The hyper partisan republican body in the Florida House, save the handful sponsoring anti-common core legislation, march in lock-step with their leadership which takes its marching orders from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Council of 100. So it stands to reason that only believers ascend to chairmanships of critical committees. No better example exists than that of Rep. Marlene O’Toole (R-The Villages) who chairs the powerful Education Committee.
Fresh off news that she’s up on ethics charges for not disclosing her $50,000 salary she accepts for representing an organization which receives education dollars which were appropriated through her committee, Marlene ‘OToole’s words are being carefully followed by the media. She’s even been fact-checked. Twice this week on three whoppers.
First by Amy Sherman for PolitiFact regarding recent FSA test failures:
During a House Education Appropriations Committee meeting March 12, chairwoman and state Rep. H. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake, put the blame solely on the cyber attack.
“On the testing problems, many of you may have read in the media, that the problem was not that of a vendor, the problem was not that of the test materials itself, it was the product of a cyber attack,” she said.
O’Toole’s claim suggested that the sole problem was the cyber attack, but that conflicted with news reports and information provided by the state Department of Education.
Wrong. The cyber attack didn’t even occur after a full week of multiple state-wide failures. Even an under-the gun FLDOE didn’t try to spin it that way. Let’s look at two more of O’Toole’s statements from this week’s debate on testing changes. From jjeffrey Jeffrey Solochek in Gradebook:
During discussion on HB 7069, Jacksonville Democrat Rep. Mia Jones noted that schools experienced significant problems with their online writing exams this spring. (Jones has been pushing to delay school grades and other related consequences as a result, to little effect.) Noting the technology “glitches” that lasted nearly a week, Jones asked sponsor Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake, how the state would protect against similar troubles moving forward.
“They’ve been taking tests on computers for two years. This is not a new thing,” O’Toole responded, adding that the House has proposed doubling the budget for school technology.
Two years? Not exactly. It’s actually been longer. We’ve been writing about the transition since 2008, when high school FCAT retakes first moved to computers. Some of the concerns raised now have been discussed even longer. Check out this old FLDOE chart showing the gradual shift.
Rep. Reggie Fulwood, another Jacksonville Democrat, observed that many House Republicans favor academic choices for parents. He asked whether the bill included choices for parents “who dissent or are disgruntled.” In other words, did it include an opt-out provision that some have requested.
O’Toole answered that her Education Committee had examined the issue.
“We found the constitution is very clear about how we must educate our children,” she said. “What we found was, opting out was not an option.”
Education commissioner Pam Stewart has made clear in letters to lawmakers that state law does not provide for opting out: “Participation in the assessment program is mandatory for all school districts and all students attending public schools,” according to chapter 1008.
But the Florida Constitution does not address the issue at all. The only time the word “test” appears in the document, it refers to pigs.
O’Toole’s easily dispatched statements show her to be more of a Sunday morning hack than committee chair. Just saying anything to maintain a narrative is shameful. Republicans say every education legislation they advance is about children, but their continued
dishonesty shows its more about them.
Does anyone really think that O’Toole is so clueless that she can so easily be fact-checked three times by the media in two days by two different journalists? In a bind with leadership for her ethics problem, she may be carrying the water for leadership to protect their shoddy record on education policy.