Dominance ritual: the state government’s insane political gambit has handed school staff great power — if they use it.

Florida’s education employees, in all their forms, union and non-union, could simply ignore Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s stupid, malicious, and toothless executive order. They could say:

“Um, no, Commissioner. Here are the conditions under which we will voluntarily fill the schools you hate and want to destroy for money, but are also desperate to open for the short-term political and economic benefit of your donors and the people you answer to. You’ve done absolutely nothing to prepare for opening. Your foolish policies have created a massive COVID spike that just set a one-day death record in Polk County. And you just took away $400 million in vital funds from local districts through the FRS Heist, for no reason. That tells us all we need to know about your seriousness.

So we’re not really interested in listening to you. When you’ve met our conditions, which start with serious, state-led safety efforts; the return of the FRS Heist money; and the waiver of all fraudulent accountability nonsense and test companies bailouts, we can begin to talk about providing the “full panoply of services.” In the meantime, you’re welcome to fire us or throw us in jail. There are about half a million of us. Good luck. That will play well in November.”

If they did that, educators would take practical control of the Florida public education system, for now and the future. It’s right there for the taking. We would all be better off if you did.

The only real practical effect of Corcoran’s mandate to open brick and mortar schools to all kids five days a week is to assert the complete irrelevance of elected school boards in any decision about opening. Corcoran is asserting in the clearest terms: “This is a state school system. You are all at my mercy and that of Gov. DeSantis. Suck it schools boards and public and employees. You. Have. No. Power.”

Instead, the executive order sets up a raw and brutal confrontation between unelected management and labor. It’s a dominance ritual, just like the one I wrote about a couple months ago when Corcoran nearly injured his kid tossing him in his pool and then showed the video and bragged about it on Twitter.

This is the same thing, the same dominance ritual, for all of your kids and loved ones who work at schools. And yet, it’s so practically weak, so hung upon equally malevolent, but conflicting goals, that it ties itself in knots of vulnerability. It makes Corcoran and DeSantis utterly dependent on people — kids, parents, and teachers — fearing them more than they do COVID. That’s quite a bet.

It will be fascinating to watch how that plays out, in a trainwreck kind of way.

Unfortunately, other than my big mouth, I don’t see what I can do about this collision course Corcoran and DeSantis have created. I don’t see many votes I can take that soften the crash that is coming.

However, if there is any vote I can take that allows me to keep paying everybody in the Polk District while the state is forced to get serious about any voluntary reopening, I will take it. You have my word on that. And I will take no vote that coerces anyone into a daily mass gathering in a confined space during a completely avoidable surge in a highly communicable disease.

And by the way, my opponent is backed and funded completely by Richard Corcoran’s allies in Polk County’s small, exclusive Leadership Club. Let’s be very clear about that. They will happily coerce you and your children into this situation.

When a grifter writes an executive order

You can find Corcoran’s entire executive order here.  Let’s take a look at some the key language, starting with a couple of key “whereas” passages:

WHEREAS, schools are not just the site of academic learning; schools provide many services to students that are critical to the well-being of students and families, such as nutrition, socialization, counseling, and extra-curricular activities; and,

WHEREAS, there is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride; and,

Note the “well-being” part in standard bold. Richard Corcoran and Ron DeSantis do not believe this. At all. They’ve been very clear in their statements and policies.

For them to say it otherwise now is a clear lie.

All of us fighting for schools that “provide many services to students that are critical to the well-being of students and families” are told constantly by power to “shut up, clap louder, and take your tests.”

The entire Florida Model is built around reducing human “well-being” to data that can be sold for money. Everyone paying attention knows this. I’m grateful that everyone else gets to see the transparent fraud now.

“If you don’t open all the schools, we will close all the schools” is the dumbest threat in history

That “well-being” nonsense is just cover for the part in italicized bold: Florida hitting its full economic stride. 

All the grifters — Corcoran, DeSantis, Stargel, Bell, etc — do believe this. It’s the only reason they care about brick and mortar schools today. Your kids and loved ones who work in schools are just an expendable human means to an economic and political end.

Except that you’re not actually expendable.

What are the grifters going to do if parents and employees say to DeSantis and Corcoran: “Nope, you’re not serious. Talk to us when you’re serious.”

Who exactly will “open the schools” to help Florida hit “its full economic stride” if DeSantis and Corcoran fire everybody and withhold all money from local districts, and retain all the kids who don’t show up? Think about it. The state has issued this threat: if you don’t open all the schools, we will close all the schools.

Seriously. That’s the threat.

Or what? does compulsory education exist in the executive order? What are the punishments?

Here’s the rubber-meets-the-road passage:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Richard Corcoran, Commissioner of the Florida Department ofEducation (Department), pursuant to the authority granted by Executive Order 20-52, issue this order to accomplish the goals of: 1) reopening brick and mortar schools with the full panoply of services for the benefit of Florida students and families; 2) suspending and adjusting as necessary reporting requirements to ensure appropriate monitoring and financial continuity of the educational process; 3) retaining high-quality school choices for Florida students and families with a focus on eliminating achievement gaps, [–Billy note: this means bail out the testing industry and testing your stressed kids into oblivion] which may have been exacerbated by the crisis; and 4) maintaining services that are legally required for all students, such as low-income, English language learning, and students with disabilities.

I have said since schools closed in March that the key to reopening is honest description of risk and voluntary acceptance of it. Which parents want their kids in physical schools? Which teachers and staff are willing and able to serve them? What resources do we have? What can we provide? I wanted everything to start there and build out.

Do you think terrified, coerced, and angry teachers are going to be good teachers? Or paras? Or custodians? Or bus drivers? Etc.

That voluntary approach has not happened, of course. It’s come from the outside in, from the top down. That’s because education in Florida is always about power, not your children or the people who serve them.

At the core of the voluntary question is the notion of compulsory education — the idea that it’s a crime not to educate your child, punishable by the state. Traditional public schools are the prime mechanism by which parents satisfy their obligations to law. Parents are, deep down, coerced into sending their kids to school. That’s a coercion society broadly accepts and welcomes, with some sociopathic libertarian objections here and there.

COVID changes the compulsory education equation completely.

Compulsory education says go to school — or else. That’s fine when there is a school staff available to help the parents satisfy law. But what happens when there isn’t? We may be about to find out.

Corcoran’s executive order implies “or else” quite a bit; but I don’t see anything spelled out. The closest thing I see is “full panoply of services” reference. It’s hard to provide the full panoply of services at a brick and mortar school with half staff or less. And what happens if the “full panoply” is not provided. Did Corcoran look up “panoply” in a thesaurus?

It means “a complete or impressive collection of things.” Schools do indeed provide that; and preserving and growing that is what our movement has been fighting for against Richard Corcoran and Jeb Bush’s endless insistence that they do not provide any “complete or impressive collection of things.”

Their final acceptance of the truth of our premise signals their utter vulnerability. And in this executive order, I see only the transparent bluff of a grifter with a very very very weak hand. However, like during the Red Weekend, it’s easy for me to say that when calling that bluff doesn’t really fall on me personally. I will never be casual about that.

We have anxious, high stakes days ahead.

Whatever vote I can take to support you, I will take. But in the end, this is your public education system — public and employees alike. Its fate rests in your hands and hearts, as does the fate of our kids and employees and everyone else.

Interesting times.

 

2 comments

  1. Bob Zwayer

    Amen to all you said !

  2. Carol Ann Sargeant

    Thank you Billy for fighting for our public schools – teachers and staff, including lunchroom workers, custodians, bus drivers. I am so glad you are and have been and will continue to speak out about things that could be corrected to do better.