Archives for category: Florida

The Florida Education Association rejected Governor Ron DeSantis’ bonus plan. Bonus plans have a long history of failure.

 

Nov. 14, 2019                                        CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055

FEA reacts to DeSantis bonus plan announcement

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) was disappointed to learn Thursday that what Gov. Ron DeSantis envisions as a way to properly compensate experienced teachers is another bonus plan.

“Teachers and all school employees should be paid fair, competitive salaries,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “Our educators do not want another bonus scheme, especially not one built on the back of a flawed school grading system. Bonuses don’t help you qualify for a mortgage; they can’t be counted on from year to year. We know that all too well here in Florida, where adjusting the current bonus plan is almost an annual event.”

The bonus plan announced Thursday and DeSantis’ minimum teacher salary proposal provide no benefit to many of the school employees who provide essential services to students. Despite the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s call for more support in addressing mental health needs in our schools, the plans do not appear to account for guidance counselors, school psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals. The plans as outlined also leave out thousands of other employees, including pre-K teachers, librarians, nurses, teacher’s aides, bus drivers, custodians, office personnel and food-service staff.

But the basic fact on bonuses is that they do not work. Merit pay and bonus structures for instructional personnel have been tried again and again both in this country and this state, for decades, without proven success. Florida has tried six bonus programs in the past 13 years. Meanwhile, we face a severe teacher shortage along with shortages of other school employees. Why do we continue to throw money at a failed concept? State dollars would be better spent on an effective strategy for recruiting and retaining educators — overall salary increases.

To overcome years of disinvestment in our public schools, the Florida Education Association is calling for a Decade of Progress, starting with a down-payment of $2.4 billion for public education in the next state budget. Florida currently ranks 43th nationally in funding for public education.

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The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 145,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

 

FEA | 213 S. Adams St. Tallahassee, FL 32301 | 850.201.2800 | Fax 850.222.1840
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The county leaders in Citrus County, Florida, rejected the library’s request for a subscription to the New York Times. The Times, they said, was “fake news.” They don’t want the local citizens to hear any point of view that contradicts the Dear Leader.
This is the quintessence of ignorance. Do they also censor every cable news station except FOX?

By Antonia Noori Farzan / The Washington Post

Posted at 11:46 AM

The librarians of Citrus County, Florida, had what seemed like a modest wish: a digital subscription to the New York Times. For about $2,700 annually, they reasoned, they could offer an easy way their roughly 70,000 patrons to research and catch up on the news.

But when their request came before the Citrus County Commission last month, local officials literally laughed out loud. One commissioner, Scott Carnahan, declared the paper to be “fake news.”

“I agree with President Trump,” he said. “I will not be voting for this. I don’t want the New York Times in this county.”

In a move that is now generating intense online backlash, all five members of the commission agreed to reject the library’s request. The discussion took place on Oct. 24, the same day when the Trump administration announced plans to cancel federal agencies’ subscriptions to the Times and The Washington Post. While there’s no apparent connection – the Citrus County meeting began several hours before the Wall Street Journal broke the news of the new edict – the controversy unfolding in central Florida highlights how politicians nationwide are parroting the president’s disparaging rhetoric about the media.

While the Citrus County Commission is technically nonpartisan, the area, located amid the swamps and springs north of Tampa, is deeply conservative. At the Oct. 24 meeting, the proposal to budget several thousand dollars for a Times digital subscription was met with immediate disapproval and suspicion.

“Do we really need to subscribe to the New York Times?” Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. asked.

The other men seated at the dais chuckled.

“I actually was going say that,” Carnahan responded. He had seconded a motion to hear the item only so that they could have a discussion about the Times, he said, volunteering his opinion: “I don’t agree with it, I don’t like ’em, it’s fake news, and I’m voting no.”

Suggesting that a lack of resources wasn’t the problem, Carnahan said that the library could take the thousands of dollars that an institutional subscription to the Times would cost and ″do something else with it.” And community members who really wanted to read the paper could simply sign up for home delivery. “I support Donald Trump,” he concluded.

Flanked by a county flag depicting frolicking manatees, all four commissioners who were present agreed to turn down the request. When a fifth commissioner, Jimmie Smith, returned to his seat and learned what he had missed, he took no issue with denying the library funding.

“Why the heck would we spend money on something like that?” asked Smith, a former Republican state representative.

 

Nancy Bailey writes here about a zombie policy launched by Jeb Bush called third grade retention. Students who can’t pass a third grade reading test are flunked and held back. Nineteen states have adopted this practice despite a large body of research showing that it hurts kids and leads to future failure, even dropping out.

Children who are held back feel humiliated.

There is one big benefit to this policy, however. Holding back the kids who have not yet mastered reading does wonders for the state’s fourth grade reading scores on national tests like NAEP.

Bailey offers specific ways to help third graders instead of humiliating them.

Jessica Bakeman and a team of investigative reporters at WLRN in Florida report here on the state’s takeover and privatization of Jefferson County, the state’s first all-charter district. It was forced on the district by the state against the wishes of local elected officials and funded by state legislators with close financial ties to the charter school company (and its for-profit parent) that took over the district. It’s also setting the stage for a massive expansion of charter schools in the state.

http://chartered.wlrn.org/

The Republicans who run state government in Florida have abandoned local control. They worship the Almighty Dollar.

Bakeman writes:

Florida’s first and only all-charter school district was engineered by unelected state bureaucrats at then-Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of Education, funded by the Legislature and carried out by Somerset Academy, Inc., a rapidly expanding network that’s affiliated with a politically connected for-profit company in Miami.

Two years into Jefferson County’s transformation, the still-unproven charter-district “experiment” is being used to justify a potentially massive expansion of charter schools in the state’s poorest communities. A state law dubbed “schools of hope,” first passed in 2017 and broadened this year, offers millions of dollars to charter schools that open near traditional public schools that have struggled for years.

Jefferson County is home to the first charter “schools of hope.” Neighborhoods in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville are next…

South Florida legislators with close financial ties to Somerset and its for-profit contractor, Academica, played a key role in facilitating and bankrolling the all-charter district, which critics argue is a conflict of interest.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Republican-controlled legislature passed a tax cut of $500 million that will apply only to the state’s biggest corporations, excluding 99% of all businesses.

https://digitaledition.orlandosentinel.com/html5/mobile/production/default.aspx?pubid=7f2e94da-42a6-42b3-91be-f4782530a2d0&edid=d491e409-f75d-4016-8652-f74f7e2d6e68

The tax bill was quietly passed last year in response to intense lobbying by the state’s biggest corporations. At the time, it’s sponsors said the cuts were small and wouldn’t amount to much.

But $500 million would be enough to double the state’s funding of pre-kindergarten programs, which consistently rank among the bottom 10 in the nation. It’s more than the state spends to combat toxic algae bloom, which threatens the state’s fisheries; more than it spend to combat the opioid crisis; more than it spends buying conservation land and building beaches—combined.

The Republicans who control Florida’s government would rather reward the powerful than to invest in the future.

The reason that parents and teachers are giving Nick Melvoin a rating on YELP is in response to his plan to rate teachers, mainly by the test scores of their students.

Jeb Bush invented the template for grading schools from A-F, based mainly on their test scores. It became a convenient way to close public schools and turn them over to charter operators. It is an dumb idea for many reasons, because schools are complex institutions with many staff and many functions. Students are not randomly assigned.

In state after state, school grades reflect the proportion of needy kids enrolled. The lowest scores go to schools with high proportions of students who are poor, don’t speak English, and have special needs. Schools with the greatest challenges are wrongly labeled an stigmatized as “failing schools.”

So now Los Angeles is considering a school grading scheme in which most of the grades will depend on standardized test scores.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-08-13/lausd-schools-ranked

Even the Los Angeles Times ridiculed this bad idea.

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2019-08-16/grading-los-angeles-schools

According to documents obtained by Times reporters, the proposed measurement system, which hasn’t come before the board yet, would include a rating for each school on a scale of 1 to 5, based mostly on test scores. In the case of elementary and middle schools, the scores themselves and students’ improvement on them would make up 80% of the ranking. In high schools, it would be 65%, and since the state’s annual standardized test is given in only one grade in high school, it would show nothing about whether any particular cohort of students is improving on the tests as they move from 9th to 12th grade….

But what’s wrong might not be the quality of the teaching or the running of the school. The reality is that students in some neighborhoods face considerably more challenges of poverty, family disruption and the like, and those issues often affect their academic performance and test results.

Charter schools and magnet schools draw their enrollment from parents who go out of their way to find out about different schools and who have the time and ability to sign up their children for possible acceptance. Even if those students are poor and enter school not yet knowing English, they tend to have a leg up on students whose parents are less involved, perhaps because they’re ill or working too many jobs. Neighborhood schools shouldn’t be made to look comparatively bad over factors they can’t control.

Why is Los Angeles copying Jeb Bush’s bad ideas?

 

What a payoff!

A principal in Florida doubled his salary when his public schools converted to a charter, which is what the rightwing governor and legislator want to happen.

Meanwhile teachers In the state are raising money to pay for basic school supplies for their students.

Lincoln Memorial Academy principal Eddie Hundley, the subject of a federal investigation, earned more than twice the average salary of middle school principals in Manatee last year.

Former Lincoln Memorial Academy principal Eddie Hundley, who is currently the subject of a federal investigation into fraud, bribery and embezzlement, earned roughly $204,000 last year, according to Manatee County School District general counsel Mitch Teitelbaum.

Hundley’s salary nearly doubled overnight when Lincoln converted from a traditional district middle school to a charter on June 30, 2018. Before the conversion, school district officials say Hundley was earning $105,560, but as of July 1, 2018, his base pay increased to $174,990 plus a supplement of $2,450 per month.

“This may not be the entire compensation received by Mr. Hundley,” Teitelbaum said in an email.

Hundley’s salary had been a mystery, as school district officials have sought more details about Lincoln’s finances. The school was declared in “dire financial condition” in May. Lincoln was found to have missed roughly $60,000 in payments to the Florida Retirement System, and the city of Palmetto has threatened to turn off the school’s water twice due to unpaid bills…

Hundley’s base salary and monthly supplement, not including benefits, puts his earnings well above middle school principals in Manatee, who on average earned $83,200 in 2018-19, according to the school district.

However, Hundley’s salary it is not out of the realm for charter school principals in the district. In 2017 the Herald Tribune compiled salaries of the highest paid employee at all charter schools in Sarasota and Manatee. At that point, Manatee School for the Arts principal Bill Jones earned roughly $184,000. Fred Spence, the founder of Bradenton’s Team Success, earned $237,000 in 2014, the last year of salary data available before management of the school was handed over to his management firm. The highest paid employee at a charter school in Sarasota in 2017 was Vickie Marble at the Student Leadership Academy, at $143,175.

Local officials said the school’s administrative costs had tripled beyond what was expected..

Carol Burris wrote this article about the confluence of charter schools and greed in Florida. 

Just when you think you have heard it all, there is yet another story of cupidity associated with “nonprofit charter schools.”

The corruption never ends.

Burris begins:

The original mission of the federal Charter Schools Program of the U.S. Department of Education was to help new charter schools get on their feet by providing start-up help. The program began small during the Clinton administration when Congress awarded it $6 million to give to states and a handful of schools that directly applied.

The program, known as CSP, is now a behemoth with a budget approaching a half billion. Congress, bending in part to pressure by the charter lobby, added additional programs and funding over the years. Special funding streams now exist for a variety of charter-related services including two different CSP funding streams (one federal, another state) to support the building and renovation of charter schools.

There are some who now argue that part of the charter movement, amply funded by the federal government, has become a web of interconnected vested interests for whom real estate is the central focus.

The story of one of its recent grantees, a nonprofit organization known as Building Hope, provides a case in point.

It turns out to be very lucrative to build hope.

Just in: Teachers in Orange County, Florida, defeated a contract proposal by a vote of 4-1.

The contract would have raised wages but increased health care costs which would have left many teachers with less income overall.

The average teacher pay in the county is $49,000.

It is outrageous that teachers are paid so little, and that the state continues diverting public money to charters and vouchers.

What does the future hold for Florida, where education is a political football and held in such low regard?

 

 

Higher education rests on the backs of ill-paid adjunct professors, who spent years getting a Ph.D., then learned that full-time positions were nearly impossible to find.

This article describes a revolt by the adjuncts in Florida. 

Two half-time adjunct jobs do not make a full-time income. Far from it,” Ximena Barrientos says. “I’m lucky that I have my own apartment. I have no idea how people make it work if they have to pay rent.”

We are not sitting on a street corner, or in a welfare office, or in the break room of a fast food restaurant. We are sitting inside a brightly lit science classroom on the third floor of an MC Escher-esque concrete building, with an open breezeway letting in the muggy South Florida air, on the campus of Miami Dade College, one of the largest institutions of higher learning in the United States of America. Barrientos has been teaching here for 15 years. But this is not “her” classroom. She has a PhD, but she does not have a designated classroom. Nor does she have an office. Nor does she have a set schedule, nor tenure, nor healthcare benefits, nor anything that could be described as a decent living wage. She is a full-time adjunct professor: one of thousands of members of the extremely well-educated academic underclass, whose largely unknown sufferings have played just as big a role as student debt in enabling the entire swollen College Industrial Complex to exist.

As Barrientos chatted with another adjunct in the empty classroom, the conversation turned to horror stories: the adjuncts forced to sleep in their cars; the adjunct who was sleeping in classrooms at night; the adjunct who had a full mental breakdown from the stress of not being able to earn a living after all of the time he had put in getting his PhD. Such stories are common, from campus to campus, whispered by adjuncts who know deep down that they themselves are living constantly on the edge of personal, professional, and financial disaster. Other than academic credentials, most adjunct professors don’t have much. But recently, Ximena Barrientos, and her 2,800 colleagues at Miami Dade College, and thousands of others just like them throughout the state of Florida, have acquired, at shocking speed and on a grand scale, something of great value—a union. And they want nothing less than dignity….

University budgets are balanced on the backs of adjunct professors. In an adjunct, a school gets the same class taught for about half the salary of a full-time professor, and none of the benefits. The school also retains a god-like control over the schedules of adjuncts, who are literally laid off after every single semester, and then rehired as necessary for the following semester. In the decade since the financial crisis, state governments have slashed higher education funding, and Florida is no exception. That has had two primary consequences on campus: students have taken on ever-higher levels of debt to pay for school, and the college teaching profession has been gutted, as expensive full-time positions are steadily eliminated in favor of cheaper adjunct positions. Many longtime adjuncts talk of jealously waiting for years for a full-time professor to die or retire, only to see the full-time position eliminated when they finally do.

What can the adjuncts do? They are doing what they must, the only thing they can do to get decent working conditions and a living wage: they are unionizing.