FLORIDA #2: Happy Anniversary Allen Boyd! One year ago you voted for Cap & Trade

The NRCC is sending out reminders to districts that one year ago this week, House Democrats passed Cap & Trade, a measure that will result in a significant tax increase for families. Rep. Allen Boyd (D-Monticello) voted for the measure. Here’s an example of the letter targeting Dem. Mary Jo Kilroy:

Washington- Tomorrow will mark the one year anniversary of the Democrats’ national energy tax, but it’s not exactly cause for celebration. This time last year, Mary Jo Kilroy and her Washington friends rubber-stamped a job-killing national energy tax that would increase costs on everything from electricity bills to groceries. While it’s not surprising that the out-of-touch Democrat majority would vote for tax-increasing legislation, this one is particularly egregious. According to the Department of Treasury’s own admission, the national energy tax could pile on an additional $1,761 in new taxes to struggling middle-class families.

“A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration’s estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year.” (Declan McCullagh, “Obama Admin: Cap And Trade Could Cost Families $1,761 A Year,” CBS News, 9/15/2009)

And that’s just the cost to you in taxes. Here’s why Cap & Trade is a job killer as well:

In a time of economic peril, the Democrats’ national energy tax could put up to 2.4 million American jobs at risk:

“By 2030, as emission reduction targets tighten and other W/M provisions phase out, U.S. jobs decline by 1.8 million under the low cost case and by 2.4 million under the high cost case.” (“Economic Impact of the Waxman-Markey Bill, H.R. 2454 Proposed Legislation to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” National Association of Manufacturers, 8/12/2009)

While Democrats admit to the fact that some jobs will be lost as a result of cap-and-trade, they have been disingenuous in their claims that new “green jobs” will be created to replace those that are lost:

“Now it looks like the U.S. is lucky to be lagging in alternative-energy investment. The Alvarez study says that following the Spanish model, held up by Obama as a standard the U.S. should follow, is likely to cause 6.6 million to 11 million job losses “as a direct consequence were it to actually create 3 to 5 million ‘green jobs.’ ”

“Renewable energy is trendy and for many offers political gain. But Washington should shut down the green economy nonsense before too much of other people’s money is spent on projects that do more harm than good.” (“The Green Jobs Myth,”Investors Business Daily, 5/20/2010)

President Obama is using the Gulf oil spill crisis to emphasize his Cap & Trade legislation. It will be fascinating to see how Boyd will be defending this vote in the fall as it’s unlikely many will see the bill as anything other than a tax increase and job killer.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 26, 2010

EDUCATION: How to really turn a school around

From a new favorite blog of mine, The Answer Sheet, come an article by a principal of a school who turned things around. Here’s a bit of what Principal George Wood says:

You see, we did not do all the stuff that the new ‘reformers’ think is vital to improve our schools. We did not fire the staff, eliminate tenure, or pay teachers based on student test scores. We did not become a charter school. We did not take away control from a locally elected school board and give it to a mayor. We did not bring in a bunch of two-year short-term teachers.

Nope, we did not do any of these things. Because we knew they would not work.

There is no evidence that firing staffs and using the turn around strategies that failed when Education Secretary Arne Duncan was in charge of Chicago’s schools is suddenly going to work (here’s the evaluation from Duncan’s supervisors).

Tying teacher pay and tenure to scores on the current batch of narrowly constructed tests has never worked and will not work now, as Thomas Hilton, former researcher at the Educational Testing Service notes.

Charter schools do not do any better than good old public schools. And there is no evidence that eliminating democratic involvement with our schools through elected school boards improves educational opportunities for kids.

Well that serves as my daily smakedown for reformist, but here’s what Woods’ school did:

At our school we rely on weekly if not daily staff development activities, school wide learning strategies, and staff evaluation focused on improving instruction and cultivating the leadership skills of teachers to help and coach their colleagues.

There is no incentive linking pay to performance or threats of termination; rather we rely on collaboration and the collective wisdom of the teaching staff to improve student achievement.

Ensuring that every young person learns means constant reassessment of the curriculum, multiple measures of student achievement, and support systems throughout the school.

Why, that sounds alot what we do at our school.

I wonder what we could accomplish without the burden of standardized testing and the monster of federally mandated school assesments.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 25, 2010

FLORIDA POLITICS: Scoring Update on Scott vs. McCollum

Bloggy Bayou has it

Scott now has his own 527. At least we know where’s his attacks on McCollum will be coming from.

The battle between Scott and McCollum is for the soul of the RPOF. The old RPOF still belongs to Jeb Bush. His desciples do not want to give the Govenor’s house away as it’s why they are going after Scott with such rancor. Unlike Scott, they are having unnamed surrogates do it for him.

For some reason the old gaurd, which includes Marco Rubio do not want an immigration law similar to Arizona’s. Perhaps they believe that it hurts them with the Cuban-American vote in south Florida and their stand is simple political posturing. It doesn’t seem have hurt Scott’s approval of such a bill with Republicans as he still leads in polls.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 25, 2010

EDUCATION/FLORIDA POLITICS: Democrat candidate for CFO says “FCAT is an experiment that has failed us”

Lorrane Ausley writes a letter to the editor of the Palm Beach Post and clearly indicates her opposition to FCAT. Here’s a bit:

Our schools need consistent and measurable accountability standards. Uniform testing is a great tool for schools, teachers and administrators. But the FCAT has been a debacle from its inception. From the secretive methods to changing criteria and potential conflicts of interest, the FCAT has come to symbolize much of what is wrong with the current leadership’s approach to governing, which the current leadership wants to expand with similar measures to the merit-pay plan in Senate Bill 6.

The incompetence of those who were given $250 million to run the FCAT and those who hired them is unacceptable but predictable. The only thing more stunning than the clear failure of the FCAT to serve the interest of our students and taxpayers has been the failure of our leaders to do anything about it.

It’s time to replace the FCAT with true testing measures that help our students reach higher goals. It’s time for Florida to rethink policies that dole out core and vital government functions to politically connected private contractors whose only real skill is knowing how to offer the lowest level of service at the lowest bid. It’s time for the political insiders to accept the fact that the FCAT is an experiment that has failed us, our schools and, most important, our kids

As a would-be CFO, Ausley is quite right to speak directly to the cost of FCAT for Florida’s taxpayers. She pointedly calls out the failure of “leaders to do anything about it.”

The current GOP legislative leadership has no intention of doing anything about FCAT as it is crucial to SB6. They intend to resubmit the Bill again under a GOP govenor. Both Rick Scott and Bill McCollum favor SB6 while state wide Democrat candidates have clearly come out against the measure. This distinction between the two party’s offers voters one of the fall’s clear choices.

FCAT and SB6 are not winners for Republicans. McCollum is far too invetested with his party and Jeb Bush to change. If the race for the GOP nod tightens, it could benefit Scott with some voters to pull the rug on FCAT and SB6.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 24, 2010

EDUCATION: Thrasher and Bush top-down approach insulting

From Jeff Solocheck’s fabulous education blog, The Gradebook, come’s this letter to the editor:

Having met Sen. John Thrasher briefly during the legislative session, I was pleased that we had a frank and honest discussion about the pros and cons of Senate Bill 6.

Thrasher’s candidness was refreshing, if wrongheaded.

Jeb Bush’s endorsement letter for Thrasher reinforces my view of what’s wrong with the ruling party’s approach to public education reform in Florida.

Tyrannical, top-down, partisan approaches that insult an entire profession and lock them out of important public policy decisions will never work.

Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Florida’s Future wrote the blueprint for Thrasher’s legislative agenda on education, in a post-gubernatorial attempt to extend Bush’s FCAT-and-vouchers policy.

While he was governor, Bush instituted some accountability measures that have probably helped students. Shortly after his A+ plan was implemented, though, the voters enacted smaller class sizes.

Research shows that smaller class size positively impacts learning for students in grades K-3.

The significant improvements in literacy for fourth-graders, which Bush claims credit for, may be attributable to class size reduction rather than to Bush’s A+ plan.

Meanwhile, studies show that Bush’s private school voucher programs do not outperform public schools in terms of learning gains for voucher-eligible students.

Further, when examined in light of cost-of-living increases, funding for education under Bush and afterward has remained stagnant – since before the crash of 2008.

Being 50th in per capita state spending on education has rallied parents and other advocates to form grassroots organizations all over Florida: 50thNoMore.org, FundEducationNow.org and Save Duval Schools.org, to name a few.

After a decade of FCAT and vouchers, demoralized teachers, and abominable funding, parents in Florida have finally had enough.

We’re onto them. Lawmakers will have to do better than pretend to be kings, instead of elected officials.

Real education reform can’t happen without consulting teachers and parents – the people who know what’s best for their children, not ex-governors.

And real education reform can’t happen without identifying additional revenue sources for new policy changes and initiatives.

Laying new government requirements on local school districts without state financial support and then penalizing them even more financially for not complying, violates all conservative principles of local control, and only hampers the legitimate work that local educators are trying to do in our schools.





This post was written by bobsikes on June 24, 2010

EDUCATION: A Culture of Testing

From Monty Neill of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing:

Polls show that most Americans agree we need a better way to assess students and evaluate schools. The question is, what should we do? Any new system must provide reasonable accountability and use assessments that improve student learning and school quality. It must also get us out of the downward spiral of producing schools that do little more than teach children how to fill in bubbles on multiple-choice tests.

FairTest and our allies propose a robust and effective assessment and evaluation system that would include three key components: limited large-scale standardized testing, extensive school-based evidence of learning, and school quality review process

Neill points out that multiple-choice tests like FCAT and End-of-Course exams are not utilized in other countries:

Many nations with better and more equal education outcomes test only one to three times before high school graduation and largely avoid multiple-choice questions. The emphasis is on quality, not quantity. Better tests would help U.S. schools, but based on criteria set by the Department of Education, the next batch of tests aren’t likely to be much better than current ones. And we’d still waste time and money testing too many grades. Congress should require statewide tests once each in elementary, middle and high school. States could cut back to what many did before No Child Left Behind, when improvement was faster than it is now.

Neill’s position details why so many oppose current reform efforts and legislation such as SB6. Floridians have a decade of experience with FCAT and understand that it has created a dominating culture of testing in our schools that overwhelms learning. Both NCLB and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top mean more of the same.

The Answer Sheet provided this link.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 24, 2010

EDUCATION: Why Republicans should be listening to Diane Ravitch

From Valerie Strauss:

Education historian Diane Ravitch has been talking with thousands of people as she crisscrosses the country talking about education reform and her New York Times best-selling book, “The Death and Life of the Great American School System.”

I have written a lot about Ravitch recently because I think she occupies a unique place in the world of education. For years, she was part of the conservative wing of the education world, serving as an assistant secretary in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and becoming a vocal backer of the second President Bush’s No Child Left Behind initiative.

But after looking at the data — one of the mantras of today’s misguided education leaders — Ravitch reversed her position on NCLB, calling it a failure. And she has become a strong critic of using business principles to run public school districts.

Republican lawmakers probably don’t know that Ravitch was a one-time member of the Bush adminstration and advocate for NCLB. She’s looked at the numbers, and has changed her mind. But here’s an extremely disturbing exchange she had with top officials in the Obama administration:

I was recently invited to meet with high-level administration officials in the White House. I told them my concerns. I told them what I have heard from teachers and parents. They told me I was misinformed


For any public official to tell the nation’s foremost authority on the history of education that they are misinformed is incredulous. And horrifying in it’s arrogance and insanity.

And this is from a Democrat administration.

Ravitch speaks to the politics as well after meeting with some Democrats in congress:

But frankly, these same Congressmen and women tell me that they are probably helpless to stop the President’s agenda. The Democratic leadership will give the President and Secretary Duncan what they want, and they will have the support of Republicans. That leaves the Democrats in a quandary. They were not happy to see Secretary Duncan campaigning for his approach with Newt Gingrich. Maybe it will turn out to be a winning strategy for Secretary Duncan. He may get what he wants. It just won’t be good for American education or our kids.

It doesn’t help any chance for change from GOP philsophy that Gingrich is on board with Obama on Race to the Top. The GOP’s cheif policy makers and mouthpieces continue to see the fight against reform and opposition as union agenda driven.

This poor judgement on their part is costing them in Florida. The state’s GOP legislators ignored polling from it’s own party. Registered Republicans didn’t want SB6 by a 3-1 ratio.

Education Commissioner Eric Smith said that people were misinformed. People just didn’t understand. It seems that eveyone was wrong or misinformed except the bill’s proponents.

And Florida Republicans are paying a price. Driven out of the his won party for his veto, Crist continues to widen his lead on Marco Rubio in his Senate bid. Unremarkable GOP gubernatorial candidates Bill McCollum and Rick Scott both support SB 6 and a strong Democrat candidate in Alex Sink will be able to make hay against either in the November election.

It’s hard not to see the 3-1 opposition to Republicans on SB6 as favorable for the party. Crsit’s veto was a winner with voters over a wide political spectrum. The state’s GOP leadership will have to stop their “we know best” on education or continue to be hurt be it. Maybe the RPOF’s John Thrasher’s, Jeb Bush’s and Steve Atwater’s should start listening to people like Diane Ravitch and stop dismissing important voices as simply misinformed.

Hat tip to Testing is Not Teaching on Facebook.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 22, 2010

EDUCATION: Why did the GOP want the cheaper FCAT?

The St. Augustine Record, interestingly the hometown paper of RPOF chairman Sen. John Thrasher, calls the state onto the carpet over news that FCAT results would be delayed:

NCS Pearson, according to the state, won the contract over the previous state contractor, CTB-McGraw Hill. NCS Pearson offered its services for $254 million, $200 million less CTB-McGraw Hill. The state’s defense is that the a 10-member evaluation team judged the bidders and then recommended NCS Pearson after a public meeting on the contract.

How did the state overlook the problems NCS Pearson had in other states in recent years? An investigation by The Miami Herald said the company not only made scoring errors in Florida 10 years ago but also in Arizona, South Carolina and Wyoming. In the Florida case, the company, then operating as NCS, was late getting results back and was fined $4 million.

We think that the state looked only at the bottom line cost this time. You get what you pay for.

The FCAT puts fear in the hearts of students, parents, teachers and administrators. How does the state know if any of the scores will be accurate, even the third-grade scores?

The state must review how NCS Pearson’s problems of the past were overlooked in its evaluation and what caused the computer glitches blamed for this current unacceptable delay.

Many students’ educational careers are at stake.

The Record is onto something. With it clear that NCS Pearson had a flawed record in delivery of service, why would the state’s GOP dominated education apparatus take a chance? Especially with the stakes – politics included – being so high.

Is it that they didn’t want you know how expensive it was to administer a test that’s so controversial in the first place? And that furthermore it was a big part of their radical reform efforts such as SB6?

The $254 million price tag that NCS Peason charges is concerning to voters when compared to splitting that money between the state’s 67 school districts. Think of the outcry that would occur if the pervious firm, CTB-McGraw, had been awarded the contract for $454 million.

John Thrasher and FCAT’s champion Jeb Bush don’t want voters to know just how much FCAT costs. It doesn’t go over well knowing that SB6 is dependent on spending a half a billion dollars every year as only a portion of it’s costs.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 21, 2010

EDUCATION: Middle ground on reform

Michelle Kerr is a currently unemployed math teacher from California. She offers some useful suggestions on finding middle ground on reform efforts. Here are her four ideas:

(1) Teachers be assessed based on only those students with 90 percent or higher attendance

2) Teachers be allowed to remove disruptive students from their classroom on a day-to-day basis.

(3) Students who don’t achieve “basic” proficiency in a state test be prohibited from moving forward to the next class in the progression

4) That teachers be assessed on student improvement, not an absolute standard — the so-called value-added assessment

Kerr’s suggestions are very good, but I’d imagine some people are probably asking, “you mean, we don’t do this already?”

Well, no.

Even without reform legislation, these are not widely accepted policies. While teachers in my district are able to remove unruly students, teachers in some areas are limited by administrators.

Ideas 1,3, and 4 are not part of the SB6. Educators attempted to offer several ammendments but all were dismissed by GOP legislators.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 18, 2010

EDUCATION/FLORIDA POLITICS: Alex Sink supports new class size amendment that allows for flexibility

Look, I know that smaller classes are better. But reality has to play a part in decision making. Unfunded mandates – like the original class size amendment – cannot be sustained. Administrators have to have flexibility to make decisions and having class sizes mandated without providing the funds to do so has always been irresponsible. It was nice to see that Sink is not reflexibly for every Democrat Party position.


This post was written by bobsikes on June 13, 2010