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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Ed Sec Betsy DeVos says schools have the option to arm teachers

Schools also have the option of providing printer paper, ink and toilet paper but because of a lack of resources many often choose not to.

This comes just days after the Trump administration announced plans to dramatically change the student loan process which will undoubtedly hurt current and former teachers.

From Forbes,

The budget maintains three principal student loan reforms from last year: reforming the income-driven repayment system, eliminating loan forgiveness for borrowers in public-service jobs, and eliminating subsidized student loans. Though estimates vary, these changes are likely to save several billion dollars per year.

Now they want teachers to carry guns as well?

From the Hill during a congressional hearing,

She was also asked about the idea of having teachers who are properly trained and know how to use weapons.
"I think this is an important issue for all states to grapple with and to tackle," she said during the interview. "They clearly have the opportunity and the option to do that. And there is, there are differences in how states approach this."
How different states approach this? Well she might be talking about bears because If you remember last year DeVos said some schools should have armed personnel because of bears.
From the Guardian, 
DeVos, a billionaire and Republican mega-donor, made the comments in response to a question from Chris Murphy, a senator from Connecticut who has led a push for stricter gun laws. Murphy, a Democrat, asked DeVos if she believed guns “have any place in or around schools?”
“I think that’s best left for locales and states to decide,” DeVos responded.
When pressed for a more definitive answer, Trump’s pick for education secretary cited a school in Wyoming surrounded by fences to protect children from grizzly bears.
“I think probably there, I would imagine that there’s probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies,” DeVos said.
Um this woman being in charge seems more like a Monty Python sketch than reality. It's hard to imagine there is a less qualified person out there.
Luckily some politicians are pushing back.
From the Hill,
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Thursday rebutted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's suggestion to arm teachers in order to prevent future school shootings. 
DeVos said in an interview Thursday that states could consider training and arming teachers as a way to stop school shootings. She made the comment while discussing a shooting at a high school in Florida on Wednesday that left 17 people dead. 
Asked on ABC's "This Week" about his thoughts on DeVos's statement, Murphy said there is no evidence to support arming people for self-defense against gunmen.
"There's zero evidence, empirical or anecdotal, that more guns leads to less gun crime," Murphy said in an interview on ABC's "This Week," following a Wednesday floor speech berating the Senate for inaction on gun control. "In fact, if you have a gun in your house, you are more likely to be shot by that gun than you are to use it on a perpetrator."  
Host Martha Raddatz pointed out that the armed guard on the high school campus never got the chance to respond to the teen gunman. 
"It's a wonderful story for the gun lobby to tell that if you just load up schools with weapons you'll be safer," Murphy continued. "All of the evidence suggests that homes and communities that have more weapons have more gun crimes, not less." 
Teachers as a group are under paid, over worked and stressed out as more and more of the job including continued employment has less and less to do with teaching. Now DeVos and others are suggesting Teachers be cops and carry guns too. 
Many teachers don't have safe places to put their purses or phones, let alone a gun. Imagine if that one kid every teacher has in their class came across the gun, or worse wanted to get it? 
Bottom line, arming teachers and expecting them to act as soldiers or the police is a bad idea and would undoubtedly lead to more tragedy and carnage.

Becki Couch addresses the Parkland tragedy

I have grown to be a real fan of Mrs Couch a tireless education advocate. The board, the school system and the city is going to miss her when her term is up in November.

We have a mutual Facebook friend and she addressed the Parkland school tragedy, responding to a meme that in one point encouraged teachers to be armed and in another part, pointing out that most schools can barely afford printer ink.

Via Facebook: 

Why would we expect teachers to now be police and security? 

Why would we expect teachers to be armed without the same vests we provide police officers who are armed? 

Why would we think this is the solution before we have tried to provide adequate funding so our children can attend safe and secure schools? 

Teachers should be given the freedom to teach! I have taken my concealed weapons class and if I were in the classroom I can assure you I would not be prepared to endure what these hero’s at Marjory Stoneman endured. 

It is time our legislators quit paying lip service to parents and take action. I have been to Tallahassee every year for seven years pleading with our legislators for adequate funding so we can meet the safety to life needs of our schools. 

The legislature has kept Safe School funding allocation the same for the last seven years. In FL there has been an influx of 300,000 students and cost of living had increased during this same time. 

Districts ability to increase capital millage has decreased from 2 mils to 1.5 mils taking away millions in funding. PECO (telephone tax) funding has been redirected to charters. I still asked for help. And you know what I got instead for our students? 

We were told we needed to share the little funding we had with unfettered growth of charter schools. This year alone we will lose $3.8 million more to the required sharing of capital. 

ENOUGH! It is time we stand up and demand our legislature and governor stop paying lip service and show they care through their actions. 

It is time they provide mental health funding and Safe School funding so we can prevent these tragedies. 

It is time we redirect the voucher and test obsessed legislators to listen to these heart breaking stories and do something to show they love our kids as much as they love their “Choice” political talking points. 

We MUST do better!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Florida shows its bias towards charter schools again.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

Just a reminder, districts are also now required to share their operating budgets with charters too, sensing millions more.

Should Florida private schools that take public money be required to have teachers with degrees?

Not certified mind you like every public school teacher has to be, but just have a degree in general.

It is absolutely bat sh*t crazy but that is a debate being had in the Florida Legislature right now but welcome to the Sunshine State.

Private schools that take vouchers don't have to have recognized curriculum, certificated teachers or heck teachers with degrees, can teach pseudo-science like creationism and most don't even have to report how they use the money. Florida's voucher program growing at 20 percent a year has siphoned billions out of public school coffers and nobody knows how or what they are doing. You may hate public schools but do you hate them that much that you think above is acceptable?

From the Tampa Times:

After reading an Orlando Sentinel series on the issue, Florida lawmakers came to the conclusion that they needed to stiffen oversight laws affecting private schools that accept state tax-credit scholarships.
They looked at a variety of areas, ranging from school inspections to owner financial status. In drafting his legislation on the subject, Sen. David Simmons also looked at teacher credentials.
He proposed that private school teachers be degreed, differing from the House version. Since then, Simmons said, he has run into pushback.
"There are those who believe there should be certification" for all teachers, Simmons told the PreK-12 Education Committee on Thursday. "There are those on the other end who believe there should be only disclosure [of teacher qualifications] to the parents."
In his effort to get something passed, Simmons has worked to find a compromise. On Thursday, he presented an amendment that he deemed a significant step, but added remains a work in progress.
As currently written, SB 1756 would require a school to report its teachers' qualifications and also to employ teachers who hold a bachelor's degree or higher from a "regionally or nationally accredited college or university in the United States or from a recognized college or university in another country."
That's not certification, he noted, and it takes into account people who have gotten training in many types of environments. He added that the language would apply to teachers hired after July 1, 2018, and who are assigned to grades two or higher.
That way, he said, current teachers at the schools would be "grandfathered, or grandmothered" into the past rules and not lose their positions.
Public schools have been regulated like people hunt seals.
I also find it ironic that the state has jacked up the cost of certification and made it harder while apparently private school teachers just have to be able to write their names so they can sign their checks.
I probably wouldn't care if a billion dollars a year weren't sent to these unregulated schools, but it seems to me that f the public is paying for them there should be some minimal standards. 
This can't be what people have in mine.

Local politicians vote to completely defund Florida's public education system

I am not making that up. I am not being hyperbolic. I am however outraged and you should be too.

The Florida house of representatives voted to tie passing House Bill 7055 a 200 page train bill which among other things siphons more money away from public education and kneecaps collective bargaining, to funding public education and several Jacksonville representatives thought that was a good idea. 

Jay Fant, Clay Yarbourough, Cory Byrd, Jason Fischer who hates public education like he was marred by a bear and left for dead and inexplicably democrat Kimberly Daniels.

Jacksonville can we talk here. Is it your desire to destroy public education? I ask because when you repeatedly vote for people like above that is what you are doing.

It's past time we sent people to Tallahassee who will support our schools, our children deserve it 

To read more, click the link:

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

DCPS and DTU agree to a contract... that's a good thing?

Duval Teachers United and the Duval County School board have finally negotiated a new contract and I sincerely believe that both sides have done the best they can and should be applauded for all their hard work. Unfortunately, it is a contract where most teachers don’t have work protections and can be fired at the end of any year for any or no reason, and which pays teachers far below the national average and far below what professionals with the same level of education receive, because sadly, that is all the state of Florida allows.  

This may also be the last contract that DCSB and DTU negotiate because there is a bill working its way through Tallahassee that would target many teacher’s unions for decertification while leaving police and fire unions exempt which means for a state with a teacher recruitment and retention problem Florida is certainly doing all it can to kneecap the profession and people should start asking why.

There are problems in education but I believe most have been created by people who seek to profit off and privatize education. Tallahassee which has been completely run by the republican party for over two decades often saddles public education with bad policies while starving it of resources and I don’t believe this is what most people want and I point to the twice supported class size amendment as evidence. Overwhelmingly people supported it only to see it basically gutted by the legislature and governor Scott.

I would urge my friends and neighbors that instead of reflexively voting R, they vote for candidates who want to support and improve public education because time and time again the republican party has proven they believe in the opposite.   

So thank you DCSB and DTU for doing the best you can do, I just long for a state government which would allow you to do better.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Will the media look into the Teacher of the Year process and Teach for America?

I sent below to a half dozen contacts in the media:
DCPS or should I say JEPF chose Duval’s teacher of the year this past Friday night and they chose a Teach for America teacher. I find this troubling.
I spoke to another finalist in December who predicted this thinking the fix was in.  
Trey Csar is a TFA alumni and the founder of JPEF Gary Chartrand was instrumental in bringing TFA to town.
Then think about this. Schools choose their TOY nominations way back in September, so in effect the TOY winner is actually the TOY of last year. This means this year’s winner was a second-year teacher, and JPEF says she is the best the district has to offer which boggles the mind. I can’t even imagine she would have enough data to present. When teachers get their student growth scores on their evaluations the district uses a three-year average. How was the fix not in.
Now you might be saying, well its conceivable that this teacher could be our best, better than all the other teachers in the district that I am sure have impressive data but if that’s conceivable isn’t it also conceivable that there were some behind the scenes machinations?
DCPS has said they are going to limit their partnership with TFA and I believe the choosing of this teacher was an attempt to offer the program some validation.  
I would like the media to look at the process of how the TOY is chosen. I have been told that out of the 177 TOY applications, the selection committee picks just 15 to examine and I don’t think it should be lost on anyone that Gary Chartrand has been a long time foe of school teachers and on the First Coast Connect show a few years back said I was a good thing that teachers lost their work protections and that as part of state board of education he has pushed privatization and done very little to support teachers. How does his organization get to pick the TOY. Quite frankly it is insulting they have anything to do with it.    
I also think it is also time the media looked at TFA and let people know about the program.
It’s expensive, in addition to salaries and benefits we pay TFA a finder’s fee (I have asked the district how much and if it is rolling, we pay each year one of them is in the district). Then the QEA gave TFA Jax 6.5 million dollars to run its office, what is that money being used on and why do they need so much?
It’s unfair, a TFA teacher who finishes their two years gets six thousand dollars (through americorp) to pay off student loan debts/grad school/certification costs, while the UNF grad next door, who trained to be a teacher and who plans to spend a lifetime in the classroom gets nothing. Couple that with the finders fee and its price tag goes up and up.
It exacerbates the teacher retention problem. A Harvard study from a few years back admittedly a little old said it was the number one exacerbater of teacher turnover in Duval schools. We also know turnover is expensive as new teachers receive a lot more training and that has costs too.
Then it does the exact opposite of what research says our most vulnerable children need which is an experienced and capable teacher in it for the long haul. Think about this the same people who bemoan we can’t get teachers to go to or stay in our neediest schools are the same ones that support an ever-revolving door of novice teachers.
Now you might be thinking well it gets teachers into those schools, well I submit if we used the same resources we used on them (That 6.5 million we gave to TFA Jax that never saw a classroom could have gone a long way to attract professional teachers) on professional teachers or young teachers that would most likely stay longer in the classroom, then we would be better off.
I really believe if people knew about this program, they wouldn’t want Duval to have anything to do with it but at the very least shouldn’t they know so they can make an informed decision.

Friday, February 2, 2018

This may be unpopular but I call bull#@% on teacher of the year.

I have no reason not to believe Stephanie Bellino of Garden City is not a fine teacher. None whatsoever. The Times Union reports of amazing improvements at her school that the principal credits her with helping to achieve. I have no reason not to believe that she is nothing less than a credit to the profession. I also believe she is a prop in a game she probably doesn't even know is being played.

That is because I believe the fix is in. 

I talked to another teacher of the year finalist a few months back and they warned me that the fix was in. They told me they had no doubt the Teach for America finalist would win. This was last year when they spoke to me.

Is it a coincidence that DCPS is phasing out Teach for America, Trey Csar is a Teacher for America alumni and then a Teach for America teacher wins teacher of the year over teachers that have toiled for a lot longer and who are just as impressive? Maybe but I think not. Rather I think this is a self serving attempt to justify the program. A hail marry to resurrect the program just as more and more people are realizing it's not what we should be putting our limited resources into. 

Teach for America is an expensive program, that exacerbates teacher turnover, that we know gives our most neediest children the opposite of what the need, and despite all that it has been embraced by the city's elite and its shameful.

Look, I get it, this is probably going to be an unpopular stance. I just want to emphasize this is not a dig at Stephanie Bellimo, instead it's an indictment of a group of people who care more about protecting their turf rather than doing what is best for our children.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Republicans in Tallahassee threaten to cut off education funding

The republicans in Tallahassee certainly have chutzpah, not a conscious or morals or ethics but certainly chutzpah. Look at how they have ignored the will of the people with the class size amendment, medical marijuana and land conservation. Now perhaps most brazen of all, speaker of the house Richard Corcoran is threatening to withhold all education funding unless his education train wreck bill passes.  

House bill 7055 has ballooned to several hundred pages covering many different subjects including the knee capping of public teachers unions. The fact that this breaks the singe subject law is immaterial as republicans in the state house do whatever they want.

From WLRN:

A budget proposal that is advancing in the Legislature would make next year's funding for Florida's public schools contingent on the passage of Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran's chief education priority: a new voucher directing taxpayer dollars to private schools.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday adopted a spending plan that would allocate about $8.3 billion in state funding for public schools only if an already-controversial omnibus education bill becomes law.
The legislation is House Bill 7055, which was unveiled last week and ballooned to nearly 200 pages when it was also passed by the House budget committee on Wednesday. The legislation includes Corcoran's main stated priority for the 2018 session, the so-called "hope scholarship, which is a new voucher that would allow bullied students to attend private schools using public dollars. It also includes an especially controversial provision threatening the existence of teachers' unions.
The language linking House Bill 7055 to the primary source of state education funding appears as what's called  "proviso" in the House's main budget bill, the General Appropriations Act (read page 21 here). "Proviso" language is meant to be technical in nature, used to explain how funding should be spent if more detail is necessary than what's delineated in line items. But lawmakers often write sensitive policy changes into "proviso" that sometimes go unnoticed.
It appears that Corcoran, a Land O'Lakes Republican, is hoping to make House Bill 7055 veto-proof. If the proposed language is included in the final appropriations bill, House Bill 7055 would have to be passed by the full Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Scott in order for public school funding to be released.
Both Corcoran and Scott are expected to announce runs for statewide office after the legislative session, which is scheduled to end March 9 — in Corcoran's case, for governor, and in Scott's, for U.S. Senate. The two leaders, who have had a tumultuous relationship in the past, would likely want to avoid further delaying their campaigns ahead of the November races with the messiness of a potential special session.
How is this even approaching right? Is this what my republican friends voted for? Do they want the destruction of public education or do they just reflexively vote R and then head merrily on their way?
There are problems in education though it's far from the disaster that the right, who only cares about their donors, portrays and most of the problems were created by over two decades of complete republican rule.
Republicans should not be able to starve public education of resources and then saddle them with bad policies, lie about and distort their performance and be rewarded for it. It is time we said enough is enough and voted for people who care about and want to improve public education. Let your representatives in Tallahassee know you will remember how they voted on HB 7055.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Superintendent Willis says SR funds to be distributed March 16th

First I am appreciative the superintendent took the time to get back to me. I think she has been a steady and calm influence on the district which is what we needed after the last super ping ponged us into one self inflicted wound and crisis after another.

That being said I have mixed feelings about the announcement. School recognition funds were released to the district last October. Many districts distributed the money before Christmas and the excuse that some schools just haven't made their plans so every school has to wait feels weak. Is that an excuse teachers would take from students or principals from teachers? I don't think so.

This is what the super told me via email:

Mr. Guerrieri -

Thank you for allowing me an opportunity to respond to your email.  The email from the Communications Department is accurate in that statute provides the timeline by which schools (including School Advisory Councils) must submit their plans to the district.  Payments cannot be processed until the plans are received and reviewed for compliance.  We do encourage earlier submissions, however some schools elect to use the timeframe provided by statute for their submissions.  In this case, FSRP plans are being review as they are submitted (with corrective actions as needed), and processing is occurring to meet a March 16th payment.   It should be noted that other compensatory payments are being processed during the same timeframe (i.e. salary increases, performance pay, supplements, Best and Brightest, etc.). 

It is always the goal of my office to distribute all funds to eligible employees in a timely manner and in a way that allows us to remain complaint with requirements for distribution.

Thank you.

Dr. Patricia S. Willis,
Superintendent, DCPS

So it looks like a lot of teachers are going to have a great spring break, and now teachers have some certainty, plus this is certainly better than previous years when the money was released in April and May, though I think we all know, it is what it is.

I don't blame superintendent Willis, as I wrote in another post I think the last administration did not prioritize teachers needs, plus there has been a lot going on what with the negotiation of the contract. I just think we can and should be doing a lot better here.   

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The "Florida hates teacher's unions" bill passed the house today

Warning don't read with milk in your mouth, danger of spitting is high.

Somehow my little blog got on a press release list. I swear to you, I get them all the time. Well today I received five from the Florida House of representatives and three of them had to do with their Transparency and Accountability bill, which is code speak for we're going to hurt teacher's unions in every way possible.

Before you continue I just want to remind you that Florida is a right to work state and nobody is required to join or support a union. 

Basically the bill makes it harder to create and keep unions which puts a knife in the heart of collective bargaining which will undoubtedly lead to lower wages and worse benefits. 

Also why do I say teacher's unions and not unions in general? Well if you read to the bottom you will see unions like the police union and firefighters unions, unions that typically support republicans are exempt.

For a state having a hard time attracting and keeping teachers, Tallahassee is doing all they can to kneecap the profession. 

Here is the press release, just swallow that milk first.

January 25, 2018

Tallahassee, FL—Today, Speaker Richard Corcoran and Representative Scott Plakon released the following statements on passage of HB 25, requiring labor organizations to be more transparent and accountable. 

Speaker Corcoran said, “It’s an automatic red flag when any group advocates a position that encourages less transparency and accountability. The answers to our problems are never solved with less transparency. Every organization has a duty to be upfront, transparent, and accountable to its members in all aspects of its operations. It’s no secret that the Florida House is committed to strengthening transparency and accountability wherever and whenever possible. Employees shouldn't be forced to be represented by an organization they disagree with or no longer support. The House will always fight to empower individuals over bureaucrats.

Representative Plakon said, “This bill makes organizations more transparent and accountable to those they represent. It’s important that we provide dissatisfied workers with an effective and fair process to redress their grievances to bring about greater accountability. This will help ensure these organizations are meeting the needs of the hard-working people they have the honor and privilege to represent.”

HB 25:

Passed the House floor with a vote of 75-41 in 2017
Passed today by a vote of 65-41

Collective bargaining is a constitutional right afforded to public employees in Florida. Through collective bargaining, public employees collectively negotiate with their public employer in the determination of the terms and conditions of their employment. The Public Employees Relations Commission (commission) is responsible for assisting in resolving disputes between public employees and public employers.

Current law specifies that public employees have the right to be represented in collective bargaining by any employee organization of their own choosing or to refrain from being represented. An employee organization that is authorized to represent public employees is known as a certified bargaining agent. An employee organization seeking to become a certified bargaining agent for a unit of public employees must register with and be certified by the commission. A registration granted to an employee organization is valid for one year and must be renewed annually. The renewal application must include a current annual financial report that contains specific information.

The bill requires an employee organization to include the following information in its annual financial report for each certified bargaining unit that the organization represents:

  • The number of employees in the bargaining unit who are eligible for representation by the employee organization; and
  • The number of employees who are represented by the organization, specifying the number of members who pay dues and the number of members who do not pay dues.

If a registered employee organization does not submit this information for a certified bargaining unit it represents, the organization’s certification for that unit is revoked. This provision does not apply to an employee organization that represents, or seeks to represent, employees who are law enforcement officers, correctional officers, or firefighters.

The bill also requires an employee organization that has been certified as the bargaining agent for a unit whose dues-paying membership is less than 50 percent of the employees eligible for representation in that unit to petition the commission for recertification as the exclusive representative of all employees in the unit within one month after the date on which the organization applies for registration renewal. The petition must be accompanied by dated statements signed by at least 30 percent of the employees in the unit, indicating that such employees desire to be represented by the employee organization. If the commission determines the petition to be sufficient, it must order an election to determine whether the employee organization will be certified. The certification of an employee organization that does not comply with this recertification requirement is revoked. This requirement does not apply to an employee organization that represents, or seeks to represent, employees who are law enforcement officers, correctional officers, or firefighters.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Lots of districts have released School Recognition funds, why hasn't Duval?

The word on the street is some schools haven't turned in their plans for the money, you know at  schools where teachers make lots of money. The Union put out an email in December that said 23 schools haven't turned in their plans yet, then today the district told me 23 schools haven't turned in their plans. I get it we had a holiday break, but there has been no change?

Here is the thing, the district should light a fire under these principals who haven't turned in a plan yet. I can't imagine any teachers at those schools going, nah you keep it, just get it to me when ya can. But worse it shouldn't matter for the schools who have turned their plans in. I asked the Florida Bats Facebook page the status of the money in other districts and was told among other things that some schools in Sarasota have received it while others haven't. It is inexplicable to me that schools haven't turned in their plans but why not pay the teachers at the schools that have.

I am happier with the district than I have been in a long time but it's time they released teacher's money. If the district wants teachers to be leaders and show commitment to the system, then instead of doing the minimum and releasing the money as late they can, they should lead by example and bend over backwards to get teachers their money. If they have high expectations for teachers, they should have high expectations for themselves. 

Here is what I was told on the FB page, note I have taken out names and icons,

Alachua and Union receives it before Christmas.

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Suwannee has received theirs.

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Why do some counties receive their money early or do they all receive the monies at the same time and then the county decides to disburse?

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They want to hang on to it while it builds interest in their account.

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Sarasota has the funds and some schools have received it, others have not.

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Duval County won’t release until every school submits their plan for distribution. 23 schools failed to submit plans before winter break. 

Personally I think it’s BS. Give the money to the schools who submitted the paperwork before the deadline. The other schools will have to wait until they submit their plans.


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Jackson got the recognition funds in November . . .

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 Bay got it in November as well