactive our working with students to head off problems. 

Since I work at a school where students aren't supposed to have any type of mental health problems, we have no resources easily available to our students. It's really quite sad what my profession has become because we have to wear too many hats for too many students (and their parents).