Rick Kriseman rallies PTA to vote for public education
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. Heâs 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 childrenâs 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.
âWhether itâs a pure voucher which is called the corporate income tax credit or itâs the McKay Scholarship which has been expanded in this last session pretty dramatically. McKay, if youâre 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. Thatâs been expanded.â
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.
âWhat you now see are big corporations that are getting involved and are opening like franchises of charter schools. Thatâs not what it started out to be and thatâs not, I don't believe effective. I think thatâs getting us away from what was working and again its going to more of a profit based format. When its profit based, whatâs the goal? The goal is profit, its profit driven. Thatâs what for-profit stands for.â
Such for-profit schools may not be accredited. Kriseman is also worried that charter schools are undermining the current public school system.
âMost 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 thatâs 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.â
âWhat 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 doesnât matter if itâs a fantastic teacher or a teacher that is struggling.â
Alan Pedigo is with the schoolâs PTA, and said that teacher evaluations based upon FCAT scores may not be fair for special education classes that donât use the test.
âOr 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.'â
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.
âBut when youâre balancing the budget on their back only, when thereâs other money that potentially the state could be collecting but is choosing not to, itâs harder to swallow. Iâll 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, theyâre not paying what the state law says theyâre suppose to be paying. Itâs cost the state since 1999, over half a billion dollars in revenue. Itâs not new taxes, its taxes theyâre not paying that they owe. The state has done nothing to collect it.â
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 isnât alone in being upset at how Florida is being run.
âWe need to hold our elected officials accountable and if theyâre 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 Iâm thrilled to see some of the things that weâre seeing around the country where people are standing up and saying, 'you know what, this isnât right'. Iâll quote from a movie that probably not everybody has seen. Itâs a line from the movie Dune. âThe sleeper has awakenedâ. I hope the sleeper has awaken people need to wake up to whatâs happening in their state and if they donât, weâre in for more problems.â
But Kriseman asked members of the group to vote for retaining supreme court justices because newly appointed ones would be selected by Rick Scott.
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