How money matters in community education, part 1: 1200 teachers to hire

How money matters in community education, part 1: 1200 teachers to hire

This series of posts is primarily aimed at Polk’s business community and the wider community that doesn’t follow the intricacies of education policy and politics. It’s aimed at answering some basic questions: What are the real world consequences of years of self-defeating state stinginess in education funding? What does money buy? Why are community districts talking about money? Buying the basics of the service First and foremost, money buys personnel. It buys the fundamental delivery of the public education services that 100,000 Polk kids and families demand — and that the state constitution requires communities to provide. Indeed, state government provides most of the funding and virtually all of the mandates through which local districts fulfill constitutional obligations. Here is the funding breakdown in a pie chart. With that in mind, consider this: The Polk County School District would like to hire 1,200 teachers before the next year starts. That’s about 18 percent of our teacher force. Let that sink in. It’s the first exhibit in what money means to a community school district. It means basic staffing. What if the Lakeland Police Department was down 20 percent of the force? Would that be a crisis? A national, state, and local problem Here is a note from Polk Schools HR Director Teddra Porteous explaining where the 1,200 figure comes from. The 1200 is for overall hiring for the 17-18 school year if we were to hire them before school started, which is ideal. Essentially, it’s a combination of the amount of vacancies from natural attrition (retirements and resignations) we will have, the number of current provisional and long term subs in our classrooms and the anticipated vacancies when we open schools for the 17-18 school year. Lord knows, Polk has had localized employee relations problems. See this recent grievance hearing as an example. But the aversion to the teaching profession, when the demand for service is constantly growing, is commonplace virtually everywhere in Florida. See this link. Demoralization of teachers is real even in the “highest performing,” wealthiest districts. I have spoken to multiple of those administrators. This is what happens when you starve public schools and immiserate the teaching profession for 20 years. The teacher shortage, in Polk and elsewhere, reflects a combination of pay and stress level that human beings will not accept at scale. I wouldn’t accept it. That public education functions at all is attributable...

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“We let you win:” Tallahassee’s arrogance, thuggery, and cowardice in 1 Tweet

“We let you win:” Tallahassee’s arrogance, thuggery, and cowardice in 1 Tweet

This is a really funny, if pretty sinister, tweet. It’s been memory-holed; but I got a picture of it before it disappeared. Check it out. It’s the Tallahassee education establishment opening the kimono on who they really are just a bit. (You can click to embiggen.) Now let me give you the background. Meet Shawn R. Frost and Rebecca Negron. Rebecca Negron is a Martin County School Board member and the the wife of Senate President Joe “Schools of Fraud” Negron. You should know Joe Negron as the person who gives Kelli Stargel her marching orders for harming her own community. Rebecca Negron serves on the board of a thing called the Florida Coalition of School Board Members. It was formed in the last couple years as competition for the long-standing Florida School Board Association.  It touts itself as “conservative.” But it’s not. It’s really just a platform for sustaining the old Common Core/Test-and-Punish Florida model; crushing traditional schools and teachers; and setting up morally fraudulent charter schools to profit. The spokesman for FCSBM says “we” let Billy win Shawn R. Frost, who goes by the Twitter handle @strategyshawn, is named as the group’s media contact/spokesman. He is the author of the memory-holed tweet above. Frost, Rebecca Negron, and the FCSBM are big supporters of “Schools-of-Fraud” and the starvation budget. Its part of their business plan, errrr, policy vision. I did not know who Shawn was until a couple days ago; but he and I engaged in some good-natured Twitter trash talk Friday morning over Schools-of-Fraud. My election came up as a way of explaining to him that I believe my community elected me to fight his vision for Florida education. Much to my amazement and flattery, Shawn seemed to know all about the circumstances of that campaign. He knew my opponent, the issues, that I ran on “change.” He even used the word “educrat” at one point. I got under his skin just a touch, and he started vowing to defeat me in 2020 through his awesome powers. My fingers laughed at him through a keyboard, and he responded by sending the tweet you see above. “We let you win. Underestimate me at your peril.” We let you win. Think about that for a second. He thinks he’s talking about me. But he’s really talking everyone who worked an early voting shift; every teacher who read and shared my...

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The line must be drawn here. Start with Level raises.

The line must be drawn here. Start with Level raises.

As of today, I consider it mandatory that we honor previously established Level raises (sometimes known as steps) for all Polk School District employees. It will cost us about $4.3 million. We have the money to do it. It’s a simple choice between fulfilling our core function for our community or maintaining a “growing savings account” of dead money that Kelli Stargel and Tallahassee can raid at any time and divert toward fraud. I’ll explain below. I will vote for nothing out of the impasse process that does not include that. But I can go higher if anyone has the courage to join me. And I will openly use any failure to support level raises against other board members politically. I feel like I have no choice. And I want to be as clear about that now as I can be. I don’t want to surprise anyone. The survival of community government is stake If community education — even the idea of community-based government — is going to beat back the assault from Kelli Stargel and our endlessly corrupt Florida Legislators, we have to unify our key community stakeholders. That extends across governments. I was thrilled to see County Commissioner George Lindsey unload on our dreadful legislators. George and I are not normally seen as on the same ideological side. But I think this illustrates how meaningless ideology and party really are in this discussion. It’s really a question of whether you’re for or against fraud — or “malfeasance,” as George put it. I know Mayor Gene Fultz in Lake Wales and Bartow City Commissioner Trish Pfeiffer are great friends of community education, who are deeply aware of how it fits into community government. And how the state is harming both. But it’s going to be hard to unify our community governments to fight the Tallahassee fraud if the School District can’t even unify our own internal stakeholders. That’s where the teacher impasse is so destructive — and why the last year, culminating in this Legislative Session, is so clarifying. Give Tallahassee everything; get nothing in return It is obvious that the Polk School Board and district leadership, back in May or June of 2016, made a decision to take teachers to impasse. It’s why they hired a Tallahassee-wired anti-labor lawyer. It’s why they offered nothing and then said: “Counter.” It’s why we’ve gotten nowhere. I believe, through close...

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Dear Polk community: Kelli Stargel and your deadbeat Legislature are exterminating community education

Dear Polk community: Kelli Stargel and your deadbeat Legislature are exterminating community education

Florida law, grounded in the Florida Constitution, requires all people of our communities to send their children to school. It’s a pretty direct and simple requirement. It’s one half of the deal that has underpinned human development in Florida and America for generations. The other half of the deal is that our communities must take these kids into our schools and care for them. Their parents, capability, motivation, or behavior do not matter. In Florida, your state government created constitutional instruments — like the Polk School District — to provide this compulsory education. It applies to normal education, gifted, 504s, ELLs, and IEPs alike. The state government provides most of the money to meet that obligation, while requiring local communities to contribute as well. The federal government kicks in a smaller amount. Here’s the breakdown in Polk. Today, your state government, your flesh and blood legislators, are abandoning their part of that deal. They want to destroy the arrangement. And they want to replace it with nothing. It’s true they want to use compulsory education laws as captive money for educational hucksters, as I’ll show you in a second. But they have no systemic ideas or moral commitment to anything but destruction and fraud. The last undead groan of a zombie model You saw it last summer when your state government used Kelli Stargel’s fraudulent VAM equation (shown above) to force the displacement of dozens of teachers in the neediest Polk schools. And then replaced them with nothing but a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. That’s a metaphor for all of Florida education policy of the last 20 years. It despises the idea of community. It despises most kids. It despises teachers. And it will never, ever, ever hold itself accountable for the on-the-ground human impacts of its policies. This year, your legislators plan to provide even fewer resources per student to execute more absurd and anti-human unfunded mandates. They are refusing local pleas to fund our own educational systems because Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran have Republican primaries to run in the future. They will again prevent local School Boards from re-establishing a local option property tax taken away during the financial crisis of 2008. And they are imposing the rollback rate for local counties on property taxes used for schools. That should be an entirely local decision. With those two funding sources, we could give our Polk teachers significant raises. Without...

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A Lake Wales Vision, part 2: choice liberated from the fraudulent Florida model

A Lake Wales Vision, part 2: choice liberated from the fraudulent Florida model

Here is the link to Part 1: The Future of Lake Wales is in Lake Wales, not Jefferson County. What follows is part 2. ——————————————————————————————————————- Lake Wales fascinates, excites, and frustrates me for the same reason. All the pieces exist there, right now, for an entirely new, community-based model of education with something for just about everyone. This model could equitably and cooperatively merge compulsory and non-compulsory community education. I think it would have the political clout to tell Florida’s corrupt and awful Department/Board of Education/Legislature to go flagellate itself — and likely get away with it. Unfortunately, as I understand it, LWCS simply wants the Polk School Board to turn McLaughlin over to it with no strings attached. Absent that, they’ll move toward a second charter Bok. LWCS has no interest in keeping a zoned, compulsory education middle school. That’s what I perceive from the letter that LWCS board member and general counsel Robin Gibson, my cousin, whom I like and love, sent to the School Board on April 3. I probably can’t stop a second Bok — at least not at this moment in time. But I know I can’t just hand over McLaughlin. I knew that well before I did serious fact-finding. I must have a zoned middle school in Lake Wales to protect neighboring communities. Turning over McLaughlin takes that zoning away. I made that position clear repeatedly in part 1 and in many other conversations. I can’t and won’t vote to outsource Lake Wales’ student behavior and ESE issues to other communities. That’s the likeliest outcome of doing away with a zoned middle school in Lake Wales. I will show you the data. Let’s go big — and equitable Unfortunately, Florida law does not allow for charter school zoning. That’s the key structural impediment to any deal with LWCS to unify the middle school community and the overall school system in Lake Wales. So we need a waiver, or special legislation that allows geographic limits. And if we’re going to do that, let’s merge how we do ESE and arts education. Let’s give everybody in that community both the stability of neighborhood-based compulsory education and access to choices that work best for each individual. Let’s have both providers work together in the best interest of the many kids who move between them. Let’s set up a standing cooperation committee.  I’ll volunteer as the School Board’s representative. Let’s work toward...

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