Archives for category: Florida


SB 48 Will Be Heard at 3:30 p.m. on 2/17/21 in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Your Voice is Needed!
What you can do . . .
1) Make calls and/or send emails – We are urging all those connected to Pastors for Florida Children to contact the members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and encourage them to vote “NO” on this bill! We are hoping to flood their offices with calls/emails up until the committee discussion on SB 48 at 3:30 p.m. on 2/17. If you live within the districts of any of the Senators on the subcommittee, be sure to indicate that in your call/email. Ask your family members, friends and colleagues to contact them as well. Below is some more information as well as talking points about the bill: 
SB 48 is moving through the legislative process and will divert more tax dollars away from public schools and further remove public oversight, transparency and accountability. If passed, SB 48 would expand eligibility for school-voucher programs, consolidate existing choice programs and allow parents to use taxpayer-backed education savings accounts for private schools and other costs.
Private schools that take state scholarships also do not have to meet state standards for teacher qualifications, facilities, curriculum or finances. Also, within the last calendar year, evidence has been presented that private schools that accept state money are currently able to discriminate against some of the state’s students without any repercussions.
SB 48 will outsource the oversight of Florida’s $1 billion voucher program to private organizations that will profit from the program expansion. There is no local oversight from elected officials and private organization audits are also reduced from annually to every three years.
The almost 3 million schoolchildren in Florida deserve better! Every child in Florida deserves to have access to a high quality education as is mandated by the Florida Constitution. 
Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Members and Contact Information:Chair Doug Broxson (R)broxson.doug@flsenate.gov850-487-5001@DougBroxson
Vice Chair Manny Diaz (R) — *Bill Sponsordiaz.manny@flsenate.gov850-487-5036@SenMannyDiazJr
Sen. Janet Cruz (D)cruz.janet@flsenate.gov850-487-5018@SenJanetCruz
Sen. Audrey Gibson (D)gibson.audrey@flsenate.gov850-487-5006@SenAudrey2eet
Sen. Joe Gruters (R)gruters.joe@flsenate.gov850-487-5023@JoeGruters
Sen. Travis Hutson (R)hutson.travis.web@flsenate.gov850-487-5007@TravisJHutson
Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R)passidomo.kathleen@flsenate.gov850-487-5028@Kathleen4SWFL
Sen. Tina Polsky (D)polsky.tina@flsenate.gov850-487-5029@TinaPolsky
Sen. Tom Wright (R)wright.tom.web@flsenate.gov850-487-5014@SenTomWright
2) Get Educated – The League of Women Voters of Florida hosted a Lunch & Learn program dedicated solely to the detriments that this legislation will cause, featuring Rev. Rachel Gunter Shapard, one of the co-founders of Pastors for Florida Children. If you would like to view it to learn more about SB 48 click here. If you were not able to attend the webinar hosted by Public Funds Public Schools entitled “Fighting Voucher Legislation in 2021: An Update on State Voucher Bills and Tools to Oppose Them,” you can view the recording here. The webinar featured representatives of Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS), the Network for Public Education (NPE), and the National Coalition for Public Education (NCPE). It is worth your time!
3) Write an Op-Ed – if you are a writer, we need you! It is imperative that we tell the other side of the story. Privatizers are bringing in parents and students who have benefited from vouchers to testify before legislative committees, but the problem is that private school students only represent 10% of the school-age population in Florida. We need to help amplify the stories of students who attended voucher schools and due to a negative experience had to return to public schools, or of public schools that are in underfunded that are doing incredible work, but need more resources to make a truly transformative impact. Contact us if you would like to write an Op-Ed. 
4) Make a connection – If you know of students who have utilized a voucher “scholarship” who had a negative experience and had to return to a public school, please connect us to them! Now more than ever it is imperative to share the other side of the story. 
Sincerely,
Rev. James T. GoldenChair, Social Action Committee,Florida African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Joyce Lieberman Executive/Stated Clerk,Synod of South Atlantic – Presbyterian Church (USA)
Rev. Rachel Gunter ShapardRegional Vice President, Together for Hope – Black BeltContact us:pastorsforflchildren@gmail.com ‌  ‌
Pastors for Florida Children | PO Box 488 Bradenton, FL 34206 Phone: Unsubscribe johnson.cfj@gmail.comUpdate Profile | Customer Contact Data NoticeSent by pastorsforflchildren@gmail.com powered byTry email marketing for free today!

— 
Charles Foster Johnson, Pastor, Bread Fellowship of Fort WorthExecutive Director, Pastors for Texas ChildrenP.O. Box 471155Fort Worth, TX 76147
(c)210-379-1066
www.pastorsfortexaschildren.comwww.charlesfosterjohnson.com

The Constitution of the state of Florida bans the transfer of public funds to religious schools or any religious institution. The ban is unequivocal. It says: “No revenue of the state or any political subdivision or agency thereof shall ever be taken from the public treasury directly or indirectly in aid of any church, sect, or religious denomination or in aid of any sectarian institution.”

In 2012, the state voted on a referendum to permit vouchers for religious schools. The proposed Amendment 8 was misleadingly called “the Religious Freedom Amendment.” Voters turned it down by 55%-45%.

Despite the explicit language of the State Constitution, despite the defeated state referendum, despite the body of research that shows that voucher schools are mostly inferior to public schools, despite the number of religious schools that openly discriminate in admissions and that use textbooks that are racist and sexist, Florida’s Republican governors and legislature have steadily expanded its multiple voucher programs, which currently sends about $1 billion to mostly religious schools. These schools are not subject to the same standards and accountability as public and charter schools. Now Florida legislators want to combine its several voucher programs and expand them.

If you live in Florida, say no to this degradation of public education and waste of public funds.

From: Network for Public Education Action <carol@npeaction.org>
Date: Tue, Feb 2, 2021 at 8:16 AM
Subject: [test] Urgent: Stop the Florida Mega-Voucher Bill Today
To: <burriscarol@gmail.com>

Florida SB 48  merges and expands the multiple voucher programs that already exist into two large programs.

If passed, this bill would also reduce the frequency of audits to detect fraud from every year to once every three years, increase the yearly growth rate of voucher programs, and via ESAs, expand the use of public funds for parents to “shop” for private schools or homeschool services.

Here is what to do.

1. Pick up the phone today and call:(Sample Script) My name is (name). Please tell Senator (name) that I strongly oppose SB 48. I support public education. SB 48 is one more attempt to fund private schools and destroy our public school system. 

Chair, Sen. Joe Gruters (850) 487-5023gruters.joe.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @JoeGruters 
Vice Chair, Sen. Shevrin Jones (850) 487-5035jones.shevrin.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @ShevrinJones
Senator Lori Berman(850) 487-5031berman.lori.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @loriberman 
Senator Jennifer Bradley (850) 487-5005bradley.jennifer.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @jenn_bradley 
Senator Doug Broxson(850) 487-5001broxson.doug.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @DougBroxson
Senator Travis Hutson(850) 487-5007hutson.travis.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @TravisJHutson 
Senator Kathleen Passidomo(850) 487-5028passidomo.kathleen.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @Kathleen4SWFL 
Senator Tina Polsky (850) 487-5029polsky.tina.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @TinaPolsky 
Senator Perry Thurston, Jr (850) 487-5033thurston.perry.web@flsenate.govTwitter: @PerryThurstonJr2.

Get on Twitter and tweet: Don’t destroy Florida public schools. #SayNotoSB48  @PerryThurstonJr @TinaPolsky @Kathleen4SWFL @TravisJHutson @DougBroxson @jenn_bradley @loriberman @ShevrinJones @JoeGruters @NPEaction @pastors4flkids Stop the mega-voucher bill. I love Florida Public Schools. Stop defunding them. #SayNotoSB48  @PerryThurstonJr @TinaPolsky @Kathleen4SWFL @TravisJHutson @DougBroxson @jenn_bradley @loriberman @ShevrinJones @JoeGruters @NPEaction @pastors4flkids Stop the mega-voucher bill. #SayNotoSB48 that outsources Florida’s $1 billion voucher program to private organizations for profit.. @PerryThurstonJr @TinaPolsky @Kathleen4SWFL @TravisJHutson @DougBroxson @jenn_bradley @loriberman @ShevrinJones @JoeGruters @NPEaction @pastors4flkids 

3. Send an email to the senators above, using the email addresses under their names (click the address and cut and paste text below):
I oppose SB 48 because it contains no standards, no transparency, and only tri-annual accountability. It gives to the few while ignoring the needs of the many children in public schools. Please vote to oppose SB 48.

Don’t wait. Thanks

 

Carol Burris, Executive DirectorDonations to NPE Action (a 501(c)(4)) are not tax deductible, but they are needed to lobby and educate the public about the issues and candidates we support.
Please make a donation today.Sent via ActionNetwork.org. To update your email address, change your name or address, or to stop receiving emails from Network for Public Education Action, please click here.

Peter Greene here disentangles the latest move to expand vouchers in Florida and the latest attempt to demolish public schools in a state where 80 percent of students attend public schools. Florida’s voucher schools currently are not required to take state tests or to have any standards for teachers or principals or to adhere to the state curriculum. Most of the voucher schools are religious, ignoring the State Constitution which explicitly prohibits public funding of religious schools and ignoring a 2012 state referendum that rejected vouchers. There are schools where the “educators” do not have college degrees, where racism is okay, where gay students and staff are barred, and where students are using textbooks that teach hate. No matter. The Orlando Sentinel published a three-part investigation called “Schools Without Rules.” Florida wants more of the same.

Greene writes:

Florida’s legislature is at it again, joining in a national trend of using the pandemic crisis to fuel school voucher initiatives. 

Manny Diaz, Jr., (R-Hialeah) has spent his career chip chip chipping away at public education in Florida, and yesterday he returned with another bold idea. 

Florida has allowed choice programs to grow like an unweeded garden, but Diaz’s new bill proposes to collapse five “scholarship” (aka “voucher”) programs into just two Education Savings Account (ESA) programs. So Family Empowerment, Hope, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship–all under one roof now, along with the newly condensed Gardner-McKay programs for students with special needs...

So here comes SB 48, designed to expand the eligibility for programs, combine them, and put them under ESAs and folding in Tax Credit Scholarships. There are a few other wrinkles as well.

It also reduces oversight by the state–previously the outfits overseeing the tax credit scholarships had to be audited annually, to make sure they were spending public tax dollars appropriately; now they would be audited only every three years. That’s important, because an ESA is like a debit card given to parents, and history tells us that without some oversight, the tax dollars carried by that debit card can end up spent on….well, in Arizona they discovered about $700,000 in ESA money on beauty supplies, clothing, and even attempts to just grab the cash.

Publicity touts “adding flexible spending options” as well. The vouchers can be used for the following: instructional materials (including digital devices); curriculum; tuition for full or part-time for everything from postsecondary courses to a “home education program” to private school to virtual school; fees for tests (SAT, AP, industry certification); Florida’s prepaid college savings programs; contracted services, including classes from public school; part-time tutoring services (from someone who has certification or has just “:demonstrated mastery of subject area knowledge”); summer school or after-school ed fees; transportation (under $750). So, a whole lot of things other than just a voucher to go to school somewhere...

This, for many choice fans, is getting close to the end game. The dream– rich people pay fewer taxes and only support the schools they want to support. Wealthy people still have access to all the choices they want, while everyone else gets to pick through a free market morass in search of do-it-yourself education for their children. Education becomes mostly privatized edu-business, and the public schools remains in some markets to do their underfunded best with the “customers” that nobody wants. But hey. Lower taxes. Less paying for the education of Those People. Put Jesus back in charge of more education, even if that means the education is not very good, aggressively exclusionary, or even abusive.

We’ll see what happens. Pay attention. Because Florida remains on the cutting edge of disrupting public education into oblivion, the model which other states that hope to be the very worst still aspire to follow.

The leader of Paramount Charter School in Broward County, now closed, was indicted for theft of federal funds. The school opened in 2015, promising to provide an education that would meet “the highest academic and personal standards.” Didn’t happen, say parents. After compiling a terrible academic record, the school closed in 2017.

Shauta Freeman, who said she sent three children there from 2015 to 2016, said the lights cut off at times, the water wouldn’t run, and so many teachers were fired that students from various grade levels were crowded into one room. “It was a nightmare.”

Now, the former president of the school, Jimika Williams, has been federally indicted on the charge of stealing federal funds from the school and committing wire fraud.

The indictment accuses Williams of embezzling nearly $389,000 in funds intended to go toward the school’s operating expenses. Instead, the indictment says they were used to buy a new car, pay her rent at a lavish Davie home and other expenses.

According to the indictment, Williams transferred funds from the school’s bank account to a shell account she set up to “deceive” other members of the governing board, auditors, local education authorities and others...

Freeman said the school initially sounded amazing when she first enrolled her children. But shortly after starting school she said her kids reported being left outside for long stretches of time, little to no instruction, days without lunch, and fighting between teachers and students...

According to the indictment, while Paramount struggled to staff classrooms and properly educate students, Williams made off with hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for the school.

Between 2015 and 2017, the indictment says she made almost monthly transfers between the school’s account and a shell account she created for sums ranging from $3,000 to $50,000 at a time.

This kind of behavior can be expected in states where anyone can open a charter school, and where oversight, accountability, and transparency are lax.

Last year, the Orlando Sentinel reviewed the websites of the state’s voucher schools and discovered that scores of them publicly admitted that they do not admit the children of gay families and do not hire gay staff. The legislature then refused to require that voucher schools stop discriminating against gays; mustn’t trample on their freedom to be bigots.

Some voucher schools removed the language from their websites, but continue to fire gay teachers.

https://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/scott-maxwell-commentary/os-op-gay-teacher-fired-florida-scott-maxwell-20201023-mnfwdiqejrd2blf4cermulgeji-story.html

The voucher schools, apples of the eyes of Betsy DeVos and Jeb Bush, skim $1 billion a year of public funds that should have gone to public schools or used for public purposes, where discrimination is prohibited.

Rebekah Ray responded to another Florida teacher who complained the changes by the State Legislature has destroyed the promises made to him when he became a teacher. It’s method of evaluating teachers is one of the worst in the nation. If they don’t teach reading or math in grades 3-8, they are assigned ratings for students they never taught in subjects they never taught.

Ray writes:

I would not sign that evaluation. The first year Florida started its detrimental evaluation system I taught all 11th grade classes. I was asked to meet with the principal and the AP of curriculum (my evaluator) and was told I was a “Needs Improvement Teacher”. I was devastated because prior to that year, I had always received outstanding evaluations. I was also an NBCT teacher. Additionally, for that first year of the insane evaluation system, all teachers on campus who did not teach 9th and 10th grade were supposed to receive the school-wide VAM. I pointed out that I should have received the SW VAM scores because I taught all 11th grade students. The AP looked at me and said, “No, you have one 10th grade class.” At that point, my devil horns came out, and I asked for specific data that they based their scoring on. The principal called the district office and spoke to the one mathematician who did the calculations for each teacher. He stated that I had received that score because over the course of three years of teaching, nine of my students did not pass the FCAT re-takes. I asked, “What about the 300 other students who had passed; don’t they count?” They did not have a clue how to respond. I refused to accept their evaluation and did not sign it. The principal told me to send him an email once I had time to think about the situation, so I did. I asked for all sorts of data on those nine specific students: When did they enroll in my class?; How many absences did they have?; Are they on free or reduced lunch?… and lots more data. I received no response, but the a-holes gave me the SW VAM, and the next year, they moved me to 10th grade in an effort to set me up for failure. At the end of that year, I met with my evaluator to sign my evaluation, and she commented, “You are one of those teachers.” My defense mechanism immediately went into high gear, and I asked, “What does that mean?” She replied, “You are responsible for our A+ rating.” I had no idea because I’m that rebellious teacher who refuses to look at data; I look at the students in front of me and tell them point blank, “I will never treat you like a data point; I will treat you as a human being, and you will work harder in this English class than any other ones you have been in, and you will pass that stupid state test with no problem!!” Then I never mention the test again until a month before its administration. (I also ignore the scripted common core curriculum). Ergo, my students excelled, and for consecutive years, I earned perfect VAM scores (unbeknownst to me). I only learned about it because the department chair told me. (Again, I rarely look at the data; I always look at the child). My next evaluator consistently awarded me with high scores such as 99/100. The following year a new evaluator came on board, an academic with a doctorate in Reading, but zero classroom experience. She tried to lower my rating, but I refused to sign until she changed her scores, explaining, “Nothing has changed; I cannot help that you never came to my classroom to observe those specific activities, and I still have perfect VAM scores, so why do you think it’s okay to lower my score in categories I have always been rated as Highly Effective?” She changed my scores both years she evaluated me.

The tragedy of it all is that I had to consistently fight to get what was rightfully mine from the outset. No teacher should have to suffer such denigration and demoralization at the hands of administrators who have been given district and state directives to assign lower scores because “Too many of your teachers are being rated as ‘Highly Effective’”.

I have five years before I can retire, but my heart is no longer in it, so I will be leaving this profession and the children who I dearly love teaching. The stress that comes with teaching has taken a massive toll on my health, and I am currently on an LOA because of it. (Yes, I also had to fight for my FMLA benefit; it’s always a fight, with the district and admin on one side, and the teachers on the opposite side). It’s not supposed to be that way; we are all supposed to be on the same side, but it’s not like that here.

I have two pieces of advice for anyone thinking of going into education: 1. Don’t do it!! 2. If you really believe it is your true calling, then go straight through and get your masters degree; subsequent to that, teach in the U.S. for a minimum of three years, so you can get some experience; apply to teach overseas where your efforts will be appreciated and rewarded. Most of all, you will be respected and honored everywhere else in the world because you are a teacher.

Some charter schools are like day lilies–they open, they close. Charter advocates say that their instability is a feature, not a bug. They decry the public schools that serve families for generations. Better to have market forces at work. Then you get a situation like the one in Fort Myers, Florida.

The Lee County school board yanked the authorization from the Collegiate Charter School after district staff found serious disorder: overflowing trash bins, kids walking around unsupervised, and only two teachers running the whole operation. District staff said they didn’t know who was working in the school. When staff visited the school, they found two teachers responsible for three classrooms. How do you do that? One teacher responded that she stands between the two classes. This is apparently innovative teaching, but the school board didn’t think so.

The charter was approved last April, even though it did not yet have a facility. That’s what the law says. Just approve the charter and see what happens.

Choice advocates always said that parents know best. Why would parents put their children into a school that is understaffed and chaotic?

Veteran teacher Stephanie Fuhr writes as a guest blogger for Nancy Bailey, explaining why laws that hold back third graders if they don’t pass the state reading test are wrong and should be abolished. She includes a sample letter that you can send to your state legislator.

This punitive idea is part of the so-called “Florida model,” a creation of Jeb Bush and his advisors. It is bad for children but it gives a temporary boost to fourth grade reading scores. The Florida model is a collection of practices that are not grounded in research or practice, but in the belief that punishment is the beat motivator.

A Florida teacher posted this comment. It raises the question of whether it is fair to attract people to become teachers with promises that are later canceled by a nasty, brutish legislature. The legislature passed a law called “the Best and Brightest” that awarded bonuses to new teachers based on the SAT scores they recorded years earlier. It constantly thinks about how to attract new teachers but does nothing to retain the experienced teachers it has. What this teacher describes is the perfidious work of Jeb Bush and his cronies:

I was never a money person. If I was I would never have become a teacher. I honestly believed that we were paid what they could afford to pay us. Seems stupid now but I was a kid. I was a fool. Twenty years ago I signed up to be a teacher. I wanted to be a teacher. I went to college for it. I knew I would never be able to support a family. It was ok, I wasn’t interested in having one. When I first became a teacher, I was shown a “step” system of pay. I saw that every year you’d make a little more. When you finally reached 20 or 25 years in the system the pay took huge leaps higher. Some years as much as a $10,000 increase if you can believe it. I thought I’d be rewarded for loyalty.

That “step” system has long been abandoned. Now we receive increases of around 1.3% a year. I thought the worst indignity came when I actually made less money than the year prior. The state of Florida forced us to contribute 3% to our retirement. Our yearly salary increase wasn’t even that much. This latest indignity is worse. Florida passed a new law raising the minimum teacher salary. Wonderful for new hires and attracting talent. Not so wonderful for those of us that have put the years in. Now, after 20 years of dutiful service I make $5,000 dollars more than a 21 year old, fresh out of college.

I am absolutely and totally morally devastated. The system seems to now be designed to have a perpetual series of inexperienced teachers. I need help. I need for my story to be heard. What do I do? What can I do? They don’t care about me. Now I don’t care about my job. When they showed me that “step” schedule 20 years ago, I believed it to be a nonverbal agreement about how much I would make, roughly, in the future. I was a fool. If I knew then I would never have become a teacher. I feel conned, duped, and lied to and I just can’t take it anymore.

The schools of Sarasota, Florida, have adopted what they call “a concurrent model,” with teachers responsible for both in-person and remote learning. Some teachers say this is like working two jobs at once and wonder whether this is sustainable.

School in Sarasota County started a few days ago, but some educators say they are already overwhelmed and exhausted by the new way of teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Teachers knew this year was going to be a challenge with social distancing, extra sanitizing measures, technology issues, projecting their voices through a face mask for hours on end, and juggling students both in the classroom and at home — something the district is calling concurrent learning.

Four days into the new school year, some concurrent teachers aren’t so sure the teaching model is doable long term.

“I am worried that after a month or two of this, teachers that are really trying their best are going to start breaking down because it is not a sustainable way of teaching and we will burn out,” said Sarasota High School teacher Sarah Sturzu.

President of Sarasota Classified Teachers Association Patricia Gardner tells 8 On Your Side she’s been getting emails and teary-eyed phone calls one after another since school started Monday.

“They are finding they can’t give the attention to both groups. They just don’t feel like they are doing the job they should be doing and they feel the kids aren’t getting what they deserve to get on either side of this,” said Gardner.