Matt Minnick wasn’t alone in being less than forthcoming about who he was when he testified before the Florida Senate Budget Committee’s March 3rd hearing on SB 1718 . An AFL-CIO lobbyist wasn’t either. The one-time Teach for America corps member turned legislative aid for Jeb Bush’s foundation tried to pass himself off as a former teacher before being outed by Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood. Minnick naturally was testifying in support of the now defeated parent trigger bill.
Minnick was indeed a teacher and his resume includes two years teaching in Atlanta public schools as a Teach for America corp member. It is no small thing to go into a large urban school as did Minnick at Therrell High School. He touts his student’s success on end-of-course exams. Clearly establishing himself as an advocate for test results as a marker of success, Mennick might be surprised to learn that Georgia Department of Education recently found that his old school was found to be one of the state’s worst performing with respect to both “graduation rates and overall test scores.” Minnick’s freshmen students from 2007 and 2009 are certain to be among the sampling. Nor will Minnick and by association, Bush, be upset to be reminded of Atlanta’s cheating scandal of which three Teach for America corp members confessed to being involved.
As a vigorous skeptic and opponent of using test data to the extent that Mennick and Bush clearly do, I’d like to point out that I do not blame the former for the results at the school he was at. Nor should Mennick continue to cite his own perceived success in the manner he does. Perhaps he might now see the folly in using test data as an indicator in making such broad judgements about schools. But he cannot. To do so would be to take away the school grade tool he needs to justify the parent trigger legislation he supports.
In the Foundation for Florida’s Future web site, Minnick criticized Diane Ravitch’s Lessons of Florida. Not surprisingly, he and Bush’s foundation do not offer the link to Ravitch’s piece as they were just looking to promote Minnick’s take as a press release. I shall do so, here. From Minnick:
Diane was right about one thing; democracy did live in Florida this year. Our Founding Fathers would have been proud at the opportunities for discourse and debate on the subject from proponents and critics and ultimately, when a simple majority was not reached on the Senate floor, the bill died—or at least went into hibernation. Yes, the democratic system is alive and well for state policy makers. But this begs one question: If democracy lives in state politics, why then can it not find a home in state education? If simple majority is good enough for politicians to have their voice heard and their presence felt, why is it not good enough for parents at failing schools to have their voices heard and their presence felt?
A law student like Mennick ought to know if he’s going to play the democracy card, he cannot be selective in its application. Our nation is a “representative” democracy as citizens vote on people to represent them in Washington and state capitols. This reality was at work in parent trigger’s Florida defeat. In fact, the representative spirit of our country was further demonstrated by the fact that the vote on parent trigger was dead locked. Yet Minnick bemoans that democracy is not served by not letting a simple majority of parents decide on the future of a particular public school; one which already has established elected representatives in school boards and/or superintendents in place. Minnick conveniently ignores Florida’s current procedures to address troubled schools that elected officials already apply. As his boss has pushed efforts and has been successful in circumventing these elected officials in Florida its clear he has no problem in doing so further with parent trigger.
The lofty ideals of simple democracy do not always rule our representative system, and simple democracy has already proved chaotic and divisive in applying parent trigger in California. Our founding fathers understood the wisdom in representative government. The next time Minnick’s boss is around, he ought to ask him to tell the tale of the Electoral College and how his brother was elected President of the United States in 2000.