How School Board member Shirley Brown sold out Sarasota County public school students for $3.5 million

Shirley Brown WEB

Shirley Brown, Democrat Candidate for Sarasota County School Board, District 4.

Shirley Brown is the Democrat candidate for the Sarasota County School Board in District 4. A campaign fund raising letter states, “Shirley Brown is Proudly Leading our A-Rated School District into 21st Century Excellence!” The letter tout’s Browns “Sound Fiscal Management”, “Educational Excellence” and “Legislative Leadership.”

But are these statements true?

Under Brown’s “legislative leadership” the Sarasota County School District applied for a U.S. Department of Education Race To The Top grant. The District’s application #0059 for RTTT grant tells an interesting story. The U.S. Department of Education review of the RTTT grant application under “Articulating a comprehensive and coherent [education] reform vision” states:

This application lacks a comprehensive and coherent reform vision.

(a) No clear understanding of what this [RTTT] program entails – there was a lack of details around the four core educational assurances. They were listed and spoken about with definitions of what is benig [sic] talked about but no plan to implement. CCSS were mentioned and implemented per state requirement but no vision of how to proceed forward.

(b) No clear evidence of deepending [sic] student learning and increasing equity

(c) Lack of details concerning specific classroom experiences that students will experience or can be identified.

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) reviewer concludes, “The applicants [Sarasota County School Board] vision does not include a high quality plan and is not likely to result in improved student learning.” Read the full U.S. DOE review here.

After the failed U.S. DOE application, the District submitted an application to the Florida Department of Education to receive funding to implement RTTT. Florida received $700 million in RTTT money in 2009. In this case the District received $3.5 million to be used over a four year period. On January 5, 2010 Brown, and the School Board, accepted the funding and agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the FLDOE. This MOU is a prime example of Brown’s “fiscal, legislative and educational excellence leadership.”

But what strings come attached to the federal RTTT funding according to the MOU?

According to the Memorandum of Understanding between the School Board (Local Education Agency – LEA) and the FLDOE, “In order to participate, the LEA must agree to implement all applicable portions of the State Plan…”

What does the State Plan require?

The MOU states, “[The School Board] Is familiar with the State’s Race to the Top grant application and is supportive of the goals and plans for implementation and is committed to working on all applicable portions of the State Plan… [The Board] Will propose a comprehensive, interconnected plan that will drive continuous improvement of students, teachers, and principals based upon specific goals and benchmarks.” These goals and benchmarks are being developed by the state, outside corporations and non-profit entities.

This addresses Brown’s “educational leadership.” The key element of the State Reform Plan is:

Through Race to the Top, the Department is poised to weave a common core of rigorous standards and assessments into a pioneering data system that will serve as a foundation to attract, retain, and support top notch teachers and school leaders who will, in turn, improve student achievement in our schools.

When Brown signed on to taking this federal RTTT grant, she gave up her ability to “educationally lead students into the 21st century” and impact “educational excellence.” But Brown knows that as she voted for the MOU. Brown committed all the public school students be put into the Federal Common Core State Standards box of one size fits all.

Paul DiPerna from the Friedman Foundation writes, “When it comes to developing and implementing academic standards, Americans believe teachers and school district officials should take the lead.” The Friedman Foundation’s “Schooling in America Survey” found “respondents suggest it may be preferable for parents to play a larger role in development rather than implementation. Government officials at the state and federal levels should take a backseat in both.”

What did Brown get out of this in exchange for the loss of local educational control, corporate data mining of Sarasota County students, more teaching to the Common Core test standards, and an expanded teacher evaluation system tied to standardized tests? Why $3.5 million.

Is Shirley Brown “Leading our A-Rated School District into 21st Century Excellence?” Is this the kind of “leader” Sarasota County wants on the School Board? We shall see on Tuesday, August 26th.


Fewer B’s and more C’s for Sarasota schools
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States Push Back Against Common Core in Their Schools
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