Inauthentic Conservatism At Work in Republican Lawmaker’s Mandate to See D’Souza Movie

It’s not hard to sense that Tampa Bay Times reporter Jeff Solochek doesn’t think much of Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) bill which would mandate Florida students see what the editors describe in the headline as a “conservative, patriotic” movie.

During the 2014 legislative session, Florida Sen. Alan Hays looked to remove the state from the process of reviewing and selecting textbooks. The decisions, he argued, should be left to local school districts

He appears to have different ideas when it comes to Dinesh D’Souza’s conservative-leaning movie on the United States’ history, America: Imagine the World Without Her.

I saw the movie and walked out of the theater and said, ‘Wow, our students need to see this.’ And it’s my plan to show it to my colleagues in the legislature, too, before they’re asked to vote on the bill,” Hays, whose other controversial bills have included a press for creationism in schools (2008) told the paper.

The Hollywood Reporter reported late last week that Hays intends to file legislation in 2015 requiring all Florida public middle and high school students view the film unless parents specifically opt out.

As a registered republican – and self-described conservative with sanity – I want to remind  my brethren of their previous outrage over textbook content and concerns over “public school indoctrination.” Solochek fairly points out Hays hypocrisy in the manner. I’ve not seen the D’Souza movie and will make no comment on its content, but like most authentic conservatives  I don’t care for such mandates.

Perhaps Hays might consider his colleagues on the other side of the aisle proposing all Florida students watch The Day After Tomorrow to grasp potential calamities of Global Warming. Or how about any number of Michael Moore movies like, say, Fahrenheit 9/11 as a mini-documentary on the most recent Bush presidency?

No?

While Hays couches his bill with a parental opt-out clause, he’s knows that it wouldn’t be an effective or user-friendly one. Like any movie a teacher would show, kids will see it. Parental “choice” in this instance would exist in ideal but not application. An authentic conservative like D’Souza wouldn’t approve of such a mandate to watch his film and prefer it be a real choice by a family to see his movie at the theatre or later on when it becomes more economical.

 

 

 

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What Bobby Jindal Says That Rick Scott Won’t and Charlie Crist Can’t

Make no mistake. Bobby Jindal never met a piece of school choice legislation he didn’t like. And he is no friend of his state’s teachers union. But it is his position against Common Core Standards which separates him from Republican governors like Rick Scott and political opportunists like Charlie Crist. Jindal’s rhetoric against Common Core is becoming more forceful and persuasive. Consider his recent opinion piece in the Shreveport Times:

….when parents and teachers began to speak up in opposition to the one-size-fits-all nature of the Common Core standards and the tests that came with it, we listened. Much of the education community is increasingly concerned that the Common Core mandates will mean local school districts have less control over curriculum. Many have described a rushed process where the education bureaucrats and the folks in Washington, D.C., did an end run around parents and educators to implement these standards without proper input.

Emphasis mine.

Rick Scott’s response to parental opposition was to establish a bogus social media operation to catalog concerns. An equally bogus “tweak” and relabeling as “Florida Standards” resulted, fooled no one, but protected Scott in n election year from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the ire of former governor Jeb Bush. As for Crist, he can never be opposed to Common Core. He brought it here when he signed onto the Obama-Duncan Race to the Top bribe. The $300 million that remains of the grant cynically keeps politicians of both parties in line.

It is Jindal’s inclusion of “teachers” and “tests” which separates him from Scott. Jindal clearly appreciates both the role teachers play, but also their expertise. Scott has never demonstrated any such opinions instead letting Michelle Rhee’s propaganda film Waiting for Superman serve as his education philosophy anchor . Scott told Florida teachers in a 2011 meeting that the “perception” of public schools “is that it is  not an accountable system.”

Crist, though politically trapped by his acceptance of Common Core with his RttT grant, has credibility with teachers and on testing. His veto of SB 6 solidified his position on test-dominated accountability systems and he remains quite vocal in  his opposition to high-stakes testing. Though easily labeled a flip-flopper and subjected to negative ads funded by Scott’s war chest, Crist still leads Scott in a Real Clear Politics average by +3.6.

How come? And with a Democrat president so unpopular.

Does Jindal’s conclusion provide some insight into why Scott reelection campaign hasn’t taken off?

The simple fact is that proponents of Common Core weren’t upfront about the level of federal government control involved once states accepted the one-size-fits all standards. We shouldn’t let a national consortium of federal bureaucrats dictate how Louisiana educates its children. We have fought too hard to sit idly by and allow educational choice and local control of curriculum to be taken away from parents and educators. Our children’s future is too important to get this wrong.

Again, emphasis mine. Scott and his republican legislative enablers continue to be seen as to not be “upfront” on Common Core – by many republican voters. To be sure, Jindal’s position appeals to his political base, but it is one that is growing. With grassroots opposition to Common Core emerging which focuses on pedagogical and developmental flaws, it’s only a matter of time before the standards  collapse entirely. Scott and Florida republican legislators will find themselves on the wrong side of history and education policy.

 

 

 

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Andy Gardiner’s Demogoguery Misleads Floridians on FEA Lawsuit

The incoming president of the Florida Senate cannot be trusted on education policy. Not if he’s going to deliberately mislead Floridians while  misrepresenting the position of the state’s teachers. Senator Andy Gardiner (R-Orlando) writes in the Tampa Tribune that “union bosses, union politics or union lawyers, ” filed a lawsuit earlier this month to block families of students with disabilities from receiving Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts.

I am a father who personally understands the unique challenges faced by the parents of these students. I understand the frustrations they face in advocating for their children. I understand their deep commitment to their children. I understand that they are best able to make decisions for their children.

That is why this PSLA bill was a priority for me. I deeply appreciate my colleagues in the Legislature for passing this bill and Gov. Rick Scott for signing it. They acted on behalf of our community of families. They gave us the power to choose for our children.

The beneficiaries will include school-age children (K-12) who have an individual education plan or who have been diagnosed with autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina bifida, Williams syndrome, or other specified intellectual challenges. Students with developmental delays who are entering kindergarten may also be eligible.

It was not that long ago when many students with disabilities were set aside in public education because it was assumed they could not learn or could not share classrooms with other students. It was the advocacy of parents that ended these discriminatory and damaging policies.

For this reason, I think it is deeply regrettable that before the first parent could even submit an application for a PLSA, the Florida Education Association — our statewide teachers union — filed a lawsuit to block it.

The union bosses can spin the lawsuit however they want. But the bottom line is this: They view every opportunity that gives parents freedom to make education choices as a threat to their power. They are advocates for their union, not your children.

Gardiner knows he is misleading Floridians on the position of the Florida Education Association. Writing in the Gainesville Sun, Erin Jester explains:

The Florida Education Association’s issue with the program is not that it increases aid to students with disabilities, but that the authors tacked on a provision to expand the corporate voucher program on the last day of the legislative session, which the FEA called unconstitutional.

The Florida Constitution contains restrictions to lawmaking that state a law may only address one issue, and the law that created the scholarship program, unfortunately, dealt with too many, said Alachua County Education Association President Karen McCann.

The FEA filed its lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart last week. There was no action on the suit as of Thursday evening.

If standing alone, Gardiner’s PLSA bill would have sailed through the legislature with bipartisan support, yet he chose to allow his bill to be attached voucher expansion, the most controversial and bitterly debated legislation of the session. Gardiner needs to demonize someone to change the narrative regarding his own unconstitutional  overreach.

Gardiner is off to a poor start as Senate President and Floridians will soon miss Don Gaetz’ thoughtful, deliberate stewardship. Particularly on education policy. Coupled with his partisan management of his own PLSA bill, his Tribune hit piece, Gardiner reveals he will be putting  politics above good education policy.

 

 

 

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Florida Law Firm Requests More Cash From Indiana for Florida-Based Charter Schools USA

Charter Schools USA executive Sherry Hage boasted last month about “opening schools in areas of highest need,” but all isn’t going so well in three Indiana schools she and her husband took over in 2012. From reporters Eric Weddle and Scott Elliott in the Indianapolis Star:

The four takeover schools in Indianapolis lost huge numbers of students — between 35 and 60 percent at each school — between the start of classes in 2011 and when the takeover operators took over in 2012. Schools are mostly funded on the basis of their enrollment, so the departures came at a steep cost for the private operators.

On top of that, the takeover schools saw their share of a pot of federal funds for low-performing schools that is controlled by the state shrink as more state schools became eligible to claim that money. Tindley lost $212,000, and Charter Schools USA’s three schools lost more than $601,110 because of across-the-board reductions.

Together, the cuts have left takeover operators with much higher costs than they anticipated.

Sherry Hage, CSUSA’s chief academic officer, says the operator is planning to stick with its schools despite the costs

This hasn’t stopped the Hage’s from asking Indiana taxpayers for more money and do so last month via a letter from its, get this, Florida law firm, Tripp Scott of Fort Lauderdale. On June 4, senior partner Edward J. Pozzuoli wrote to Indiana Superintendent Glenda Ritz on the Hage’s behalf:

The undersigned represents the Turnaround School Operator, Charter Schools USA. We write on behalf of the students of Emma Donnan Middle School (Donnan}, Thomas Carr Howe Community High School (Howe}, and Emmerich Manual High School (Manual). On behalf of our students and because of our commitment to them, we feel duty bound to express our grave concerns with the pending recommendation to the State Board of Education that significantly reduces School Improvement Grant (SIG) funding to Donnan, Howe and Manual (collectively he “Turnaround Schools” ) over the next two years.

There’s something creepy about and out-of-state law firm lobbying another state’s elected official, isn’t there? At any rate, the Hage’s Charter School USA adventure into Indiana hasn’t gone well from the start.

The three schools received an “F” in their first year of operation,  prompting Sherry Hage to outrageously claim that “while we may have received an ‘F,’ our schools are most definitely not failing any longer.” Moreover, a December 2012 story reported that the Hage’s received $6 million more than they should have from then Superintendent of Public Education Tony Bennett. Just six month after the Hage’s deal with Bennett for Charter Schools USA was revealed to have no profit limits nor minimum classroom expenditure levels, Red Apple Development, the real estate development arm of Charter Schools USA donated $5000 to Bennett’s campaign.

 

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Charter Schools USA Nets $2.9 Million Haul For Two Louisiana Schools

Small wonder the wife of Charter Schools USA CEO Jonathan Hage was touting their test scores in an Orlando Sentinel opinion piece last month. Sherry Hage and her husband take in a lot of taxpayer money to run schools. Consider this story from Marsha Sills in The Advocate

LAFAYETTE — Two new charter schools opening on opposite sides of Lafayette Parish in two weeks together will pay nearly $1.2 million to their management company, Charter Schools USA, and more than $1.7 million in rent to a sister company for the new school buildings and the land they sit on.

As with most of CSUSA’s facilities, lines between controlling entities are, at best,  blurry. Sills indicates that both “sites eventually will be purchased by Charter Schools USA’s sister company, Red Apple Development” and will “become the schools’ landlord.” It’s also clear that the board foundations which oversee each school are CSUSA controlled entities as well. The Lafayette Charter Foundation utilizes CSUSA’s sales pitch format in its web site.

 

 

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Mouthpieces For Jeb Bush Launch Transparent Political Attack on Teacher Unions

It’s doubtful that two state education chiefs wrote the recent Washington Post column which claimed that teacher unions were “sacrificing higher standards to avoid accountability.”What’s more of a political hit piece was most likely crafted by the hacks at Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education. The two ed chiefs – New Mexico’s Hanna Skandera and Tennessee’s Kevin Huffman are both among  Bush’s Chiefs for Change. Huffman, a Teach for America alum, is Michelle Rhee’s ex-husband.  Using cherry-picked data to justify their test-dominated vision, they misrepresent teacher unions position:

Astonishingly, the unions seem to think that they can ask for more taxpayer money while simultaneously weakening measurement and accountability. This is the very course of action that has led the United States to its middling level of performance on international benchmarks.

Not sure how teacher unions can actually ask state legislatures for more money for anything. The infrastructure their accountability schemes cost takes money away from actual instruction. Never mind the rising cost of energy an simple maintenance of facilities. This is a silly partisan assertion beneath a state education chief.

Skanandera and Huffman know that “international benchmarks” are really just test scores and much more nuanced than that. More evidence that the piece was written by a political operative. Moreover, the United States actually tests all of its students.

And the Bushies are engaging in a little rewrite of history, too, if “weakening measurement and accountability has led to our “middling level of performance on international benchmarks.” No Child Left Behind, which ushered in test-based accountability,  is now 12 years old. Bush’s test-dominated school grade formula in Florida is just as old. Subjected to yearly tweaks, it no longer has credibility with Floridians. No, the Bush Way has already taken its toll on two generations of children.

In opening their piece with “you can always count on the national teachers unions to behave badly at their annual conventions,” Bush’s mouthpieces signaled their intention. They need to create a union bogeyman for political purposes.

Instead of cultivating fear by spreading misinformation and arguing for less and less accountability, union leaders and their supporters should honor their commitments to our children and parents. They should honor their commitments to employers who rely on our education system to prepare young people to compete in the global economy. They should honor their commitments to civil rights leaders and advocates for the disabled who have fought for decades for greater equity in education, and to parents, who have the right to know how their children are performing.

U.S. teachers and students are ready. They are proving it every day. It’s time to stop attacking higher standards and accountability and focus on helping our children reach their potential.

What tripe.

With Jeb Bush’s signature education innovation, Common Core Standards collapsing faster than an old baseball stadium even within his own party, he’s desperate to make his failing policies about someone else. Parents of both political parties are sick of his high-stakes testing schemes, too, and no longer buy into his side’s  narrow “accountability” memes.

 

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Curious Spin From Jeb Bush Camp on Scott’s Signature of Voucher Expansion

Writing in the Foundation for Excellence in Education web site, CEO Patricia Levesque completely ignored the expansion of Florida’s school voucher program and only focused on the portion of the bill which had bipartisan support. Anyone can be for school learning accounts for special needs kids:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a school choice policy ensuring that students with unique abilities benefit from educational choices beyond those already offered through the McKay Scholarship Program. The signing of Florida Senate Bill 850 establishes Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs), modeled after Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. Advocated by the Foundation for Excellence in Education (@ExcelinEd), the program allows parents of students with certain disabilities to create a customized education plan by choosing the school, services and therapies that best fit the needs of their child.

“Every child has unique learning needs, and we should strive to customize education opportunities that meet those needs,” said Governor Jeb Bush, chairman of ExcelinEd. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature, Florida is giving families the ability to achieve more successful outcomes for their children. Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSAs)are just one more example of what can be accomplished when leaders embrace bold policy and challenge the status quo to give more students the chance to succeed in school and life, regardless of the challenges they face.”

Is Bush running for office or something?

Levesque’s decision to only focus on PLSAs, drips of political posturing. Why not make a blanket endorsement of school choice options in general? Especially with there a move in Washington by republican lawmakers to create a federal school voucher program.

Few are as close to Bush as is Levesque. Perhaps there is some education policy fatigue going on in the Bush camp as they’ve been taking a beating on Bush’s support for Common Core.

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Rick Scott Signs Voucher Expansion Bill; Will FEA Make a Legal Challenge?

Both Leslie Postal in the Orlando Sentinel and AP reporter Gary Fineout are saying that Rick Scott has just signed SB 85O which will expand Florida’s school voucher program. Fineout writes that Scott’s signature would “trigger a legal challenge from the Florida FEA. Scathing Purple Musings predicted last week that Scott would sign the bill on a Friday to minimize response from Charlie Crist.  Crist’s Democratic Party opponent Nan Rich will be sure to blast Scott’s decision.

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Perhaps It is Republican Cuts to Bright Futures Scholarships Which Provides the Best Argument Against Florida Voucher Expansion

While PolitiFact dispatched Nan Rich’s claim that Florida’s new expansion of school vouchers takes $3 billion a way from public education (Scathing Purple Musings takes this position, too) they didn’t argue with her number. They disagreed with Rich’s accounting and that her assertion that the figure was part of state revenues was a fair one.

Perhaps PolitiFact might be persuaded to consider that voucher expansion has taken funding away from Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship Program. South Dade Newsleader’s Larry Diehl  interviewed Sen. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) who explained the cuts and their ramifications:

“What happened to Bright Futures?” asked State Senator Dwight Bullard.

The Senator sought attention to the legislative cuts approved in this year’s state education budget. The Scholarship program was funded for $266.2 million in the budget, down from the $309.4 million approved for 2013-2014.

Created with Lottery funding in 1997, the merit-based scholarship program is designed to have bright Florida high school seniors earn a subsidy to stay in Florida for college. Eligibility is based on grades, community service and ACT or SAT test scores. The program grew from awards to about 42,000 students costing $70 million to today’s totals.

About 154,160 students participated last year with average awards of $2,007 each, according to the Florida Department of Education. The program expects 127,573 students to qualify this year.

“The students most impacted by these cuts are African-Americans and Latinos,” Bullard said. “We say enough is enough.”

Republican rhetoric to support expansion of vouchers is based upon what it does for African-American and Latino families. Their decision to cut Bright Futures discredits their supposed concerns. Looks like its republicans this time who are choosing winners and losers.

 

 

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#StopJebNow Hashtag Being Used By Conservative Activists to Defeat Common Core

Writes Fred Lucas in Glenn Beck’s conservative site TheBlaze:

In a critical battleground region that one activist labeled “the most important county of the most important state” for presidential politics, conservatives have a succinct message: #StopJebNow.

The hashtag was used this weekend to spread the word about a rally to be held by grass roots activists outside a Republican National Committee fundraising event in Cincinnati where former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush – one of the leading GOP advocates for the Common Core K-12 math and English standards—will be the keynote speaker Monday afternoon.

“The Republican candidate in 2016 needs to be on the right side of Common Core,” Heidi Huber, founder of Ohioans Against Common Core, told TheBlaze. “It’s fed ed and needs to be repealed.”

The RNC last year adopted a resolution opposing Common Core as imposing a national education program. The Hamilton County, Ohio, Republican committee also adopted the same resolution.

Hat tip to Huffington Post education reporter Joy Resmovitz.

#StopJebNow is sure to be co-opted by his republican opponents in primaries and may gain in notoriety as has other anti-Common Core hashtags as #stopcommoncore. Such organized opposition to Common Core which labeled as a  Jeb Bush initiative will be a drag on his candidacy. Coupled with his stance on immigration reform, Common Core may be a bridge too far for conservative voters who vote in primaries.

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