Rick Scott’s Horror-Show Plan for Florida Education

Gov.-elect Rick Scott spoke to students, teachers and community leaders at the Step Up For Students rally in St. Petersburg Dec. 9. (Photo by Stacy Ferris.)

By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

When people go to the polls to “send a message” or vote with a gut feeling, I get worried.

And this past midterm election was one massive exercise in gut-voting. The electorate went to the polls not to choose the best candidate but to express nervousness and anger.

And you get situations like the U.S. Senate race in Delaware.

Christine O’Donnell was a two-time political loser who had financial confrontations with the IRS and her alma mater, and even Delaware’s Republican Party. Not exactly the stuff of blockbuster campaigns.

But she was cute, anti-intellectual, anti-government and endorsed by Sarah Palin and the tea party.

She took out a respected candidate in the Republican primary, and if there hadn’t been that little matter of her chuckling on a TV talk show about having attended witch ceremonies, she might be a U.S. Senator-elect today. Even after the witch stuff, and despite all her tawdry political laundry, O’Donnell received 40 percent of the vote.

Forty percent.

Here in Florida, Rick Scott was our version of O’Donnell.

Scott had more baggage than the cabin of an airliner during the holidays. But he was endorsed by the tea party. And like O’Donnell, despite his past pecadilloes,  he took out a respected Republican in the primary.

But unlike O’Donnell, he had millions in personal wealth to spend. Scott was also able to re-brand himself. His mother and his wife, who were used extensively in TV commercials, became his public face.

And his opponents’ campaigns — and the media coverage — focused so much on his business dealings that no one paid much attention to some important policy issues. Like his radical views of public education.

So when Scott eked out a win, we ended up with a governor-elect who is trying to rip apart public education.

Vouchers for everyone, barkeep.

“There goes public education,” Pinellas County School Board member Janet Clark told the St. Petersburg Times.

The Times article pointed out that Scott put together an 18-person educational transition team. And there was only one teacher – from an online school, at that – on the panel.

That disdain for teachers is evident throughout the plan, which calls for a push toward online schooling (as the parent of a child who is now taking an online class, I can tell you that is one vile idea), and to cut and restructure teacher pay.

And then there’s the vouchers-for-everyone idea, which would effectively move massive amounts of money from public to private and religious schools. Schools that don’t have to comply with any government mandates or offer programs for special populations (such as special education or English as a second language). It would be the end of public education.

“They’ve been back-dooring this for years,” School Board member Clark said. “And we just got enough fruity voters this time who didn’t do their research … and now we have to live with it.”

Yep. Your message was received, Florida.

It just may not have been the one you intended to send.

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8 Responses to “Rick Scott’s Horror-Show Plan for Florida Education”

  1. Brett says:

    Public education is in the toilet in the United States. Teacher unions and illegal populations are the root causes of the inefficiencies and strained resources of our classrooms. Competition from charter, private and religious schools will be the catalyst for change we’ve all been waiting for. Online learning is an inexpensive and highly effective way to teach today’s digital natives; and it’s much more engaging and individualized than a traditional classroom could ever be. I am disappointed by your close minded, old fashioned, institutionalized, and unimaginative thinking on this issue. It is time for radical change. It is time for out of the box thinking. It is time to give our children choices in their learning. It is time to force the cogs of the public education machine to adapt or die. Yes we can!

  2. Republican says:

    Brett: You are a moron. It’s time to stop blaming schools and teachers for all the problems. Republicans have created a class of victims – public school students. In reality, too many kids make the choice to play with their Ipods in school, video games at home, sleep during class, work all night, and misbehave in class. Their mouth-breathing parents are afraid to admit that their baby is rotten to the core. Vouchers would create a two-tier system. One for the rich and one for the poor. The middle class and the poor do not have the money to pay the difference for a decent private school education. A decent school will cost $10K/year. I’ve checked in my area and that’s what they’re costing. A voucher will be worth only about $5800. Who has the extra money sitting around to pay the difference? Oh, yeah. The friggin rich. It’s time to rise up and put a stop to the class warfare that my party is waging on me – a middle class individual. I can’t vote Republican any longer. Rick Scott is for the rich.

  3. Gabe says:

    Brett, for purposes of disclosure: I am a teacher but I am not a member of a union. You are ignorant about a great many things. I do not mean that as an insult but as a general statement regarding the contempt and disrespect with which teachers are treated here in Florida. I am going to respond to you point-by-point.

    1. “Teacher unions and illegal populations are the root causes of the inefficiencies and strained resources of our classrooms.” If I was being flippant, I would ask what planet are you from. I am hard pressed to understand how teacher’s unions in Florida are the root cause of anything since those unions are mostly powerless and impotent. Attacking the teacher’s unions is just another play out of the conservative anti-labor playbook. Illegal populations are a strain on social resources but even the most liberal estimates place the illegal population in Florida as around 900,000 people. Of that population, some are school-aged children and some (but not all of those) attend schools. Many illegal immigrants do not send their children to school because they are afraid of being caught. Some illegal immigrants have children who are U.S. citizens who are therefore legally entitled to public education access. Maybe if our elected officials spent less time attacking teachers and more time fulfilling their CONSTITUTIONAL obligations as established in the Florida Constitution, we would not be having this discussion right now.

    2. “Competition from charter, private and religious schools will be the catalyst for change we’ve all been waiting for.” I am, above all things, a researcher. You may be able to tell me what you think and what you feel. I can tell you what the RESEARCH shows. Longitudinal studies of voucher programs show little to no improvement over the public schools in the same area. Charter schools are even more disappointing as 1/3 post better results than traditional schools, 1/3 post worse results, and 1/3 post similar results. You make the same tired, mistaken assumption that business models can be applied to schools.

    3. “Online learning is an inexpensive and highly effective way to teach today’s digital natives; and it’s much more engaging and individualized than a traditional classroom could ever be.” Again, you are way off base! Online instructors are faced with twice as many students as they would face in a traditional classroom. Another challenge is that learning is above all else a social exercise dependent on the exchanges between teachers and students, and students and their classmates. Feedback which is immediate in the classroom is delayed in the virtual world. Effective teachers are versed in differentiated instruction, allowing them to present the same material on a more individualized level within the same classroom. I am an advocate of classroom technologies, but the use of virtual classrooms as the primary source of instructional delivery is unwise.

    3). “I am disappointed by your close minded, old fashioned, institutionalized, and unimaginative thinking on this issue. It is time for radical change. It is time for out of the box thinking.” I do agree with you that it is time for radical change and outside of the box thinking, but I vehemently disagree with you regarding what those changes should be. What RIck Scott proposes is not new, it has been proven to be largely ineffective and potentially wasteful and exploitative (just look at the number of so-called schools that took voucher funds under the McKay plan for disabled students yet did nothing to educate those students), and is not based in fundamental educational research. Additionally, the expansion of vouchers he proposes is clearly a violation of Article IX of the Florida Constitution, which requires the state make adequate provision for a system of FREE PUBLIC schools.

    By the time I complete my Masters in Education in May, the state of Florida will have spent upwards of $100,000 on my education. The taxpayers of Florida have invested in my education for me to become an expert in my field. Do you not find it ironic that anytime a discussion of school reform occurs that teachers are never invited to the table? I will work with ANYONE who is truly interested in improving public education. Unfortunately all Governor-elect Scott is interested in doing is kowtowing to political ideolouges, religious leaders and business interests, some of whom stand to gain financially through an expansion of school vouchers. Maybe if we quit treating teachers like public enemies and seek their input, maybe we could then create world-class schools!

  4. Mitch says:

    Very well said Gabe!

    Let’s face it, Rick Scott is simply a rubber stamp for Jeb Bush to push his education agenda. Scott is the perfect person to do so, with his extensive experience in bilking tax payer funds for the gain of private companies.

    Florida blew a great opportunity to elect a governor with a real plan for public education. Nice work tea-baggers.

  5. Hella LiB says:

    Well said GABE!!!!! congrats on finsihing your degree too! sounds like brett could use a lesson or two himself… just saying!

  6. tinwoodsman says:

    George Carlin wrote that when the government says it is defending choice, you should beware that it is probably taking away your choices. Your thoughts on my essay at the site below would be appreciated.

    http://teachdade.wikispaces.com/Charter+schools+and+vouchers

    Thank you.

  7. Mike says:

    Florida will experience an education crash similar to the Bush financial crash. Only corporations will benefit. We’ll end up with a generation of uneducated children and no money left in the education budget – it will all go to fake private schools set up to serve the poor and middle class. Rich kids will attend college prep academies. This whole thing is a raid on the public treasury.

  8. Ron says:

    Year after year, while attending to my daughter’s honor class, I see more alien students taking the higher ranks at public schools, Why ???
    because We the parents, don’t pay attention at our childrens as this people do, so Brett stop talking from a couch and start taking a look at the reality that surrround Us.

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