It’s not that Florida’s local school boards haven’t tried before. But to feel Florida’s republican legislative body will help – if they just listen – that they will take action before the state’s schools plunge into chaos when public school students take Rick Scott’s new high stakes tests is a fool’s errand.
Unlike Tallahassee republican legislators, elected school board members are accountable to parents, students and their communities. The former takes their marching orders from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the new class of Florida educrats who float back and forth now between the Florida Department of Education, one of Jeb Bush’s think tanks or some firm which represents the for-profit school choice industry. This reality doesn’t stop good school board members from trying. Jeff Solochek reports in the Tampa Bay Times:
School officials across Florida continue to voice grave concerns about the state’s ability to launch a new testing system this spring without major problems. Pasco County is the latest to wade in, as School Board members consider their own resolution seeking relief from high-stakes tests
But the widening effort to get the state’s attention has touched off a quiet debate over the best way to deliver the message. Leaders acknowledge that formal resolutions have had only limited effect so far.
Allen Altman, Pasco’s longest serving board member, said he’s more comfortable with another strategy: enlisting the help of local legislators. He said he’s been relaying school concerns directly to lawmakers.
“I am confident they will take that information and try to benefit the students in our district,” Altman said. “I don’t have that same level of confidence in our Department of E
The Florida School Boards Association got zero movement from its 2012 resolution to scale back the state’s reliance on test scores. Instead, the Legislature increased the stakes.
Superintendents called on lawmakers this past spring to establish a three-year transition period to new tests tied to revised standards. They felt lucky to walk away with a one-year easing of the school grading formula.
Altman is no fool though. He’s been around for all the recent republican-led shenanigans of the last few years. Altman was on the Pasco board when Jacksonville senator, Steve Wise tried to pass a bill which ended the salaries of school board members in 2011. He was probably in the audience that day when Scott’s “appointed” hand-picked education commissioner Gerard Robinson lectured “elected” Florida school board members during the summer of 2012 with this:
“(You) can express (you’re) opinion,” he said. “But let’s also remember the local school board’s obligation is to implement the laws approved by the Florida Legislature; to implement the regulations approved by the state board.
“And if it’s an expression that’s great. It may be more symbolic than binding. But we’ll see how it goes. This is democracy and this is how it works.”
“What (you’re) focusing on is high-stakes testing, which is a political way of saying that ‘We just don’t like testing,’”
This writer publishes this blog from Okaloosa county. Some of our school board members were there that day Robinson committed the gaffe of the century. They know all about Wise’s bill, too; and his sponsorship of SB 736, the tragically misnamed Student Success Act which carved in stone Florida’s devotion to high-stakes testing, the worst of which will be taken by Florida kids in a few months. Some, if not all, Okaloosa school board members are registered republicans. Some, if not all of them will probably be ignoring Rick Scott’s savage attack TV spots that are playing locally and blackening out the bubble for Charlie Crist next month.