Dear Scruggsie/LEDC: Are you activists, supporters, or just self-interested? Time to talk publicly.

Dear Scruggsie/LEDC: Are you activists, supporters, or just self-interested? Time to talk publicly.

Dear Steve: If you’re reading this on Monday morning, Polk Superintendent Jackie Byrd is most likely in the air, speeding toward a full week at a two-day bayside conference at this San Diego hotel, on LEDC’s dime. This trip was not discussed in any way with the elected Polk County School Board until three days ago. The conference is organized by Jeb Bush’s powerful education establishment minions, who have run education in Florida for 20 years. They despise, ridicule, and empoverish the people who work for Mrs. Byrd and Polk County’s children every day. Mrs. Byrd is probably sitting next to Kate “perpetual bottom-feeding district” Wallace, who is also on LEDC’s dime. I like to assume they’re flying coach. (Polk District lobbyist Wendy Dodge, who is going on the taxpayer dime, is probably with them. I’ll be addressing the wisdom of that fairly assertively when she gets back. I have asked the superintendent and Ms. Dodge to keep detailed hourly logs of what they do in San Diego.) Enough with the alphabet soup Yes, I know LEDC did not write the check for this trip. I know that Wesley Beck (LEDC’s current chair), David Hallock (LEDC’s immediate past chair), or Jeff Chamberlain — or some combination or additional person I’m not aware of — wrote the checks through “Lakeland Leads,” the “foundation” for which Kate Wallace is the executive director. I know that “Lakeland Leads” is not technically or legally LEDC. But let’s cut the crap, please. LEDC, Lakeland First, and Lakeland Leads are all angels on the head of the same pin. And I’m done with the polite fiction. The public deserves to know better. And by the way, as I thumb through your website, the degree to which LEDC people all look exactly like each other, not your community, should embarrass you. Your organization looks nothing like Lakeland or the schools I help oversee; and maybe that explains some of what I’m discussing here. A lavish conference built on abject data failure and human cruelty As I detailed on Friday, Jackie, Kate, and Wendy are attending the “National Summit on Education Reform” held at this San Diego hotel. This conference/Summit is sponsored by “ExcelinEd,” Jeb Bush’s education foundation, which has been the most powerful establishment force in Florida education — and probably Florida politics — for at least 20 years. The annual summit, like the Florida Model itself, is always...

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Polk’s superintendent and lobbyist should not spend next week at Jeb Bush’s lavish conference on the bay in San Diego

Polk’s superintendent and lobbyist should not spend next week at Jeb Bush’s lavish conference on the bay in San Diego

On Thursday of next week, many of us who are desperate to save public education and the teaching profession in Florida and Polk County will gather for an “Education Summit” at the Winter Haven Recreation and Cultural Center. Co-sponsors include the Florida PTA, Polk Education Association, AFSCME, and the NAACP. Unfortunately, Polk Superintendent Jackie Byrd and Polk schools lobbyist/public advocate Wendy Dodge won’t be there. Instead, they plan to spend all of next week here, at the lovely Hotel San Diego Bayfront. Click to enlarge the pictures. The superintendent and lobbyist have chosen to attend a very different “summit” from the one back  home in Winter Haven. The San Diego summit has a very different intent, a better-funded ideology, a much more tourist-friendly view, and probably a better pool: it’s the “National Summit on Education Reform.”  A kick in the teeth for every Polk teacher, administrator, bus driver, para, custodian, zoned school parent, ESE child… The San Diego summit is sponsored by Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education (aka ExcelinEd), which has done more to destroy the teaching profession and inflict the endless test-and-punish, fake data model of public education on Florida and America than any other organization. If you hate the experience of something imposed by a distant power in public education — from over-testing to VAM to “Best and Brightest” to 8-year-old retention — ExcelinEd is the power that inflicted it on you. Trust me. Moreover, as I’ve written before, Jeb’s policies have also shackled Florida with the worst individual and aggregate proficiency test score growth in America, if you care about that. The longer a child stays in the Florida model, the worse that child does. Here’s a deeply detailed article about it, with graphics. This horrible test score performance is ironic because Florida only looks at your child as a piece of sellable test data. And yet that data is terrible. That is the legacy of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, as shown in this state map. Click to enlarge. Thus, the choice the superintendent and lobbyist have made here is an astonishing kick in the teeth for the people of public education in Polk County. Astonishing. I cannot defend it in any way; and I will not try. I reject this trip/conference in every conceivable way. I have no idea why on earth either our superintendent or our lobbyist/advocate thought it was a good idea to take...

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Gov. DeSantis: tear down this “Best and Brightest” wall and free the money now

Gov. DeSantis: tear down this “Best and Brightest” wall and free the money now

Polk County has $9.9 million on hand in state teacher compensation money from Tallahassee that I would like to pay to my employees in recurring salary increases. It is not part of the collective bargaining Sophie’s Choice between flat raises or health care spikes that has just been negotiated with a different $10 million.  This is the so-called “Best-and-Brightest” bonus program, perhaps the stupidest, least effective teacher recruitment/retention program ever passed by any government. It’s the one that started as a reward to teachers for high SAT/ACT high scores because…reasons. And last session, your legislators — Kelli Stargel and company — actually made that worse by limiting who will receive it and making the formula utterly incomprehensible and arbitrary. Tallahassee completely dictates how “Best and Brightest” money is used; but for accounting and political purposes, they sent it down to local districts this year so they could claim they gave us more money to help compensate employees. It’s a typically cynical political move, devoid of any sense of shared responsibility. But that’s who they are. “Best and Brightest” is so dumb and so ineffective that it’s already a dead bonus walking. Powerful Republican Senator Gus Bradley has already filed a bill to repeal it this coming session. Your legislature spends half its time repealing its own counterproductive stupidity in education. Over and over and over again. Anyway, divided among all 13,000-ish employees, this “Best and Brightest” $10 million would mean a $700 recurring raise for every employee. If limited to teachers, as the bonus is targeted, it would mean a $1,521 recurring raise for all teachers. So, today, I’m calling on Gov. DeSantis and Kelli Stargel and Chris Latvala and the whole crew of “reform” comrades to stop acting like late stage Soviets, so desperately clinging to a dead ideology. Time to let Jeb go as your Lenin. (And Corcoran as your Stalin.) Tear down this stupid wall. Hold an emergency vote, today, that allows districts to opt-out and use that money for salaries. So easy. Show us you give a damn....

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DeSantis: “I’m a Republican,” so experienced teachers must suffer; Levesque: my NAEP failure means it’s time for more school grade fraud.

DeSantis: “I’m a Republican,” so experienced teachers must suffer; Levesque: my NAEP failure means it’s time for more school grade fraud.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “teacher pay plan” is focused primarily on teachers who do not exist. It revolves around setting a floor salary of $47,000 for starting teachers — for people who have not taught before.  Anyone paid more than that because of their longterm commitment to education can suck it. Why? The governor is admirably clear. He sees teachers who actually exist, who have long-term commitment to the development of children, as political enemies.  Here’s how DeSantis responded when the Florida Education Association had the temerity to point out that committed, experienced, long-term, long-suffering teachers and other low paid employees need help more than the figments of DeSantis’ imagination who would suddenly leap at a $47,000 first-year salary. “It’s just funny though, I mean look – let’s not pretend there’s not politics involved in this, I mean it’s just the fact of the matter – I’m a republican, they’re not. And so what I’m doing is never going to be enough, and my job is not to do what the union wants, it’s what I think is best for education and particularly for individual teachers.” That speaks for itself. Clearly. But let me embellish for a second: the last time I checked with reddish county Polk’s local teacher union, roughly half of the membership is Republican. Moreover, DeSantis’ plan also has no interest in helping with salaries for bus drivers, paras, cafeteria workers,  custodians, etc., the other long-suffering people who make public education function every day — large portions of whom are also Republican. Of course, that’s a narrowly, politically self-interested way of judging the stupidity of the governor’s  statement. There are deeper moral questions at stake about the nature of governing and sharing a country. So let me assure you, if I were your governor, I would never form human policy by saying, “I’m an NPA and you’re not; so let me make you suffer.” And I think people who disagree with me on various issues, but have also dealt with me, know that to be true. DeSantis plans to light $600 million of your money on fire for no benefit because “Republicans” should hate actual teachers Moreover, any person interested in return on taxpayer investment should run screaming from this operationally ignorant and politically cynical “pay plan.” It reveals how little DeSantis actually knows – or how cynical he is — about the education system he oversees and the...

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Wherefore art thou, Unfunded Man Date? A Halloween romantic horror story in four acts.

Wherefore art thou, Unfunded Man Date? A Halloween romantic horror story in four acts.

Happy Halloween, everyone. Tragic romance defines this year’s costume. I’m an “Unfunded Man Date,” aching for some loving legislator or governor or educrat to take my rose and take me to dinner (or at least give me an adequate budget for anything — like pay that keeps people in the teaching profession, school security, ESE, or even compulsory education as a concept.) Come follow this Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy through the stages of rejection. We start here. Hope and expectation I’m a good idea, and surely some special lawmaker wants to fund me. Right? Angst It’s committee week; and all my Tallahassee crushes turn their wandering eyes to the pretty boys, like Kelli Stargel’s $500 million tax break for beer companies. Wherefore art I a mere lowly child development and protection public expenditure? Passionate desperation As the session is closing, I’m raising my John Cusack boom box one last time to make them love me. But my box isn’t as big and doesn’t boom as loud. It’s just about kids and humanity. That’s no match for beer company billions. Tragic resignation All that talk about “year of the teacher…” Just sweet whispers. Just another notch on another player’s belt. Will this Unfunded Man Date ever find love? Or at least some nice governor I can settle for? (PS: Call me Richard. I’ll always take you back. I know you like the classics. We can quote Romeo and Juliet to each other — under a tree.)  ...

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