This is the season when the Foundation for Florida’s Future, the Florida Chamber and Associated Industries of Florida release their 2015 Legislative Report Cards. In particular, the Foundation assigns grades to legislators’ based on their willingness to pass the Jeb Bush/ALEC-driven education reform/privatization policy agenda.
These grades are a road map for voters. When your favorite Senator repeatedly gets an A grade from these folks, that’s a sign. It’s a big part of why legislators are willing to look foolish as they defy all logic to pass policies that hurt children and harm public schools.
Since 2009, parents, teachers, grandparents, districts and students have raised a mighty voice against the mind-numbing, narrowed curriculum, disrespect to teaching and the insane numbers of unfair high stakes tests. Every major newspaper has repeatedly demanded better from legislators. Despite all objections, politicians follow the plan and spend millions of public dollars on vendors, often in support of schemes promoted by wealthy ROI philanthropists eyeing a piece of what Joel Klein and others see as a $600 billion dollar education industry.
Sadly, it’s not enough to drive get out the vote numbers. Voters must know who they are voting for. Take Florida’s Orange County Delegation: There are 13 members and 8 of them got As from Jeb’s Foundation. These legislators carry the water for a particular, extreme policy group, not for voters. Parents seeking relief from Florida’s abusive education reform policies will get zero help from these lawmakers.
Orange County Delegation 13 members/8 A grades from FFF:
Sen. Hays, R, Dist. 11
Sen. Gardner, R, Dist. 13
Sen. Soto, D, Dist. 14
Sen. Stargel, R, Dist, 15
Rep Cortes, R, Dist 30
Rep. Sullivan, R, Dist. 31
Rep. Eisnaugle, R, Dist. 44
Rep. Miller, R, Dist. 47
The remaining 5 members of the Orange delegation who voted or advocated against high stakes testing, tying teacher pay to test scores, corporate tax voucher expansion, handing over voter approved public school tax millage to for profit charters and other measures received considerably lower grades, including an F for Orange’s Rep Bracy, D, Dist. 45.
Voters must understand that politicians who push policy agendas such as School reform are rewarded in many ways. Money pours into races from PACs such as the American Federation for Children and the Florida Federation for Children. And the education reform/privatization agenda seeks to redefine “local control” to reference state legislatures. As a result, duly-elected Florida school board members are under attack for disagreeing with reformers.
It’s interesting to look at a smaller Florida district whose entire delegation is under the sway of education reform. Superintendent Walt Griffin recently wrote a letter to Commissioner Pam Stewart asking to allow Seminole to return to paper and pencil, abandon the state’s troubled FSA and switch to a nationally norm referenced test such as the ACT. How much support will Griffin get from his public servants?
Seminole County Delegation: All 5 members received an A grade from FFF:
Sen. Simmons, R, Dist. 10
Rep. Brodeur, R, Dist. 28
Rep. Plakon, R, Dist. 29
Rep. Cortes, R. Dist. 30
Those who work to advance high stakes education reform policies cross all political stripes. If a candidate is not willing to turn down education reform campaign funding, that’s a problem. If a candidate refuses to oppose using tax dollars to create multiple uneven, unfair school systems, that’s a deal-breaker.
We have reached a point where a candidate’s dedication to investing in and improving public education must be a litmus test for service. Legislators often give constituents less than 2 minutes to talk in Tallahassee while policy lobbyists such as Jeb’s Foundation for Florida’s Future are afforded unparalleled access across the board.
Using power and money to drive policy and elections is not restricted to Florida. The Foundation for Florida’s Future is part of an established national agenda. In fact, its affiliated with the Foundation for Excellence in Education National, whose motto is: Turning Reform into Reality.
It’s a cruel irony that politicians are so eager to earn grades for passing policies that hurt children. Now voters must use these education reform “loyalty grades” as a tool to weed out politicians who don’t deserve reelection.