Rick Kriseman rallies PTA to vote for public education

10/11/11 Josh Holton
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Last year several bills passed in Florida state legislature that Democratic State Representative Rick Kriseman said are just about the worst things that could possibly happen to the education system. He’s calling on the Parent Teacher Association in his district to fight back at the ballot box next year.

Kriseman visited the PTA at John M. Sexton Elementary for the third year in a row. He praised the members of the largest children’s advocacy organization for spending time with their kids after school. But after a few austere education bills, he said the only good news is that not much more can be done to further destroy the education system. He was concerned that the voucher program could siphon public tax dollars into private schools.

“Whether it’s a pure voucher which is called the corporate income tax credit or it’s the McKay Scholarship which has been expanded in this last session pretty dramatically. McKay, if you’re not familiar with that was originally set up for kids with special needs who were having a hard time getting their needs met in the public education system to have an alternate. That’s been expanded.”

Many private schools may provide a quality education, but for profit schools are growing in number, deriving a large amount of their funding from federal loans. Kriseman said that while some for profit schools may actually be well intentioned, the general notion is misguided.

“What you now see are big corporations that are getting involved and are opening like franchises of charter schools. That’s not what it started out to be and that’s not, I don't believe effective. I think that’s getting us away from what was working and again its going to more of a profit based format. When its profit based, what’s the goal? The goal is profit, its profit driven. That’s what for-profit stands for.”

Such for-profit schools may not be accredited. Kriseman is also worried that charter schools are undermining the current public school system.

“Most importantly what we saw happen was all the money that could have gone into improving facilities at different schools, at public schools around the state, one hundred percent of those dollars went to charter schools this past year in the budget. Not one dollar that could have gone to a public school went there and instead all went to charter schools. So that’s a pretty significant change and a pretty significant legislation that happened last session. The last bill I want to talk about, which you all probably remember if, for those of you who were here last year when I spoke, me talking about what was at that time Senate 6 that then governor Crist vetoed.”

But the current Governor Rick Scott passed a modified version of Senate Bill 6, which placed all teachers hired after July 1st 2010 on a one year temporary contract.

“What this bill basically does is it says every teacher, no matter how good of a teacher they are, is terminated every year. Every year. They have to apply to be reinstated. That doesn’t matter if it’s a fantastic teacher or a teacher that is struggling.”

Alan Pedigo is with the school’s PTA, and said that teacher evaluations based upon FCAT scores may not be fair for special education classes that don’t use the test.

“Or in some teachers cases where they teach special education, and they don't have any type of FCAT testing, because there's no way to have FCAT testing if you have a nonverbal-unable-to-communicate child, their performance is going to be based on whether that second grade or third grade general education teacher is going to get good scores on their test, and if they don't then it can impact on all the teachers within the system. It just makes absolutely no sense. There needs to be a way to fairly evaluate teachers at all levels and not base everything on one standard testing that says, 'Everybody has to pass that test or the rest of the people below them will not be successful.'”

Senate Bill 736 eliminated tenure. Although Kriseman called it a misnomer, since only a handful of counties had tenure, he still opposed the bill. He said it was not fair for leaders in Tallahassee to simultaneously propose massive tax breaks for big businesses, and ask teachers to work on annual contracts due to state budget constraints.

“But when you’re balancing the budget on their back only, when there’s other money that potentially the state could be collecting but is choosing not to, it’s harder to swallow. I’ll give you an example; there are online travel companies; Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com. They collect taxes on the rooms they sell but they only pay a portion to the state, they’re not paying what the state law says they’re suppose to be paying. It’s cost the state since 1999, over half a billion dollars in revenue. It’s not new taxes, its taxes they’re not paying that they owe. The state has done nothing to collect it.”

These laws are already in effect, so Kriseman suggested that anyone who opposes them should vote out the incumbents. He criticized state Legislators Don Gaetz and Will Weatherford for stalling the release of official redistricting maps. Kriseman says releasing them at the last minute release could disadvantage new candidates. Kriseman said he isn’t alone in being upset at how Florida is being run.

“We need to hold our elected officials accountable and if they’re not doing their job then we need to vote them out of office. And we need to, the public needs to be vocal about it. Personally I’m thrilled to see some of the things that we’re seeing around the country where people are standing up and saying, 'you know what, this isn’t right'. I’ll quote from a movie that probably not everybody has seen. It’s a line from the movie Dune. “The sleeper has awakened”. I hope the sleeper has awaken people need to wake up to what’s happening in their state and if they don’t, we’re in for more problems.”

But Kriseman asked members of the group to vote for retaining supreme court justices because newly appointed ones would be selected by Rick Scott.

Previous WMNF News Coverage:

SB 736

SB 6


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