Term limits for Tuthills, part 2: …and Kirtleys and Levesques and Goffs and the Florida Education Deep State

Term limits for Tuthills, part 2: …and Kirtleys and Levesques and Goffs and the Florida Education Deep State

Here’s part 1, “Term limits for Tuthills, part 1: confront unelected power with real world referenda” ———————————- I’m a first-term elected School Board member in Polk County. But imagine I’d been around since 2008; and this was my record: I oversaw and doled out money to a publicly-funded (through tax credits) voucher program aimed at Florida’s most economically vulnerable kids. And that program, the Florida Tax Credit (FTC) voucher maintains a 61 percent two-year drop out rate. Two of my schools (Kingdom Prep and Akelynn’s Angels) just disappeared in Polk County in the last year without me knowing about any problems whatsoever. In one of the schools, the headmaster/football coach is headed for trial in March on charges that he groomed voucher applicants for sexual abuse. Imagine I did nothing to help any kid in the aftermath. I didn’t have a word to say about reform or oversight or even asking where-the-hell the Akelynn’s Angels kids went when the school closed. Indeed, I thought they were still there. [Ed. note: The reality of Akelynn’s Angels, which remains open, is both more complex and much worse than this original passage indicates. This link provides a full accounting. ] My program openly discriminates, with state blessing, against an entire class of Florida kids. I hired my kid(s) to work PR for the school district — much of which involved attacking public schools. And I responded to public reporting of any of this by saying, “Lalalalalala, here’s another check. And you’re racist for asking.” You wouldn’t need to term limit me, dear voters. You would toss me out with well-earned disdain. And you’d probably call for a grand jury to microscope me. For all the problems of local school boards and districts, I don’t know any of us with a record quite like that. Tuthills all the way down And yet, that’s Doug Tuthull, of the titular Tuthills of this article. Doug Tuthill is the unelected, unaccountable president of Step Up for Students (SUFS), Florida’s voucher School Board. He has run SUFS since 2008. That’s a 12-year, ongoing term. Nobody is sponsoring any term limit legislation to end his reign of error. So expect it to continue because you can’t vote on it. And here is Doug’s son David, who is on the tax credit-funded/tax funded SUFS payroll for…reasons. I find David’s reference to “product of 13 years of education choice in the magnet programs...

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Term limits for Tuthills, part 1: confront unelected power with real world referenda

Term limits for Tuthills, part 1: confront unelected power with real world referenda

I don’t feel strongly about term limit initiatives, either way. In an intellectual vacuum, I oppose them as the worst sort of voter welfare. But we don’t live in an intellectual vacuum. Professional politics is a massive and complex industry built around the ruthless distribution of power. It demands multiple confusing choices from busy and bewildered people. And professional politics generally rewards the campaigns that lie most effectively to voters. Thus, it’s hard to expect even super-attentive voters to discern truth and make even marginally well-informed decisions — when the campaigns themselves don’t want that. This is especially true about state Legislative races, which are not really local and not on the television 24/7. Party-based shorthand has traditionally addressed that information gap. But modern professional politics has also stripped all real meaning from party shorthand in favor of generalized grifting by the cross-partisan leadership and political class. Indeed, I think we’re in a moment of profound transition in the very meaning of our political vocabulary. Right, left, center, as words, are no longer grounded in any recognizable political experience. This is on profound display in the presidential politics of both major parties — and the “centrist” people who object to them both. I think we have to name and organize around different political concepts. Grifter and not-grifter; self-critical and not self critical; intellectually/morally honest and not intellectual/morally honest; power-worshiping and not power-worshiping are the divides I see. Making choices in that context is a much much much harder task for a voter because campaigns and power lie, aggressively. And party or ideological labeling doesn’t help identify lies. So I get why some voters want the law to make the choice for them at some level and limit the damage of any mistakes of understanding or omission. Part of my Polk County political project is to create a new political vocabulary matched to a new political experience that makes that unnecessary. But we’re certainly not there yet. And sometimes, in reality, a term limit does provide a service. What about permission to run against your term limit? For me personally, I do this School Board job pretty hard. It occasionally exhausts me; and it consumes space in my life that I formerly filled with other things I love. I might even look forward, personally, to a term limit at a set point in the future. (Not a complaint; just an honest...

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FSA rule changes; reading endorsements; and defying the Supernova of edu-words that consume all clarity, reason, and children

FSA rule changes; reading endorsements; and defying the Supernova of edu-words that consume all clarity, reason, and children

  According to my printer, the Florida Department of Education’s guide to giving the FSA is 276 pages long. See for yourself. That’s 276. With a two; a seven; and a six. I doubt the manual handed out to Guantanamo Bay waterboarders killed so many digital trees. It certainly tortured fewer 8-year-olds. It would be interesting to compare them one day. State testing policies flow out of the state law that Kelli Stargel and other politicians write on orders from Jeb Bush’s henchpeople and into this operational document. This operational document then flows into localized trainings. These are mostly power point-type presentations given online and discussions with school-based test co-ordinators, as I understand it. Please correct any flaw in my understanding. Everyone — mostly teachers — who administers this test (against their will) is supposed to process and retain all this information, under pain of serious punishment — like losing your teaching certificate if you screw up. When 99 percent of people say they hate “Common Core,” they are talking about this Denali of bullshit, not the nuances of turgid academic standards. I would not want to be tasked with boiling down this horrific mountain of incomprehensible, child-hating state bullshit into a smaller mountain of local bullshit. But that’s the job our local test and “accountability” people have. And this year, for all that 276 pages, three bullet points on page 30 have caused a special stir — beyond the normal moral revulsion at the educational and human waste of this system. These are “New Standardization Policies.” See below: These three largely bureaucratic and abstract description bullets do not specifically say: “You cannot wake up a sleeping 8-year-old.” “You cannot encourage a sleeping 8-year-old with his or her head on the table because the test overwhelms them to continue because his or her ability to stay with his or her friends is in jeopardy of he or she does not.” “You cannot offer an 8-year-old an extra cookie at lunch if they finish the test.” [Late update: Now they do say most of that in writing. A DoE FAQ came out this afternoon. See a couple images below. Click to enlarge.] Prior to today, each of those messages was been conveyed orally in trainings built to embellish what’s written. The dozens of reports I’ve received are very specific — and not just from Polk. Moreover, if you violate one of these...

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FSA practice tests — and the difference between your elected School Board and unelected district leadership

FSA practice tests — and the difference between your elected School Board and unelected district leadership

State law is maddeningly contradictory on whether school boards can approve FSA practice tests. It literally says in section 1008.22 of Florida Statutes that “district school boards shall prohibit” schools from “suspending” regular curriculum to give “practice” FSA tests — unless they are “practice” FSA tests. I’m not kidding. In that case, if a practice test is a practice test, “a district school board may authorize” such a test. (Seriously, I’ll highlight the whole thing at the bottom of the article so you get the full glory.) But this incoherent law written by your very dumb Legislature is clear on one point: “a district school board” is what does the prohibiting or the approving of practice tests. And yet, 56 Polk County schools are suspending regular curriculum to give practice FSA tests this week, much to the chagrin of some parents. The reasonable counterargument is that last year a number of kids struggled to finish the FSA. Familiarizing them with the pace and structure could literally help save their educational lives, especially if they are third graders subjected to Florida’s abusive FSA retention law for 8-year-olds. Also, teachers professional lives are on the line; and they tell me the actual FSA practice content is much more predictive of FSA scoring than district’s STAR assessment. Whatever side you choose, Polk County’s elected “district school board” has not, to my knowledge, been consulted by unelected staff on the use of these tests — despite the clear direction of an otherwise incoherent state law. I don’t believe these tests ever came before the elected School Board so that we could exercise our statutory obligation and authority to approve or prohibit them. Sometimes I might miss something buried on consent; but I don’t think so here. We, as an elected board, have not hashed out these practice test arguments and counterarguments on behalf of the public. School District staff and elected School Board are not synonyms This illustrates nicely why I often try to caution people who say, in a general sense, the “Polk School Board did X, Y, or Z,” when they actually mean “the Polk School District did X, Y, or Z.” The locally-elected School Board and the unelected School District staff ARE NOT the same thing. Not in Polk County. Not anymore. And I’m going to prove it to you with data. But here’s the bottom line, based on a thorough...

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HB 7079: How Richard Corcoran and Kelli Stargel plan to blackmail 2 million kids and parents into giving up the choice of public schools

HB 7079: How Richard Corcoran and Kelli Stargel plan to blackmail 2 million kids and parents into giving up the choice of public schools

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran has reportedly told multiple people that he wants to drive 2 million children out of public schools by the end of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first term. That, of course, underlines the obvious: Florida doesn’t care at all about school choice. It just hates public schools. Corcoran and DeSantis and Kelli Stargel and the rest believe in school blackmail — not school choice — through selective use of fraudulent test data and fraudulent school grade accountability. Here’s one recent story and a quote about Corcoran’s vision for blackmailing 2 million parents: “I met several months ago with the commissioner of education and he made no bones about it. He sees nothing wrong with cutting our traditional public school system by two-thirds,” said Leon County Superintendent Rocky Hanna. The proof of this is coming before Kelli Stargel’s Senate Education Committee tomorrow, in a suddenly scheduled hearing in House Bill 7079, which was fast-tracked last week. Through this bill, Ron DeSantis, Richard Corcoran, and Kelli Stargel are mounting a full frontal attack on your right as parent to choose and keep a neighborhood public school that you like. (Kelli, if you don’t support this bill, say so loudly. And I’ll note it. But you’ve supported every other bill to blackmail public school parents, ever.) HB 7079: Changes the fraudulent school grade formula yet again Changes definition of “failure” for schools, again, to include many, many more. Increases punishments of children and teachers in neighborhood schools so it can try to drive them out. House Bill 7079 is nothing more than DeSantis and Stargel and Corcoran’s attempt to punish you, as parents. It seeks to blackmail your kids out of the Dixieland Elementaries of the world and into the dangerous Kingdom Preps of the world, where none of these rules apply and where there is no oversight. Monroe County School Board Member Sue “Accountabaloney” Woltanski has a much deeper dive on this  neighborhood school and choice-hating bill. See article here. Don’t be distracted by the election year posturing of teacher pay increases. Corcoran and Manny Diaz and Kelli Stargel and the rest are just trying to buy off some silence while they maneuver to destroy your right to choose a neighborhood public school for your children. These people hate choice; and they hate parents who choose neighborhood schools. Here are the phone numbers for the committee members. By all means, call to...

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Respect all choices: how Florida’s “turnaround” fraud drives Florida’s voucher fraud. End both.

Respect all choices: how Florida’s “turnaround” fraud drives Florida’s voucher fraud. End both.

As noted in my last article — and as shown above — 61 percent of the children and families who take Florida’s $6,700 Tax Credit Scholarship abandon the “voucher” within two years. 75 percent abandon the voucher within four years. That’s how much actual human beings value this toxic product. Let me just state the obvious: for all the Polk County District’s challenges, which I wake up thinking about solving each day, 61 percent of our students do not “choose” to bail out of our schools every two years. Not anywhere close. If they did…can you imagine? But that’s the record of an organization called Step Up for Students (SUFS), which is the unelected state “school board” of Florida voucher schools. It funds scholarships for and “oversees” the many, many bad voucher schools — and the fewer good ones, like Lakeland’s Academy Prep and Victory Christian. A very misplaced pride in how vouchers fail children of color — and all children SUFS and advocates of the voucher program are apparently very proud of the 61 percent two-year drop out rate. They’re proud of a provider network typified by Auburndale’s Kingdom Prep. I don’t understand what accounts for this pride; and none of them will tell me why they are not moving heaven and earth to change it. Perplexingly, voucher advocates are especially proud that a large percentage of the children dropping out of the vouchers are black and Hispanic children. See this bit of hype shared last week from the Florida Department of Education, which is America’s worst. Whenever people criticize and call for reform of the awful voucher provider network, SUFS immediately mobilizes anti-public school activists and a handful of parents. Then they use them to imply — or directly declare — that voucher reformers are racist. Last week, this wider SUFS universe created a meme of an Orlando lawmaker wearing a KKK hood because she doesn’t think voucher schools should systemically discriminate against LBGT kids. SUFS’ cynical and socially-destructive self-defense strategy The SUFS political strategy here — and that of Jeb-world overall — is deeply cynical, but sound. It relies on bullying people who care deeply about equity — many of whom are politically liberal — by calling them racist. It’s easier for most people, especially people who are not racist, to look away from this appalling record rather than to face and endure such a wounding charge....

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