Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Republicans Put On Notice Over Education Reform

Florida’s legislative session opened with education bills pouring out like M&Ms.
With eyebrow raising speed, on opening day, the Senate Pre-K 12 Education committee considered and passed SB 962, Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program on January 9, 2012 by a vote of 4 to 2, and came back on January 10 to revisit some changes, and on January 11, the bill moved to the Budget Subcommittee on Finance and Tax. The legislative analysis notes the fiscal impact on taxes, fees, and general revenues are unknown. Governor Scott has asked for $1 billion in educational funding, which raises eyebrows after last year’s deep cuts. Where’s the money?

The Palm Beach Post reports that activists were on hand to remind the legislature of widespread unhappiness. Henry Kelly of Florida’s TEA Party put constituent sentiment this way:

"If you remove party labels from the equation, there's just no confidence in our political leadership, either left or right, that they're doing the right thing," said Henry Kelley, a tea party leader from Fort Walton Beach who last year organized an all-day event on opening day attended by several GOP leaders. "The honest assessment is I'm not highly enthusiastic that citizens are going to win. But we're going to be there. We've realized what happens when we don't get involved. We're still going to show up and we're still going to try to influence because otherwise the choice is to do nothing."

In spite of the tens of thousands of words in blogs and news reports regarding cheating scandals, fraud, funding concerns, and ethics questions, Florida legislators turned a blind eye to move full steam ahead on so-called education reform initiatives. During the recent New Hampshire Republican debate, no question was asked about education reform initiatives. Parents, community members, and taxpayers find federal and state elected leaders across the board maintain no interest in the public’s legitimate concerns. Around the nation, school districts struggle to meet unfunded mandates from federal and state initiatives while budgets are cut.

What should a constituent do?

Republicans should look into the petition developed by retired California teacher, Doug Lasken – as a way to express frustration. Doug is a retired 25 year veteran of LA Unified, current private school debate coach and language arts specialist who has consulted for the California Dept. of Education (during its productive years before Common Core), WestEd and the Fordham and Pioneer Institutes. Doug’s petition disavows allegiance to and support for the Republican party regarding its education policy, or more accurately, its lack of education policy. Read the resolution below with its founding signatures.

UPDATE: If you agree, sign it, circulate it, and publish it. Contact Doug Laskin to add your name to the petition at:

We the undersigned do not agree on all things, but we are in close agreement on education, and in particular these five propositions:

1. The federal government is barred by the United States Constitution from imposing academic standards and public school curriculum on the states, the very thing it is attempting to do through the Obama administration programs Race to the Top (RttT) and the Common Core Standards (CCS).

2. In addition to imposing standards and curriculum on the states, RttT mandates that states collect extensive and detailed personal information on students, and that this information be submitted to the federal Department of Education, from which it will be available to other agencies. We oppose this on Constitutional grounds.

3. The national price tag for CCS is estimated at $30 billion (and perhaps as much as $210 billion) most of which cost is to be borne by the states. This money will enrich special interests- the publishing and testing empires- but will do very little to save America's bankrupted public schools. The undersigned believe that spending $30 billion on standards is like painting a car before junking it- good for the painters, a useless expense for the car owner.

4. The news media has decided that since conservatives object to spending money, and since conservative views are represented in the Republican party, then people who object to RttT and CCS must be represented by the Republican party. The undersigned have found, however, that the Republican party, as distinct from individual candidates, does not represent those seeking sound education policy. Time and again, at all levels from local to federal, the undersigned have encountered ignorance and indifference regarding RttT and CCS from the Republican party and the people it has helped to achieve office. Republicans as much as Democrats have been seduced by the $30 billion and slick sales talk into acquiescence to RttT and CCS.

5. Therefore, we the undersigned here state that the Republican party does not represent our views on American education, that the Republican party is in fact aligned with the Democratic party in pushing through wasteful and highly problematical Democratic programs, and that we therefore disavow allegiance to and support of the Republican party in its policies towards education, and we ask that the media acknowledge that this diminution of Republican support has occurred.
Founding Signers:

Doug Lasken , Teacher

Susan Holloday, Taxpayer

Catherine Banker
Former member of California Curriculum Commission

Marilyn Reed
12 year veteran of a public school board
Education Reform consultant with the Commonwealth Education Organization
Wexford, Pa

Veronica Norris

Wayne Bishop, PhD
Professor of Mathematics
California State University, LA

Director-School Board, Francis Howell School District: 2000-2003

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