Did Florida Republicans Deliberately Mislead Voters on Race to the Top?

The Florida Education Association was skeptical of the Obama-Duncan Race to the Top (RttT)  initiative, but eventually became part of the team which then governor Charlie Crist put together to apply for the grant. As it turns out RttT has turned out to be as what republican presidential candidate Rick Perry calls an “unacceptable intrusion on states’ control over education.”

Florida’s republican leaders liked it. Jeb Bush supported the measure. In a statement released through his foundation he said, “my hope is that states are bold and provocative in their proposals for Race to the Top Funds. This unprecedented federal investment in education reform should be used to introduce transparent and relevant world-class standards, dramatically improve teacher quality and employ technology to radically transform the delivery of education.”

Republican members of of the Florida legislature did, too. Rep. Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel , next year’s house speaker, attacked the FEA’s motives for its opposition to the measure in a December 2009 op-ed piece in the Gainesville Sun.

Last week, the President of the Florida Education Association (FEA) issued a public letter to local education associations across the state, urging them to not support the Florida Department of Education’s efforts to participate in the federal Race to the Top program and continue reforming Florida’s schools by rewarding excellent classroom teachers. 

Disappointing? Yes.  Surprising?  No.

After all, the FEA has long been in the business of resisting innovative education reforms in favor of protecting the status quo.  Instead of supporting a program that will give Florida’s teachers,  their members,  real financial rewards for excellence in the classroom, the FEA has chosen to play politics and fight to sustain a failing system that rewards teachers only for longevity, not for performance and results.

As Florida looks at a bleak economic forecast that could force reductions to the education budget, the FEA is urging local union groups to sabotage the state’s efforts to bring in a potential additional $700 million in funding for our teachers and our schools. Frankly, it’s simply irresponsible for the FEA to jeopardize Florida’s ability to participate in the continued efforts to reform education and improve teacher quality and instruction in low performing schools

Weatherford misled voters.  The highlighted portions show he is clearly telling voters that RttT funding will go toward “rewarding excellent classroom teachers” and “give Florida’s teachers,  their members,  real financial rewards for excellence.”

It did nothing of the sort.

In this video of the Q & A session between Senator Paul Dockery and SB736’s sponsor, Senator Steve Wise, it was revealed that RttT funds would only be funding “infrastructure” for establishing new tests. Niether did the legislature provide funding for districts who would be implementing the bill’s new teacher evaluation system – let alone provide “real financial rewards” for teachers.  Rick Scott and the republican dominated legislature cut funding by 8 percent.

Its fair to say that Weatherford was categorical wrong about where the $700 RttT funds would be going. Did he already know it? His opinion nonetheless gave the impression that the intent was something far different from what has materialized. Weatherford was successful in demonizing  the state’s teachers.

Perhaps Bush’s “employ technology to radically transform the delivery of education,” is more indicative of Florida republican’s true plans. Arne Duncan’s cash reward will end up going to corporate high-tech interests who generously donate to the campaign coffers of the state’s republicans.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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7 Responses to Did Florida Republicans Deliberately Mislead Voters on Race to the Top?

  1. Bob; back in the late 60’s or early 70’s there was a theory about being able to get an entire city stoned by dumping 50 gallons of LSD into a reservoir.. That could explain both DC and Tally. Not sure if it explains Jeb Bush, or whey he’s so insistent on pushing a program that shreds the Constitution, costs an indeterminate amount of money that doesn’t exist and has no model that can be proven successful.

  2. Ayn Marie says:

    The question that must always be asked: Who benefits?

  3. We know that Bill Gates and Pearson Testing Stand to benefit in a major way.

  4. irishlace says:

    People need to know the sorry state of education in Florida. Jeb Bush is just as responsible as Charlie Crist, the elected officials who do not know what they are doing in regard to education legislation. They think passing more bills will make it better – teachers and unions will tell you more money will do it – they are liars and stupid. Anyone believing in the Progressive way are set to destroy, Dumb down and create nothing but socialistic worker bees out of our children. Reading scores have been flat lined here for over 10 years and we are 48th in the country.

    They are allowing International Education into this state teaching UNESCO/UN without perusing the textbooks used or the syllabuses and in the case of the Gulen Charter schools and other Charter schools they are not monitoring them either. The International Baccalaureate Program has cost this state billions of $$ since Eric Smith first brought it to Florida in 1983 and yes he does need to be accountable for the damage he caused. Virtual and Charter schools are using UNESCO and United Nations education programs paid for my Tallahassee. Why would Jeb Bush want to push privatization of our Education system? To have his Foundation oversee it. He is fully aware that NCLB and RTTT are right out of Marc Tucker’s socialistic education plan for America. Shame on him – http://www.educatingflorida.com

    Virtual Schools are also going to be a failure teaching UNESCO programs and not monitored. Shame – shame on Florida legislatures – dealing with something they know absolutely nothing about and not asking for proper help in regard to education but pushing their own profitable agendas.

  5. irishlace says:

    I would also like to know what the connection between Eric Smith and Hillborough County. From 2007 until he left office he obtained grants from the Gates Foundation for over $146M dollars in 3 different grants and it has not helped that district one bit. So where did the money go? How was it used? Most of it was supposed to inspire the teachers to bring up scores the same as RTTT is supposed to do – but that is one large amount of money for one county and no report as to how it was used. There is never any oversight in this state.

    Prove to me that International Baccalaureate Program is any better than AP, Honors or the grades an average kid gets (A & B) but chooses not to take any Honors classes, goes on to college, gets good grades – they cannot. Since bringing that program into the state there has not been ONE comparison report done to justify the billions spent on the program.

    And Will Weatherford likes to sit in an Education Forum at CPAC and tell a packed room full of people how great Florida education is and that we are 4th in the country? How would he know – he is another wet behind the ears kid that leaves law school and runs for office to be a career politician who is talking about something of which he knows nothing – I don’t think his children are even old enough to go to school. 48th in America – aren’t we proud!

  6. Pingback: StudentsFirst will be in Seattle | Seattle Education

  7. Pingback: Michelle Rhee-Form protest in Seattle. Join us. « Seattle Education

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