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Monday, June 19, 2017

Supporters of charters have to take responsibility for all their fraud and failure

The founder of two Duval and fifteen Florida charter schools, Marcus May is in big trouble, accused of stealing money from Florida's taxpayers and children and a local politician, Scott Shine and business leader, Gary Chartrand because of their charter school advocacy are partly responsible. 

Why do I single out Chartrand and Shine when there are many republican politicians and "business leaders" who advocate for charters?

Scott Shine recently said he is okay with a massive expansion of charters because union teachers would lose their jobs and Gary Chartrand has spent tens of thousands of dollars to elect charter friendly politicians. 

But to be honest anybody who has advocated for charters and their loose restrictions is also partly responsible. 

That doesn't absolve Chartrand and Shine though because of they really cared about our public schools and children, instead of advocating for more charters they would be advocating for both less and serious restrictions on those that remain. 

From the Times Union:

The founder of a charter school company that managed two schools in Jacksonville was charged Monday, along with a business partner, with racketeering and organized fraud allegedly involving 15 charter schools in Florida.

Prosecutors say Marcus May, owner of Newpoint Education Partners, is accused of misusing and co-mingling charter school money, as well as taking excessive payments and “kickback” fees, and spending the proceeds on such things as cruises, numerous trips to foreign countries, plastic surgery, home mortgages and a personal watercraft.
“May obtained more than $1 million of public funds from a pattern of thefts from the state department of education, six school districts and 15 Newpoint-managed charter schools,” said District 1 State Attorney Bill Eddins, in a prepared statement.
In total, Newpoint’s charter schools in Florida received $57 million from the state and from six school districts, including Duval, between 2007 and 2016, the affidavit attached to the charges states.
I can't say for a fact how all of the Newport Charter schools did but I can say the two on Sunbeam, San Jose Academy and San Jose Preparatory High schools grossly under perform when compared to other schools in the area as many charter schools do.
More outrageous is Tallahassee has just passed a massive expansion of charters supported by local business man Gary Chartrand and School board member Scott Shine which guarantee more of above, more fraud, waste and more kids getting a substandard education.
Over 350 charter schools have closed in Florida so what does Tallahassee do? They set aside 130 million dollars of crony capitalism for more expansion. What a %$#^ing travesty. 
More from the Times Union, but make sure you are sitting when you read it because its outrageous.
The new charges go beyond last year’s indictment, said Russell Edgar, assistant state attorney on the case, because they involve more charter schools and counties. “We thought this was not an isolated case,” he said. “It appears to be a pattern throughout the state.”
He said May used Newpoint to convince parents and others to start charter schools, form nonprofit corporations and take positions on school governing boards. (Charter schools are public schools run by non-public boards rather than elected school board members.)
These charter board members had little or no experience operating schools or handling bookkeeping, payroll or facilities, according to the affidavit.
May, through Newpoint, charged the charter schools a management fee of 18 percent of whatever the state sent the schools in per-student funding, plus his expenses, the affidavit says.
Instead of expanding charters we should be calling for a moratorium on them before more of above happens, because we all know it will.

The future of public education if the republicans in Tallahassee get their way

One picture says it all as the Florida Legislature moves to replace public schools with charters.

Picture from the Hechinger report

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dear Republicans, please stop trying to destroy public education. Thank you, a tax payer.

Republicans have dominated state government since 1999. They have been in charge of both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion and since the governors appoints supreme court justices the legislative branches as well. That is 18 years.

Since Jeb Bush was governor with a brief slow down by Charlie Crist, Republicans have done all they can’t kneecap public education. High stakes testing, a republican idea, ignoring poverty, a republican idea, basing teacher’s evaluations on a nearly incompressible VAM formula, a republican idea, underfunding schools and underpaying teachers, a republican idea and there is school choice, the worse republican idea of all.

Vouchers for private schools annually drain hundreds of millions of dollars from the state coffers and where run of the mill republicans may like the idea of vouchers, I bet they don’t like the idea of them not having any accountability. Schools that take vouchers don’t have to take the state tests which are so important for public schools, have certified teachers or a recognized curriculum and most do not even have to report how they spend the money.

Then there are charter schools. I bet most people don’t know that over 350 charters schools have taken money and folded. I bet most people don’t know that as a group they underperform when compared to public schools and most of the ones that do well, are set up in neighborhoods and communities that already have public schools that are doing well.  

Most of the charter chains are for profit and business has been good making their owners multi-millionaires and one of the biggest special interest’s groups in Tallahassee giving millions to politicians who push their expansion. In fact, several republican legislators who introduce and push charter school bills either work for or own charter schools or have families that do. That blatant conflict of interest is okay here in Florida too, which again is a republican idea.

Charter schools admittedly a noble concept are nothing more than crony capitalism that destroys home rule. Up till now I thought were two things that real conservatives and republicans railed against.

Then there is the abomination of house bill 7069. This 278-page train bill was created on the last day of the session, behind closed doors without input or debate from the public. Senator Corcoran, one of the men sequestered away crafting the bill, wife owns a charter school by the way. Then the governor didn’t sign the bill until after a special legislative session where his pet projects, Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida were funded. Public schools, the children that attend them and the teachers that work at them were reduced to bargaining chips.

The bill makes it easier to close schools and creates a 130-million-dollar fund to replace them with charter schools despite their awful track record. It also forces cash and resourced starved public schools to share tax dollars earmarked for repairs with for profit charter schools.   

Republican’s is this what you wanted and voted for?

Republicans argued, we must change the status quo. Well friends they are right, except the real status quo is how republicans have been completely in charge of education for nearly 20 years, to which the bulk of the time they have spent knee capping, starving and chipping away at public education. Not unions, not democrats, but republicans.

Are there problems in public education? Yes definitely, the biggest ones are ignoring poverty, a lack of resources and republicans who have done all they can to hurt public education. Republicans, ordinary ones, not those getting rich in Tallahassee, isn’t it time you said, enough.  

Gary Chartrand has already donated to Scott Shine's reelection campaign.

What does it mean when a millionaire gives another millionaire a thousand dollars?

The election is still 14 months away and Shine I bet plans to raise more money, most of which I am sure will come from charter schools an their supporters than any candidate in Duval history. He knows because of his shoddy performance the only way to get reelected is to buy the seat.

Just a reminder that Scott Shine blamed union teachers for school performances and said a benefit of school closings would be union teachers would lose their jobs.

District 2 if you are looking for I am sure yet another reason to replace Scott Shine here it.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How to fight back against House Bill 7069, it's not over yet.

Picture from Florida Politics

The first thing you can do is share this with every public-school teacher you know, every parent of a public-school student you know and everyone who you might even think cares about public education. We have to get the word out and a half dozen shares among likeminded people is not going to work. We need hundreds of people to share.

Then you can write a letter to your editor and it doesn’t have to be long either, just two hundred words or so and this bill is so bad letters practically write themselves. You can talk about.
-How the bill is filled with crony capitalism
                        -Obliterates home rule of school boards
                        -Sends hundreds of millions to for profit businesses
-Conflicts of interests as it was pushed and promoted by legislators who had direct or family ties to charter schools.
-It was crafted at the last minute, in secrecy and the public didn’t have an opportunity to weigh in
-It violates the singe subject rule and cobbles together dozens of different nominally related issues.
                        -It siphons away funds from already resource deprived schools
-It gives money to an industry that has already seen more than 350 charter schools open and close, leaving families and communities in a lurch
-How it gives charters different rules, like how they are exempt from recess.

And that’s just for starters. Then after you have written a letter to your editor, send the same one to every major paper in the state, and it will only take about twenty minutes because the addresses are in the link below. I have to believe if people knew both how bad this bill was and how it was created they would demand changes and it is up to us to inform them.

Next notify your respective school board members and tell them, no demand that they fight this in the courts.  As I stated above the bill violates the single subject rule and I believe it violates the state constitution by stealing power away from local school boards as well. 

Text of Section 4:
School Districts; School Boards
(a) Each county shall constitute a school district; provided, two or more contiguous counties, upon vote of the electors of each county pursuant to law, may be combined into one school district. In each school district there shall be a school board composed of five or more members chosen by vote of the electors in a nonpartisan election for appropriately staggered terms of four years, as provided by law.
(b) The school board shall operate, control and supervise all free public schools within the school district and determine the rate of school district taxes within the limits prescribed herein. Two or more school districts may operate and finance joint educational programs.[1]

The state constitution is unambiguous. It doesn’t say, unless the legislature passes some terrible bill in the middle of the night. The power of local control has been continuously eroded by Tallahassee well enough is enough and our school boards must fight back.

Then ultimately, we must vote for better people, people who put the states children and schools ahead of their or their campaign supporter’s financial motives. People who will do things in the light of day and the right way as well. We are not represented by this current group in Tallahassee we are ruled by them and their personal interests not the good of the people dictate what they do.

People talk about the status quo, how that must be changed, well friends the real status quo is republicans have been in control of education policy here in Florida for over two decades. That is both branches of the legislature, the governor’s mansion and because they have ben appointing supreme court justices, that branch as well. Are there problems in education yes, most have to do with poverty, but many have either been directly caused or by through neglect, by the republican party, and I get it republicans, you might not want to hear that but it is the truth.   

We can change what has happened, we can right the wrongs and fix the issues in public education but only if we collectively do something and above lets you know how you can help and what you can do.

Governor Rick Scott and Speaker of the house Richard Corcoran are laughing at you

Governor Rick Scott and Speaker of the house Richard Corcoran whose wife runs a charter a charter school laugh about the theft of public money from the states public schools and children.

They think the people of Florida are idiots and that they can steal and pay no price and the worst thing is, so far they have been right.

HB 7069 crafted in the dead of night, without public input by three men who hate public education is nothing short of theft, theft from children to enrich republican donors.

Picture from Florida Politics

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Floridians aren't led they are ruled

From the Times Union

“This bill, which faced bipartisan opposition in the State Senate, has the potential to devastate Florida’s public education system,” wrote State Senator Gary Farmer in a letter Tuesday to Scott.
“This dreadful piece of legislation, if signed into law, would dramatically reduce the ability of school districts across the state to devote resources towards improving our public education.”
He noted that the bill’s 278-pae amendment includes some measures that never were discussed or debated in the state Senate.
“This bill is a textbook example of a failure in government transparency,” he wrote. He’s a Broward County Democrat on the Senate’s Education Committee.
House Bill 70160 was cobbled together is secrecy between three men, Floridians did not get to debate or present evidence either and at least one of these men stands to benefit directly from legislation he introduced.
Also from the Times Union
Scott said he will sign the bill at 3:45 p.m. at a private school in Orlando because it increases school choice options for parents. The legislation was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whose wife runs a charter school in Pasco County.
Um what the $%#@ his wife runs a charter school which will be the beneficiary of more public dollars. He was allowed to vote for this train wreck of a bill as was a half dozen or so other legislators who likewise work for or who have direct ties to charter schools and where this may be legal in Floriduh it sure as heck isn't decent.
This is not about a difference in opinion about policy, this is about the theft of democracy from the people of Florida. Class size, medical marijuana , land conservation have all been approved by the people of Florida but likewise these measures have ether been gutted, twisted or at best partially implemented.then this bill crafted in the dead of night on the last day of the session by three men, who have all shown a disdain toward public schools is the biggest travesty of all. We are not led by Tallahassee we are ruled by them and I for one have had enough.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Scott Shine sad to see Iranetta Wright go

Proving a broke clock is right more often than he is, Shine bemoaned the loss of Wright in the Times Union.

From the Times Union: 

Last fall, when Vitti appointed Wright chief of schools, some School Board members noted complaints about her were coming from the rank and file. Since then Wright has garnered more support on the School Board.
Board member Scott Shine said that although he is optimistic that the school district is being run by experienced, capable hands, he is concerned to lose someone like Wright.
“Ms. Wright was a strong leader and I am concerned with any cabinet level staff moving on to new opportunities,” he said “I believe any time you change a superintendent, you likely will experience an additional loss of talent. I have expressed my desire that we work hard to minimize loss of key leadership.”
While Shine is sad to see her go hundreds of teachers if not more are celebrating.

You know what really bugs me? If shine was out there doing his job, talking to teachers, he would know what type of administrator, not leader, she was. Instead he says, he is sad to see her go. Ignorance most truly be bliss.
Wright's departure gives the district a real opportunity to appoint qualified leaders whose focus is to build teachers up rather than to tear them down. 

Iranetta Wright leaves the district

When superintendent Vitti first arrived to the district he both said and did many of the right things. Perhaps the first chink in his armor was the promotion of Iranetta Wright from principal of Jackson to his leadership team. For somebody who claimed to be data driven, the data did not support this promotion.

Later he would fire or demote mostly new principals whose track records were at least as good if not better than Wrights.

Despite the fact she should have been no more than a dean of girls at a middle schools she was Teflon as she moved up the ranks, she must have known where the bodies were buried.

Where she did have her supporters her detractors were legion, well those she did not run off with her authoritarian, borderline cruel and often rude leadership style.

Many believed she was little more than a bully in meticulously tailored outfit.

Vitti was bad but his hatchet man, err woman was worse. This is good news for the district and hopefully signals that Superintendent Willis won't put up with bullies masquerading as administrators.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Role of a School Board member

From Stone Eggs, by Greg Sampson

This morning brings news from California that a school board member is surveying students via Google docs to ask them which of their teachers should be fired.

I'm not making this up:

Check the survey out for yourself.

School board members are elected officials. As such, there are no requirements, no qualifications, no certifications they have to hold to enter office other than receiving a majority of the vote in the election in which they ran.

Thus, it is not surprising that too many don't understand their role.

School board members are the representatives elected to oversee the public school system that is taxpayer funded. As such, they set policy, hire and supervise a superintendent who leads and manages the schools on a daily basis, and fulfill legal responsibilities to approve contracts that legally bind the institution to debt and payments of tax dollars, that govern the employees of the school system, and that fulfill the laws of their state. They work with the superintendent on strategic plans to increase student achievement, meet the growing need for seats in rapidly developing areas, and funding the capital (building, furniture, and equipment) needs of the system.

They are a strategic and important link for constituents, that is, voters and parents, who voice their praise and concerns about their schools.

They have a responsibility to advocate for and defend the community's schools against the forces that would decimate them, often for private profit.

Lastly, school board members serve as the guiding force for the democratic institution that the public schools of America have been and should always be.

School board members are not elected to micromanage schools. They have no say in who is appointed principal, who teaches at the school, and what discipline they think an individual teacher should receive other than to approve sanctions recommended by the superintendent as their legal responsibility.

School board members are not elected to hand over taxpayer-bought assets to private corporations.

School board members are not elected to implement policy hostile to the schools, parents, students, and employees that they represent. They should not be advocating via voice or print that public schools should be closed in favor of 'choice', a buzz word that means privatization. They were not elected to destroy the institution. If that's what they believe in and have any integrity at all, they would resign.

If not, they will find themselves voting to rob taxpayers of their tax dollars. First the taxpayers paid to construct the school, then they have to pay a third party to buy the school, then when the school fails, they can watch the third party sell the property but they won't see the dollars return to the school system. In that event, the word 'thief' is not too harsh to describe those who give their approval.

School board members advocate for their schools. They don't ask students what teachers should be fired. That reveals an ignorance of what takes place in their schools that can only be remedied by actual experience.

They understand and work against the idea that they can run parallel school systems (public, charter, and voucher) on the resources sufficient for only one school system.

They understand that a grading system of schools that relies upon one measure--testing--is insufficient to evaluate the excellence of a school that must also provide meals, counseling, and other support systems to students in desperate need of help.

They are vocal in expressing their appreciation for all their hard-working employees, not only once a year when the calendar arrives in the first week of May, but throughout the year.

It's not easy being a school board member, but these days, no job in education is easy.

School board members are pivotal in easing that burden or making it harder.

On this Sunday in June, I ask every school board member to reflect and consider, then answer the question: am I making it easier or harder?

Friday, June 9, 2017

The difference between Becki Couch and Scott Shine

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and indoor   

  They are both on the school board but how they approach the job is very different. As Governor Rick Scott is about to sign the public school kneecapping HB 7069 Becki Couch thought it was a good idea to travel to Tallahassee to lobby the governor to veto the bill with a few dozen other education leaders and activists.

Scott Shine on the other hand is shrugging his shoulders and writing editorials saying, you know it wouldn't be the worse thing to have some of our schools close because union teachers would lose their jobs.

Couch fights for our district while Shine treats the job like it was just a line on his bucket list and proposes dismantling the district.

Thank You Mrs. Couch and Shame on you Mr. Shine.

Does Scott Shine want 27 schools taken over by charters?

In the Beaches Leader, Mr. Shine wrote how it might not be so bad if three middle schools closed and were taken over by charters. 

From the Beaches Leader:

  "I conducted a study of Duval Schools, that may close under 7069 and found a clear and direct relationship between those schools and the highest concentration of union teachers in the city of Jacksonville."

"The strategic advantage of converting union heavy public schools to non-union charters would be a direct connect to eliminating union member jobs and the findings speaks for itself."

Pretty damning stuff if you ask me. 

The Times Union reported that it's not three school that are in trouble but potentially as many as 27.

From the Times Union:

According to a just-released list of schools, there could be up to 27 school closures in Duval County in the next couple of years.
At least three Duval middle schools could be forced to close over the summer if their school grades don’t improve and the bill is signed into law, said Board Chairwoman Paula Wright, adding that the time line for the closures is unclear in the bill.
The middle schools in danger are Northwestern Middle, Ribault Middle, and Matthew Gilbert Middle.
Another 23 schools could be in danger of closing the following school year: Brentwood Elementary, Annie R. Morgan Elementary, GRASP Academy, Marine Science Education Center, Garden City Elementary, Lake Shore Middle, John Love Elementary, Lake Forest Elementary, Hyde Park Elementary, San Jose Elementary, Lake Lucina Elementary, Highlands Elementary, Saint Clair Evans Academy, Smart Pope Livingston Early Learning Center, George Washington Carver Elementary, Arlington Middle, Hyde Grove Elementary, Jefferson Davis Middle, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary, Fort Caroline Middle, Arlington Heights Elementary, Gregory Drive Elementary and Highlands Middle.
A few schools — Andrew Jackson High, Love Grove Elementary and Timucuan Elementary - also could be shuttered if the state decides to renege on a prior promise to “hold harmless” certain school grades in 2015, Duval officials said.
27 schools may be taken over if house bill 7069 passes and I guarantee you all of those schools have union teachers, teachers that Shine blames. Since that is the case and based on his own words I can't help but think he wants those schools to fail as well so they can be taken over by charters. 
What Scott Shine wrote was reprehensible and I can't imagine despite the fact he said he did a study, oy vey, it is steeped in any type of evidence at all. This guy was elected to help improve our schools not cheer for their failure so they can be taken over by charters.
Our schools do have issues but perhaps the biggest one is school board members who actively root for their failure.
District 2, I am looking at you, you have to do better.

Vitti and post traumatic stress

I went to a teacher round table yesterday at UNF. There were about thirty teachers from all around the district and we met to discuss characteristics we would like to see in the new superintendent, spoiler alert, education experience was at the top of most of our lists and I will do a series on that next week.

There was one really amazing thing that  all of these teachers, and mind you there were teachers from all grade levels and from all over town had in common. They all universally thought Vitti had done a poor job and the district was worse off for him. Now there may have been somebody in the crowd who thought he was okay or even did a good job but they sure as heck didn't speak up. Now I haven't done a study, I will leave those to Scott Shine but he doing a poor job is a nearly universal sentiment that I have heard.

Now I get it, people that loved Vitti probably aren't going to track me down and tell me so and who knows teachers that attend round tables may be predisposed to not like his performance but anecdotally the evidence seems clear and the message is loud. Vitti overall was terrible.

In my group our facilitator had to remind us several times that he was gone and we were there discuss what we wanted in the next super, but I think in a way we were comforting ourselves by talking about the damage he had wrought and found solace together that we had somehow survived him.

Here is the thing, when he left a lot of teachers breathed a sigh of relief and it rejuvenated teachers too as it gave them hope that what comes next will be better, now it is just up to us to make sure that is what happens.

You see there are two voices in Jacksonville, the business community and the so called city elite on one side and teachers on the other and I don't have to tell you which voice gets listened to and which one gets ignored.

It is both disheartening and amazing to me how the opinions of teachers on education issues goes consistently ignored and unsolicited. We have to change that. Not me, and not this poorly written dumb blog but we and we do so by making sure our voices are heard.

Right now we have the power, they need us more than they have ever needed us before because fewer and fewer of us are showing up, we have the power and now it is up to us to use it.