The following guest column by Dr. Effrem was published at Sunshine State News discussing the many conservative reasons that the defeat of the proposed Amendment 8 was a correct decision.
As the Florida Supreme Court considered and ultimately removed Amendment 8, the education constitutional amendment, from the November ballot, there was a debate occurring among Florida conservatives over both the wording and the merits of the proposal.
Part of the amendment allowed entities other than duly elected school boards, to authorize education alternatives, charter schools being chief among them. Some well-meaning conservatives have been arguing that opposition to Amendment 8 was limited only to liberals. These conservatives also said that opposition to Amendment 8 was a "vote for the status quo" where half of students, especially poor students, can't read at grade level.
The truth is that there were many Floridians who opposed Amendment 8 specifically and are concerned about the rapid expansion of charter schools for conservative reasons. Here are the six most important:
Loss of Local Control
When has moving control of anything farther away from the local level increased parent or citizen control? Putting charter decisions in the hands of Tallahassee legislators or bureaucrats, many funded by the very charter corporations viewed with suspicion by Floridians, will not improve parental or local decision-making. The majority of charters are not high-performing like the Hillsdale classical charter in Collier County. They are corporate charters, the boards of which may not be in the same state or even country (think the controversial Turkish Gulen Harmony Schools), much less the same city or county as the schools they control. The same establishment groups and individuals that gave us Common Core and data mining were promoting this amendment. Neutering and or eliminating duly elected school boards has been on their to-do Read more
1) Charters still require the Common Core tests, which basically then require the academically inferior, psychologically manipulative standards and curriculum.
2) Charter boards are unelected, unaccountable to parents and the public and may not even be in the same state as the school(s) they oversee.
3) Charters do not work to improve failing schools. There is a higher percentage of failing charters than there are "F" public schools in Florida as admitted in this chart from Jeb Bush's foundation. The KIPP charter school in Jacksonville is a D school.
4) There is strong bipartisan opposition to this bill in Florida and national concern from all points on the political spectrum about school choice/charters/vouchers
5) Charters and vouchers are being pushed by Jeb Bush and Betsy DeVos and the corporate/big government education establishment of both parties that gave us Common Core.
6) The bill only gets rid of one test and only does paper/pencil for grades 3-6 when many legislators tried to listen to the concerns of parents and teachers to significantly reduce testing.
7) HB 7069 is terrible legislative process, with the final bill put together in secret at the very end of session only by Speaker Corcoran and Senate President Negron with much not debated or amended on the floors of both chambers and only an up or down vote at the end. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala basically urged the governor to veto it during floor debate.
8) The national private charter corporations do not even want to come to Florida to do the turnaround models required by Schools of Hope, because it is not profitable for them.
9) According to Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman, David Simmons, who was one of 3 Republicans to vote against the bill, it i s poorly written and will be complicated, if not impossible to properly implement. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala basically urged Read more
Karen R. Effrem,MD - Executive Director
Betsy DeVos at her January 17th confirmation hearing - Photo Credit to Caffeinated Thoughts
I strongly agree with Shane Vander Hart at Caffeinated Thoughts that Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing to be Secretary of Education was not terribly informative. Aside from a brief mention of Common Core by Senator Cassidy (R-LA) where she said she wouldn't mandate it from the secretarial level and her answer to a question from Senator Alexander (R-TN, chairman of the HELP Committee holding the hearing) that she wouldn't implement school choice from the federal level, none of the major concerns in our national parent coalition letter about Common Core, privacy, and school choice were asked or answered.
Here is a brief discussion of several issues that did come up and those that should be closely monitored during her control of the U.S. Department of Education:
Common Core Mrs. DeVos answered Senator Cassidy's brief yes or no question, that she would not continue Common Core from the federal level. it is interesting that she said in her prepared opening statement:
And every teacher in America dreams of breaking free from standardization, so that they can deploy their unique creativity and innovate with their students.
If she wants teachers to "break free from standardization" how is it that she has supported national standards and standardized tests that require "standardized" teaching for so long?
However, as stated in numerous writings by many anti-Common Core experts and activists, the foundation of the Every Student Succeeds Act mandates the Common Core by imposing secretarial veto of state plans and requiring states' compliance with eleven different federal laws all mandating statewide standards and tests that are Common Core even if not labeled such. How she implements ESSA will be critical.
Federal School Choice While it was somewhat reassuring Read more
School choice is becoming a very hot topic in education circles with the likely ascendancy of Betsy DeVos to the position of Secretary of Education in the new Trump administration. Because so many are pursuing the noble goal of trying to help poor children escape from failing public schools, they do not or will not see the dangers of these programs to private and even home school autonomy.
Education Liberty Watch has been trying to warn of these dangers for several years and is honored to be working beside tremendous organizations like Eagle Forum and the Cato Institute to raise this alarm.
Eagle Forum just published an article by FSCCC executive director, Dr. Karen Effrem, discussing this work. Here is an excerpt:
In 2012, we published the School Choice Freedom Grading Scale. States like New Hampshire and Georgia that had accountability directly to parents scored A+ grades while states like Indiana and Louisiana that imposed the state standardized tests on entire private schools received failing grades.
The ever brilliant education analyst and conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly instantly understood the dangers of both Common Core and these alleged school choice plans to private school autonomy. Shortly after having the honor of presenting our Grading Scale at her wonderful 2012 Eagle Council meeting, she wrote these insightful words in her weekly column, titled Like ObamaCare, Obama Core Is Another Power Grab:
The Obama Core advocates are even planning to impose their standards on private schools. As the school choice movement grows, the attempt will be made to force any private or charter school that accepts public funds to adopt Common Core standards and have their students take the national tests. (Emphasis added).
PHOTO CREDIT - 2016 THE PULSE
As Senator Marco Rubio moves up in the polls after three strong debate performances, his own record, as well as the financial connections of the major donors for his campaign are starting to undergo significant review. For those that care deeply about downsizing the federal role in education, that means examining monetary ties to Common Core, testing and data mining.
Rubio has done very well in his speeches, the one debate where he or anyone was able to talk about Common Core and votes related to Common Core and the overreach of the federal government via the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). He is to be thanked for voting against the final ECAA/No Child Left Behind rewrite and for Senator Cruz's amendment on state sovereignty in testing in that mammoth federal bill. He received a solid C, but not higher, on the Pulse 2016 Common Core report card because of his "Know Before You Go Act" which will require a boatload of student data mining, but has room for improvement.
Unfortunately, the bloom may be coming off his anti-Common Core rose due to significant donations from two of the largest funders of Common Core in the nation and the world. The first are two donations totaling $3000 from Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates. Gates recently said in an Atlantic interview that " representative democracy is a problem" in regard to climate change. Rubio is the only one of the seventeen Republican candidates that received any political contributions from Gates in the period covered in this chart.
PHOTO CREDIT - RAMIN TALIE/GETTY IMAGES
The other major donor and perhaps more influential for Rubio, is Wall Street billionaire Paul E. Singer. The following excerpts from an excellent Breitbart article by Dr. Susan Berry explain Singer's foundation:
Singer "founded the Paul E. Singer Foundation, whose work thus far has 'focused on Read more
Karen R. Effrem, MD - Executive Director
Sadly, despite clear and detailed warnings from parents, teachers, activists, and policy experts, the US Senate passed its rewrite of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB)/Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) called The Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA S1170) on July 16th by a vote of 81-17. Three Democrats voted against the bill because of not enough government control, but nonetheless did the right thing. It is extremely clear that big government and big business interests, who are supporting pro-Common Core candidates like Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Hillary Clinton, are colluding to cement federal control over American education.
We would like to thank the following senators for their opposition votes to the overall bill:
Flake (R-AZ) Lee (R-UT)
Rubio (R-FL) Sasse (R-NE)
Florida's other US Senator Bill Nelson did not vote on the bill or any amendments as he is recovering from cancer surgery. We wish him well.
Three of the five presidential candidates in the Senate Ted Cruz (R-TX), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Marco Rubio (R-FL) voted no. Bernie Sanders (I-VT, a member of the Socialist Party running for president as a Democrat) voted for the bill. The fifth, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), did not vote. Senator Sanders offered one amendment on youth unemployment that was rejected (see below). Senators Rubio and Graham did not offer any amendments to the bill, nor did they make any statements about it afterwards. Here are the statements of Cruz, Paul, and Sanders:
"While this bill makes some improvements to the status quo, it ultimately falls short of empowering parents and local school Read more
Karen R. Effrem, M.D. - Executive Director
Jeb Bush gave the keynote speech at his Foundation for Excellence in Education national education summit in Washington DC on November 19th. He made an effort to soften his attacks on those who oppose Common Core by now saying he respects us and by shifting blame to the federal government. As his remarks in Education Next on Common Core required a rebuttal, so too do his efforts to continue his unreasonable defense of Common Core. Here is a response to some of his statements on Common Core from that speech:
JB: This is why the debate over the Common Core State Standards has been troubling.
KRE: What is really troubling is that you think these horrific standards that are academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative with their accompanying tests and invasive data collection system should just be imposed on the nation without a word of protest from the parents, students, and teachers that have to suffer under them.
JB: I respect those who have weighed in on all sides of this issue. Nobody in this debate has a bad motive.
KRE: I suppose that we should be happy that you have changed your tune from this same speech a year ago when you called opposition to Common Core "political" and full of "conspiracy theories." However, everyone can see that it is you who are being political as you try to placate opposition while getting ready to run for president.
JB: And in my view, the rigor of the Common Core State Standards must be the new minimum in classrooms.
KRE: There is nothing particularly rigorous about these standards. They are untested and not internationally benchmarked. Federally mandated state standards have done nothing in this country to improve achievement and several think tanks including the Brookings Institute say that national standards, particularly Common Core, will not improve Read more
As a Family Physician I have a responsibility to plainly communicate with my patients about their health and their responsibilities to maintain their good health. A clear and concise message to each patient helps them follow my recommendations and maintain wellness. My approach to Common Core is to both study and understand this complex program and provide leadership...and some understanding to the families who will ultimately have to live with it.
After having read much on the issue, I think I have found one simple statement that sums up the concerns of implementing Common Core. The Washington Post's Valerie Strauss has brought out a clear point in her article that references "The white paper, called "The Ramifications of Standardized Testing on our Public Schools," was just released by the Central Florida School Board Coalition, a group of top officials from 10 school districts."(April 18,2012)
The article states:
In 1998 (after its initial field testing), the first FCAT was field tested in grades 4, 5, 8, and 10 in reading and math and the first Florida Writes exam was tested in grades 4, 8, and 10. As of 2011, testing has progressed to include:
FCAT 2.0 Reading in grades 3 10
FCAT 2.0 Reading in grades 3 10
FCAT 2.0 Math in grades 3 8
FCAT Writing in grades 4, 8, and 10
FCAT Science in grades 5, 8, and 11
FAIR testing (K-2) one to one with teacher
FAIR testing (3-12) computer based testing
NAEP in grades 4, 8, and 12
EOC Algebra 1 in grades 8, 9, and 10
EOC Biology in grade 8
EOC Geometry in grade 10
U.S. History in grade 11
PERT Math in grade 11
PERT Reading in grade 11
PERT Writing in grade 11
FCAT Reading & Math retakes through grade 12
PERT retakes through grade 12
An enormous increase simply in the sheer quantity of testing has occurred in the State of Florida within the last decade and a half. Moreover, the use of the Read more
#StopJebNow Congratulations! We are winning! Any talk of standards and testing has become radioactive in the Florida governor's race. While the new 30 second ad by former Governor Jeb Bush cut for Governor Scott mentions education, any discussion of Common Core or even "high standards" is conspicuously absent. We are sure the Scott campaign pleaded with Bush to go nowhere near that controversial subject. If Bush can't even mention his favorite topic in his home state, hopefully this sends a strong message to him that he will have little support even in Florida as he contemplates a 2016 presidential run.
As with Rick Scott, Jeb Bush is continuing to have Common Core problems. So much so, that in an interview with the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, he didn't do his usual bashing of Common Core opponents, but rather blamed Barak Obama for the conditional waivers associated with No Child Left Behind. Rubin writes with our comments:
Bush may be best known for his education reforms in Florida and his continuing efforts to see comprehensive reform throughout the country. He admits, however, "In the last year or year and a half there has been a stalling-out of the comprehensive reform movement." Common Core has been in the middle of this, with supporters advocating the adoption of high standards originally developed by the states and critics characterizing them as the administration's attempt to take over education. This is a distraction, in Bush's view, along with less central issues like the amount of testing required of children.
COMMENT: This continues to show Bush's tone deafness as both in survey after survey and in numerous scholarly papers, the perception and evidence for federal overreach is plain to see. And if he continues to think that testing is merely a distraction when it takes 40% of instructional time, does not aid teaching, psychologically profiles and career tracks kids, and makes profound decisions for their lives based on just a few tests that are written to be failed, then he will continue to have major problems with the public.
Interestingly, Bush does not castigate Common Core critics for peddling misinformation about the state-developed standards. Instead he invokes a theme conservatives find familiar: "The principal reason [for the fight] has been the president. There is no trust he will faithfully enforce the law." He points to the administration's conditioning No Child Left Behind waivers on adoption of Common Core or equivalent standards, a practice driven not by legislation but by executive whim. "I Read more
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