Today's news -- September 13, 2017





DeVos visit a slap in the face to public schools * (by Joanne McCall)

Last week, the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, visited Leon County. During her visit, she toured several schools; all of which were what some euphemistically refer to as “non-traditional” schools or as the Democrat correctly noted, “a charter school, a voucher school, and a private school.” DeVos, a paid public employee – paid with tax dollars and traveling on the public’s dime – purposely and with clear intent chose to not visit one of Leon County’s amazing, innovative and high-performing public schools. That was a clear slap in the face. Let us first acknowledge who and what DeVos is. She is an unapologetic advocate of taking tax dollars out of our public schools and diverting them to private, for-profit corporate schools that are neither transparent nor accountable to taxpayers for the dollars they spend. The one – and only – positive thing I can say about DeVos, is she is open and honest about her support of privatizing our nation’s public school system. So, we know full well who she is and what she stands for. That is why it was wrong for the editorial board of the Democrat to criticize Leon County Superintendent of Schools Rocky Hanna for choosing to not attend the charade of a public town hall meeting. What good would it have done? He would have gotten his two minutes at the mic and it would have been two minutes of conversation falling on ears that are more than “tone deaf” as the Democrat implied; she and her staff would have all but scoffed at his presence. Hanna took the better course. He chose not to engage in the falsity of a tour designed only to mock public schools and highlight DeVos’ privatization-at-all-costs agenda. Good for him. My dear friend State Sen. Bill Montford took a different tack. Montford felt he could be more effective on the inside looking out than on the outside looking in. And it’s hard to argue against his position. The truth is, both men were correct. Hanna was correct in sending a crystal clear and loud message of defiance and of defense in the school district he serves – a district in which more than 90 percent of students attend a public school. Montford navigated a course of inclusion and, true to his character, chose to believe that DeVos could perhaps be persuaded to at least acknowledge, if not somehow support, our public schools. But through it all, it was DeVos who should be admonished. It was DeVos who should be reminded that she is the secretary of education for our nation’s public schools, not the unregulated private schools. Even with her so-called reforms, only about one in 20 children will attend a for-profit or private school, and if past is prologue (and I believe it is) many of them will fail. And in failing will turn to our public institutions to clean up their messes. Last week, we saw courage in two forms from two local leaders – both who are devoutly committed to stronger public schools. Hats off to both Hanna and Montford for their efforts. But shame on our nation’s education secretary for thumbing her nose at Leon County’s public schools, and all who work so hard to support them.


Properly fund public education * (by Mike Gandolfo)

A recent opinion piece asks citizens to consider rethinking the rule on class size. The writers provided data supporting their viewpoint that putting an end to the class size amendment makes economic sense. The problem is that from its inception, the class size amendment was never properly funded nor implemented. In place of funding, districts have been awarded annual loopholes by our legislators in order to circumvent the will of the people who wanted smaller classes for their children. You can't really use data against a plan without having actually implemented the plan as it was intended. There are too many organizations that think a business model for education is the way to go. Saving money is great, but neglecting to properly fund education is criminal because money saved on education is eventually spent on crime, drugs, prisons and other drains on our economy. Florida lags by thousands of dollars a year on per student spending compared to the average of all other states. If Florida wants young families and businesses to settle here, it must invest in education. The op-ed authors think charter schools are a cheap alternative. Those that specialize in a certain condition such as autism may or may not be, but if they are taking tax money they must be held to the same account as public schools. Those that do not accept English as a second language students, Exceptional Student Education students or kids with behavior issues should not be entitled to any taxpayer money. It is the responsibility of each generation to educate all of the next. The citizens of Pinellas County have always supported public education. Four times in the past 16 years they have voted in favor of a referendum tax that provides money for public education. Pinellas County commissioners have voted to help fund a nurse in every elementary school. Perhaps our elected leaders in Tallahassee need to listen to what Pinellas has been saying for years: Fund public education.


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