Florida: Lee County Schools First to Opt-out of Common Core Standardized Tests (+ Video)

On Wednesday, August 27, 2014 the Lee County School Board voted no more State mandated testing. It was 3/2 and the most exciting evening our district has had, EVER. There were over 400 people, most with red shirts showing support, crowded into the board chambers. We had a tailgate party planned, but so much media came that we just talked with media. Groups came from left, right and center. This was not about party, it was about our kids. There were about 40 speakers, some in tears, some children, some made us laugh, and all made the logical request: NO MORE STATE MANDATED TESTING. Teachers are certified, schools are accredited and they know how to grade and test their students without State micromanagers meddling and adding costs and taking up to 60% of class time away from learning.

No one left for hours while the Board debated. The Chair, Thomas Scott made the motion. Don Armstrong made the second. Both said words we were longing to hear. Jeannie Dozier was on speaker phone and we expected her to support, but instead she offered an amendment kicking the decision down the road until we have a “plan.” We all knew what that meant and the crowd responded. Cathleen Morgan seconded her motion and our hearts sank. The amendment discussion opened the door for our Superintendent, Nancy Graham who talked seemingly forever about the boogie man of potential sanctions by the state. Children will be dying in the street! We have no plan and teachers will be lost and won’t know what to do without those tests that grade their performance!

They asked Nancy what date they could expect a plan. She suggested late October and crowd groaned audibly in spite of being reprimanded for noise several times already. Their children can’t wait. Every day in this testing torture puts the children further behind.

Mary Fisher was the wild card. We expected her to support us, but she cowered to the delay and fear tactics of our Superintendent. She droned on and on about how we must not have a knee jerk reaction and must be responsible. We saw her siding with the delay motion and felt like all was lost, when suddenly, she told a story about her own family and how they were negatively affected by test results. She was back.

They voted on the amendment and it died, 3/2. More talk by our star of the night, Don Armstrong, and the supporting actor, Thomas Scott, talking about our Constitution and the role of civil disobedience. Don quoted many of our emails filled support. Tom talked about the fact that the State is already in violation of the state Constitution on the issue of class size. He has send them a bill for over $120,000,000 for the costs they promised to pay. Don chided they need to send that to us in cash. Yes, they even talked about the founding of our nation and the Boston Tea Party. They obviously had not read our Common Core history books.

The vote was called and everyone was holding their breath. Tom, Don and Mary voted for the motion, while Superintendent Nancy Graham and Cathleen Morgan grew pale and distraught. The crowd jumped to its feet cheering and clapping in disbelief. Did we actually hear what we heard? YES! It has begun.

I am eternally grateful for the many groups and individuals who made this happen. We are hoping other school districts in Florida and across the nation will be part of a chain of dominos that will show we CAN stand up to the powerful machine standing against us and our children.

Public comments on standardized testing at the Lee County School Board:

EDITORS NOTE: The issues this vote raises include:

  1. What will Governor Rick Scott do? Governor Scott has called for an independent committee to look at the Florida (Common Core) tests and standards.
  2. What will the Florida Department of Education do given its commitment to implement Common Core statewide?
  3. What are the legal ramifications of this district opting out? Emily Atteberry from NewsPress.com reports, “Keith Martin, the [Lee County] board’s attorney, was not sure that there were any ‘immediate, clear’ consequences to the action. He said it was possible the Governor could remove the school board members from their positions of power.”
  4. What will the district use to replace the current tests? Atteberry reports, “While the news was met with jubilation, Superintendent Nancy Graham said she was deeply concerned about the board’s decision. “This will hurt children. There is no way around it,” Graham said while the audience booed. “I am gravely concerned about the decision that was made tonight, and I’ll try to make sense of this. It’s an interesting time to serve as the leader of this district.”

Education has become a defining issue for parents, concerned citizens, teachers and administrators. Governor Rick Scott and former Governors Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist have differing views on Common Core. How Governor Scott deals with this growing grass roots movement to chip away at Common Core in Florida can be a defining factor and determine the outcome of the election in November.

Common Core: Law Center Develops Opt-Out Form for Parents

Amidst growing concerns from parents and teachers surrounding the Common Core State Standards and the Federal government’s control of classroom curriculum, the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) has prepared a Student Privacy Protection Request form for use by parents who wish to protect their children by opting-out of Common Core aligned curricula, data mining and the release of information concerning their children’s personal beliefs.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, MI, designed the comprehensive opt-out form for parents concerned about Common Core and who want to protect their children’s privacy from educational data mining. The form allows parents to choose which Common Core State Standards and data driven practices they do not want their children to be a part of, including standardized testing.

Click here to download a copy of the Student Privacy Protection Request form

The form allows parents to opt-out of sharing their child’s information with the federal government, as well as outside agencies and private contractors. Information which parents can opt-out of sharing ranges from test scores and religious and political beliefs, to biographic, biometric, and psychometric data, such as fingerprints, DNA and information related to children’s personality and aptitude.

Richard Thompson, TMLC President and Chief Counsel, commented, “The opt-out form is based on the constitutionally recognized fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children and on federal statutes which were designed to protect student privacy.  Our Founding Fathers recognized the dangers to our freedoms posed by centralized control over public education.  However, today, all but a handful of state governments, enticed by millions of dollars in federal grants, are voluntarily inviting the federal government to take control of our public schools, imposing untested educational standards and obtaining personal information on children and their parents which would make any totalitarian government blush with envy.   We must ever keep in mind, ‘The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next.’ Clearly, Common Core is a threat to individual privacy and liberty, and to our Constitutional Republic.”

Religious and private school educators have also criticized Common Core. In a statement the Cardinal Newman Society, an organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of faithful Catholic education said, “This school reform effort is nothing short of a revolution in how education is provided, relying on a technocratic, top-down approach to setting national standards that, despite claims to the contrary, will drive curricula, teaching texts, and the content of standardized tests.  At its heart, the Common Core is a woefully inadequate set of standards in that it limits the understanding of education to a utilitarian ‘readiness for work’ mentality.”

Political Commentators Glenn Beck and Michelle Malkin have repeatedly reported on the dangers and horrors of Common Core, with Malkin saying, “It’s about control, control and more control.”

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) were developed under the supervision of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to ensure that education and educational outcomes were consistent across the United States. The CCSS provides a set of standards they claim are “essential, rigorous, clear and specific, coherent, and internationally benchmarked.”

However, the CCSS have come under heavy fire since the beginning for a variety of grievances including: incomprehensible, political and inappropriate assignments; costly ties to big corporations; in-test advertising; the elimination of locally appropriate standards; and the emphasis placed on standardized testing.

In addition, with the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, whose educational value has not been demonstrated, also comes an alarming explosion of data mining within the classroom.  Student data are stored in databases designed to follow students from their entry into schools in pre-Kindergarten up through their entry into the workforce. These databases, through a complicated network of contracts and agreements, can then be shared with the federal government, contractors, researchers and other outside agencies. Testing corporations can then analyze the test data, produce recommendations for how to “remediate” student weaknesses, and then sell that information back to states and school districts.

These state databases, often referred to as P-20 systems, like Common Core are tied to federal funding, through the 2009 Federal Stimulus package and Race to the Top waivers, and in some instances can contain over 400 individual data points per student including health-care histories, income information, religious affiliations, voting status, blood type, likes and dislikes and homework completion. The data is then available to numerous public agencies. Despite federal student privacy protections guaranteed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the administration is paving the way for private entities to buy the data while the U.S. Department of Education is encouraging the shift from aggregate data collection to individual student data collection.

As a result of concerns expressed by a Michigan member of the TMLC regarding Common Core in March 2014, the Law Center began its study of the issues regarding the Common Core Standards.  The Student Privacy Protection Opt-Out Request was designed by the Thomas More Law Center as a result of that study.  It is available as a general reference and guide for all concerned parents.  However, each state has different laws that may impact educational issues differently.  Therefore, if parents are dealing with schools outside of the state of Michigan, it is important that they consult with a licensed attorney in their state for additional review and modifications of the opt-out form to comport with the laws of their respective states.

RELATED VIDEO: How Education Savings Accounts Are Empowering Families:

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

The Common Core: A Poor Choice for States – The Heartland Institute
Common Core Issues – Home School Legal Defense Association
Common Core: What’s Behind the Language – Rachel Alexander
Common Core – The Eagle Forum
10 Facts Every Catholic Should Know About the Common Core – Cardinal Newman Society

Common Core Rapidly Losing Support

As their children either start or return to school, parents are naturally concerned about the quality of education they receive from kindergarten through twelfth grade. In the past, before the teachers unions gained virtual control of the schools and before the federal government decided it had to impose “national standards”, it was the job of local boards of education to ensure students learned the basics—the three R’s—and, if history is any indicator, they did.

There should be no federal intervention in our school systems, but programs such as 2001’s “No Child Left Behind” and Obama’s “Race to the Top” have conditioned people to accept its role. The most recent example is Common Core, but it is the creation of the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. The support it has received from the White House, the Department of Education, and voices on Capitol Hill has left many with the impression it is a federal program. That doesn’t make it any less awful.

If you want to learn the facts about it, read a brief analysis by Joy Pullman, “Common Core: A Bad Choice for America”, which you can download for free from The Heartland Institute’s website or purchase copies in quantity. Pullman, a research fellow, is the managing editor of Heartland’s “School Reform News”, published ten times per year. For the record, I am a Heartland advisor.

As Pullman notes in her analysis, “In 2010, every state but Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia adopted Common Core education standards, a set of requirements in each grade in math and English language arts.” As school begins this year, four states, Indiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, and South Carolina have already dropped the program. Watch other states such as Louisiana and Wisconsin do the same.

Common Core

Click on the image for a larger view. Poster courtesy of ThePeoplesCube.com.

Here’s why. As Pullman notes in a recent article, for the first time the annual Pi Kappa Delta/Gallup poll revealed that “a majority of Americans—81%–has heard of Common Core. And 60% oppose it.” As more Americans learn more about Common Core, they too will oppose it, but the most intriguing finding of the poll was that, among teachers, there was a drop of support from 76% last year to 46% this year! The poll demonstrated that “Majorities wanted local school boards to have far more control over what schools teach than state or federal governments.”

Pullman said, “Everyone is for ‘standards’ in the abstract. Everyone is not for ‘standards’ that, like Common Core, coerce teachers and schools, and impose bad education theories on the countries.”

“Nationalizing education, like nationalizing anything,” says Pullman “requires compromise to get enacted. And compromise inevitably sacrifices quality. Quality has to grow from the ground up, through cooperation and competition, or it will never exist.”

What teachers and parents subject to Common Core requirements have learned rather quickly is that the program has a number of serious flaws. It not only slows the process of learning multiplication, it dampens the development of the creative thinking process, and offers a skewed, leftist selection of reading materials about U.S. history.

Pullman says, “The most important thing to understand about education standards is that research has demonstrated they have no effect on student achievement. That’s right: no effect at all. A series of data analyses from the Brookings Institution found no link between high state standards and high student achievement.”

Any parent and any teacher will confirm that different students learn at different rates and some encounter problems in certain areas. Some are better at mathematics. Others are better readers and writers. Still others find science or the arts of greatest interest. People are different. It is foolish to think that children aren’t.

This is not to say that the states don’t have education standards. They do and local boards ensure that their curriculums meet them.

At the national level, Pullman points out that “the country already has a national testing program that sets cut scores: the National Assessment of Educational Progress” that is “a valid, well-respected measuring stick that already offers states and citizens the ability to compare schools’ progress across state lines without the intrusions and muddle curriculum Common Core introduces.”

I recommend you download Pullman’s analysis, but in the meantime let me offer a good way to understand Common Core. It is the Obamacare of education.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is by RealClearEducation.com.

Arizona AG Horne refuses to recognize Stealth Jihad of the Gulen Movement

arizona ag horne

Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne

Yesterday, the usual restrained, moderate informative format of the Lisa Benson show ended in an uproar.  The kerfuffle was over the refusal of incumbent Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne to recognize the stealth jihad agenda of the Gulen Movement here in the US.  Horne, a former Democrat is in the final days of a fractious Republican primary that ends Tuesday amidst accusations of alleged abuse of office encompassing campaign funding and resignation of former aides objecting to questionable practices. This has resulted in investigations by the FBI and his own department’s Solicitor General.

The New York Times  article, “Legal Woes Pose Hurdles for Attorney General Tom Horne of Arizona in Campaign” chronicled Horne’s problems in a mid- July 2014 article indicating that he had been abandoned by luminaries in the State Republican Party  over accusations of questionable practices.   His opponent in the primary battle, Mark Brnovich is making much of these accusations.  Horne’s presence came as a result of a call from his campaign office requesting time to defend his support of the Gulen science and math academies.  We had Nidra Poller back on the program to address the blood libel of the Al Dura affair. That concerned the 55 second video on France 2 TV news of the faked death of a 12 year Palestinian youth, Mohammed al Dura, on September 30, 2000 in Gaza.  That fostered a slogan used by  Osama bin Laden to justify the Al Qaeda  9/11 attack  that still appears in pro-Hamas protests across Europe and here in the US during the current Gaza war: ‘ Israel murders Palestinian children’.  Poller is the author of Al-Dura: the long range ballistic myth.

When the matter of Turkey came up in the discussion with Attorney General Horne, this writer discussed the background of how Sufi Sheikh Mohammed Fethulleh Gulen came to be a resident alien in a fortified compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. This followed his flight from prosecution by the then secular Turkish government in 1998. We also noted his 2008 US Department of Homeland Security immigration hearing and support from a number of leading figures in the Islamic and US political firmament.  Those endorsements came from the likes of former President Clinton and Professor John Esposito of Georgetown University Center for Muslim Christian Understanding endowed by Saudi billionaire Prince Talal. We also discussed the contretemps between Turkey’s newly elected President, former Premier Recep Erdogan and Sheikh Gulen over massive charges of corruption by the former. These two had been allies ousting the long term secular rule of Turkey’s military and political parties in the tradition of Kemal Ataturk, first President of the Turkish Republic.  Sheikh Gulen is said to control a fortune estimated at over $25 billion, including media outlets, such as Turkey’s leading news daily, Today’s Zaman.  Erdogan has been a supporter of Hamas, ISIS and al Qaeda Affiliates and engaged in gold for gas schemes with Iran stifling US and EU attempts  at sanctioning the Islamic republic ‘s nuclear development program.  He is often referred to as the rising Sultan of the new Turkish Caliphate. Not to be upstaged, Gulen has been characterized as the most dangerous Islamist in the world because of the GM’s Hizmat (service)  control  of nearly 80 percent of  enrollment in Turkey’s preparatory schools, as well as the global network of GM controlled academies.

Both Erdogan and Gulen are united in opposition to Israel, once an ally to Turkish secularists and now accused of “enslaving Palestinians in Gaza”.  Both were particularly incensed over the May 2010 assault on the Turkish vessel the Mavi Marmara during which Israeli naval commandos killed 8 Turks and one Turkish American that tried to pierce the Gaza blockade.  The Mavi Mamara is owned by a global radical Muslim charity based in Turkey, IHH that has supplied funds and weapons to both al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria.

Nidra and I drew attention to Turkey as a questionable member of NATO, whose request for entry to the EU had been rebuffed for years over charges of human rights abuses and denial of due process under the 11 year term of Erdogan and his party’s super majority in the Turkish Parliament.

But the main issue was the world wide network of 1,100 GM Schools in over 100 countries. In the US there are more than 135 GM charter schools with an enrollment exceeding 50,000 in more than 26 states; 12 of which are in Arizona. All funded by taxpayers in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. We noted the private investigations that had been conducted in 12 states and the FBI raids on GM schools in Louisiana and Illinois over abuses of students and other allegations.   We discussed legislation passed in Tennessee and under consideration in Louisiana and Mississippi. See our June 2011 presentation, Unveiling Gulen Schools in Tennessee.  Those legislative proposals contain restrictions on the proportion of foreign workers brought in under the HB 1 visa program as administrators and faculty at charter schools specifically targeting the abuses by the GM operated science and mathematics academies.  We told how state legislators were often entreated by free trips to Turkey to sample the cuisine, culture and vibrant economy of the country.  GM US academy sponsoring groups have also made contributions to the political campaigns of state legislators in those jurisdictions that have granted charter licenses.

A caller drew attention to a report on a GM Sonoran academy in Tucson that Attorney General Horne had visited in his capacity as the former Superintendent of Public Instruction for Arizona, an elected post.  Lisa Benson cited pamphlets that she found extolling the virtues of the GM movement, Turkish nationalism and the Sheikh’s version of Islam. However, she also evidence of rejection of genocide. At that Attorney General Horne interjected saying that was concerning Armenian genocide and not the holocaust. Horne who is Jewish said that he came from a family of Shoah survivors and had relatives in Israel.   Horne is a graduate of both Harvard University and its Law School. Doubtless, he should have known that Hitler who fomented the murder of six million European Jewish men, women and children,  predicated the final solution of the Holocaust based on the West’s indifferent reactions to the plight of millions of Armenians lost in the Ottoman jihad death marches  during WWI.

 He justified his defense of the GM academies in Arizona by the academic performance of Gulen charter school students. Moreover, given the history of Jews during the holocaust, he indicated that it was unseemly to criticize another religion, in this case, Islam.  Notwithstanding, the presentation of information we provided on the GM academies in the US and the stealth jihad agenda of the GM doctrine propounded by Sheikh Gulen,  he saw nothing that would cause him to investigate their operations in Arizona.  This is notwithstanding the evidence of both state and FBI investigations in other jurisdictions.  Lisa Benson noted that he endorsed the Gulen even after she presented him with open source information that they supporter him when he was Superintendent of Public Instruction in Arizona.  Horne suggested to Benson that he wanted to focus on the charter schools run by La Raza rather than on Gulen. La Raza is an extremist Latino group were fostering rejectionist views of America replete with posters of Argentine Cuban icon, Che Guevara were the problem du jour for Horne.

Horne told Benson that, “I am not soft on Islam issues, but I don’t see anything wrong with Gulen.” Yet he would not admit that Islam could be so overt and obvious. My co-host Lisa Benson reacted angrily to Horne’s comments.  Horne came with an agenda to yesterday’s program. It was to put both he and his GM supporters in Arizona in the best possible light.  As I said in an after program dialogue with both Benson and Attorney General Horne, he came with a closed mind not to engage in meaningful dialogue. Problem is that he evinced no curiosity about the evidence presented. That was not his purpose; it was trolling for votes in a hotly contested Republican primary for the top law officer position in Arizona.

Listen to the podcast of the Lisa Benson Show of August 24, 2014 with Nidra Poller and Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of Sufi Sheikh Mohammed Fethulleh Gulen and is courtesy of HizmetNew.com.

Florida: The Diocese of Palm Beach lied to us about Common Core

Hope all is well on this “Feast Day of St. Bartholomew” – one of the twelve – as we truly need more than “12” disciples today in our relentless fight against the intrinsic evils that attack our beloved Catholic Church 24/7. And, sadly and ironically enough, it is NOT the militants from ISIS, the terrorists from Hamas, Al-Qaeda or Boko Haram – or any of the radical Islamic groups who are terrorizing our world today – but, rather our own Catholic Church leaders, Bishops and Catholic Educators who are wreaking havoc on our own Catholic schools and church.

They are truly the ones who have done the most damage to our own Catholic schools and freedom of religion by going against their very own Catholic Faith and compromising their Catholic identity – denouncing our Almighty Father – and worshiping the Almighty Dollar…I have said it a million times and it rings truer today as every American citizen in this country can vividly see how these Church leaders & Bishops have disgraced our beloved Holy Catholic Church while “serving two masters” – and selfishly adopting the Curse of Common Core in their schools.

Twelve months, 24 days and 6 hours have gone by since I began my personal fight against the “Curse of Common Core” to try to protect the integrity of the Holy Catholic Church that I adore; the integrity of our Holy Catholic schools; and the future generations to come, who will be stuck with this socialist indoctrination for decades to come – unless the Catholics of this world stand up for their Catholic Church and say “NO” to Common Core!!

We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now as nobody will see anything too blatant or out of the ordinary at the beginning. Slowly but surely, teachers, students and parents will begin to see the subtle changes of this socialist indoctrination and when the teachers, students and parents bring these concerns up to the church leaders and school administrators who brought it among us – it will be too late. You do business with the devil – he calls out the tunes – and you church and school leaders better learn the two-step mighty quick because this socialist disease is more than crippling…The only cure is to denounce Common Core and go back to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church…

Bishop300X300

The Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, fifth Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Palm Beach.

If you have followed along for the past seven weeks with the Diocese of Palm Beach, you would have seen that we “Declared Victory” back on July 2nd, when Bishop Barbarito told the entire diocese that “The Catholic schools in the Diocese of Palm Beach are NOT adopting the Common Core State Standards”. It was national news – it went viral…it went through the roof…it went to waste…it went down the drain.

To quote hundreds of you who wrote to me – “Willy, we were lied to! How can that happen in a Catholic Diocese?”

Yes, the entire diocese was taken for a ride when the superintendent said it differently and allowed the intrinsic evil of Common Core – text books, all its components & makeup – everything except the name – to infiltrate our beloved classrooms on August 18th…And, that was the Game Plan all along. One hell of a stealth operation from a Catholic diocese…The other “6” dioceses in the state of Florida followed the same sneaky plan…and, GOD – the “Official Superintendent” – is watching it all from high above.

All that hard work; all the blood, sweat and tears; all the sacrifice; all the prayers; all the deception behind this stealth operation that has turned the entire diocese into a “distrustful place of work”…Who can we trust anymore? Especially when the good, honest people of this diocese are now up against this government take-over of our education system – overseen by the liberal Obama administration – all contingent upon the “root of all evil” – Money!!! You take money from the devil – you have to dance to his music. Obamacare all over again – ObamaCore – right here in our own beloved Catholic schools…And, the government now gets to call all the shots and pull all the strings while parents scratch their heads and continue to ask: “Willy, is this that Common Core stuff you warned us about last August?”…

Money – that old “30 pieces of silver” – will always get everybody’s attention, but, in the long run, it will do one in. It caused one of the twelve to betray Jesus with a “kiss of death”, hang himself from a tree and 2,000 years later, it comes back to haunt us right before our very own eyes. Selling one’s soul for 30 pieces of silver is drastic and a grave sin. It will grab you by the neck. Selling one’s soul at the expense of 6,000 school children is unacceptable and is more than a sin…It will get you on Judgment Day.

TWO REPORTS: Teachers make up only 50% of all Education Jobs

Parents, concerned citizens and taxpayers have long been concerned about the growing number of non-teaching jobs in public schools. Taxpayers want their property tax dollars to go primarily to the classroom. Two recent studies show that, overtime, education funding is increasingly going to non-teaching jobs.

Visual Editor at The Daily Signal and digital media associate at The Heritage Foundation, Kelsey Harris reports, “Even though the Obama Administration proposes spending $25 billion specifically to ‘provide support for hundreds of thousands of education jobs’ in order to ‘keep teachers in the classroom,’ research by both Heritage and The Fordham Institute reveal alarming numbers: only half of education jobs belong to teachers.”

The Fordham Institutes Matt Richmond writes, “The number of non-teaching staff in the United States (those employed by school systems but not serving as classroom teachers) has grown by 130 percent since 1970. Non-teachers—more than three million strong—now comprise half of the public school workforce. Their salaries and benefits absorb one-quarter of current education expenditures. ”

To show how teachers are no longer the majority The Fordham Institute and Heritage provide the following four charts and map (NOTE: For a larger view click on the chart/map):

Chart 1 & 2: Only half of education jobs are teachers:

Hidden-Half-Report chart 1

chart2-1 (1)

Chart 3: How education staffing has outpaced student enrollment:

chart1600

Chart 4: The farther a school is from a city, the more non-teaching staff it has:

Hidden half report chart 2

Map showing the number of teachers aides per 1,000 students by state:

Final-National-Map-Web

 

EDITORS NOTE: Click on the chart/map for a larger view.

Miami, FL: Possible FCAT Science Cheating at Crestview Elementary?

An official complaint has been filed with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools regarding suspected test cheating on the FCAT Science exam at Crestview Elementary School during the 2013-2014 school year. The complaint is based upon a report from Mr. Keith Guthrie.

Guthrie stated he had suspicions about test scores on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam involving two students (one ESE, the other ESOL). Mrs. Matilda Ysidro, told Guthrie that she witnessed the former Science Coach, and current Grade 5 Science teacher, Ms. Lori Caraccia assisting these two students last school year by “emphasizing” the answers on the science exam.

Guthrie came to me “for direction,” as his case is similar to the test cheating on the Industrial Arts exams at Miami Norland Senior High School in April 2012. Guthrie knew my experience with exposing test cheating. I have also represented Guthrie in past grievances and labor disputes with Crestview administration.

Guthrie told me that the events occurred while Ms. Caraccia was testing these two students for the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam during the last school year. Mrs. Ysidro told Guthrie she walked in on them and observed Ms. Caraccia “emphasizing” the right answers. During a second interview with Guthrie, Ysidro said as students were taking the test, if the student marked the wrong answer, Ms. Caraccia would tell them, “You better check your answer”, in some cases multiple times, until the student marked the right answer before moving on to the next question.

Mr. Guthrie deemed what Mrs. Ysidro told him as credible because the two students in question attended his classes. One student was ESOL, the other ESE, and both students failed his class. Both students hardly participated in class and displayed Level 1 performance on their last FCAT Reading exams. Yet both students scored Level 5 on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam- a clear disparity between classroom performance and their FCAT Reading scores.

Guthrie said only five (including these two) Grade 5 students scored a Level 5 on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam.  He knew the other three students; he tested them; and their scores were reflective of their classroom achievement and other test scores.

I advised Mr. Guthrie to email the Florida Department of Education Inspector General. He indicated he would email his complaint. Mr. Guthrie has not contacted the FL DOE IG at the time this column was published.

The Florida Department of Education investigators simply need to obtain the names of the five students who scored a Level 5 on the Grade 5 FCAT Science exam; identify those coded as ESOL and ESE and confirm with Mr. Guthrie that they failed his class.  After the two students, and potentially others, are identified, retest them using a different proctor. As the school went from a “D” to a “C,” and Grade 5 FCAT Science performance shot up from 27% in 2013 to 38% in 2014.

Recently school administrators have been involved in cheating scandals in other states (Atlanta, El Paso, Houston, and Philadelphia). Ms. Caraccia was the Science Coach appointed by the principal and on her leadership team. It will be up to the District, and the FLDOE IG, to determine whether or not school administration was aware of possible cheating (coaching) of these students and, if so, when they knew it.

The dramatic rise in Crestview’s school grade from a “D” to a “C” (Crestview scored 477 points; 42 points above the minimum of 435)  lead to a total a payout of $40,000- $50,000 in teacher incentives from the Florida School Recognition Program.

Hopefully it was an isolated incident, but given that test cheating at Norland went largely unnoticed and unpunished by the FLDOE and by law enforcement, the message is clear that cheating pays.

I am reporting what was told to me by Guthrie. This case is not unlike what happened at Miami Norland Senior High School two years ago.  Only a complete and thorough investigation will get to the bottom of how widespread the test cheating is, as was the case at Norland.

If substantiated, many troubling questions are raised: why is there cheating on different levels within the Norland feeder pattern?  What will the District do about it? Will the people involved go the way of Emmanuel Fleurantin or Brenda Muchnick? Time will tell.

The following is a comparison of FCAT Science test results for Crestview Elementary.

Elementary
School Percentage Passing (Satisfactory and Above)
Grade
Level
Science
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
2013 2014
Dade
Top of Form CRESTVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (1161) Bottom of Form
5 27 38 

 

Elementary
School Percentage Passing (Satisfactory and Above)
Grade
Level
Reading
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
Mathematics
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
Science
(Achievement Level 3 and Above)
Writing Essay
(3.5 and Above)
2013 2014 2013 2014 2013 2014 2013 2014
Dade
Top of Form CRESTVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (1161) Bottom of Form
3 41 48  40 42  NA NA  NA NA 
4 55 56  61 58  NA NA  42 30 
5 49 55  42 48  27 38  NA NA 

 

Introducing kids to adult/youth “gay clubs” in communities, outside of schools. A dangerous intro to “gay sex.”

Probably the fastest and most dangerous way that schoolchildren are introduced to homosexual behavior is through adult-youth “community” gay clubs, which are run by homosexual (and transgender) activist adults and seek to attract local high school and middle school children.

Contingent of men and children from Boston LGBT club BAGLY marching in Youth Pride Parade. They were shouting “Trans Rights Now!”[All photos by MassResistance]

This is the fifth part in our series on this year’s annual GLSEN Conference held in Boston in April 2014 which brought together LGBT teachers, school officials, and education activists (and their “allies”) — along with children as young as fifth grade
— where they outlined their latest tactics for the schools.

Community “LGBT youth” clubs: Mixing vulnerable kids with adult “gay” activists

Unlike the “gay straight alliance” clubs inside the schools – which are themselves outrageous — these meet at various places in the community and are completely unsupervised by any outside entity. However, schools know this and are still cooperative in steering vulnerable kids to these clubs, where the kids develop relationships with the adult activists. In our experience, the school authorities do not notify parents when they introduce their child to these groups.

“Business card” given out to kids at the conference.

How dangerous can these clubs get?  Most parents and public officials don’t have a clue.  Back in 2007 MassResistance posted a shocking public letter written by a 20-year-old homosexual activist in Maine describing the abuses going on by adults to kids in the local “gay youth” club. It included his own admission of sexual relations with two younger boys.

Last year a Massachusetts mother introduced legislation to stop the public schools from steering students to outside “gay clubs” after a counselor at her 16-year-old son’s high school referred the boy to a local club without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

Here’s from the mother’s testimony before the Massachusetts Legislature:

Our son was seeing a [therapist] for childhood traumas that are known to cause sexual identity issues in adolescence.

At [the gay club] our son was told that he was born gay, could never change, and that anyone who didn’t embrace his sexual identity was a hater and a homophobe, including his family. . . He was provided with sexually provocative and anti-Christian literature .  . .

The school administrators defended [the school counselor’s] actions [in referring him to them].

In recent years, these outside “gay youth clubs” have also emphasized cross-dressing, transgenderism, and even sex-change medical procedures for kids. MassResistance recently documented how these clubs partner with even more extreme groups and radical government-funded transgender programs.

Conference workshop

At the GLSEN LGBT Teachers Conference it was clear that steering kids to these outside “gay youth clubs” and getting them involved with adult homosexual activists is no accident, but a part of their agenda. To start with, they had a workshop devoted to it:


“Youth / adult collaboration” involving homosexual activists is every parent’s nightmare. But the homosexual movement sees this as an important “positive” way for youth to be helped to free themselves from the influence of “homophobic” parents, and particularly their religious beliefs. In their eyes, this is good for kids’ emotional and psychological well-being.

There are various strategies for using schools to get kids involved with these groups. As mentioned above, one is to have a trusted counselor or advisor to suggest it as a “support group.”

In contrast the image they carefully craft for public officials, concerned citizens, and the media, is a well-honed script describing education programs, emotional and psychological support, and claims that reinforcing homosexual behavior prevents suicides.  The latter claim often references the unscientific and discredited Mass. Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

This article from the local Wellesley MA newspaper is a classic example of how the community “gay youth” clubs carefully craft their image for the public. It was passed out at the conference.

“BAGLY”

Note that the conference workshop presenters are from BAGLY (Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Youth) . BAGLY is the largest, most aggressive (and most well-funded) LGBT “youth club” in Massachusetts.

BAGLY is run by a middle-aged man who dresses as a woman. As an official member of the state-funded Massachusetts Commission on GLBT Youth, BAGLY has an entrée into public schools across the state. It helps organize the annual “Youth Pride” Day and runs the accompanying evening “Youth gay/transgender” prom in Boston City Hall. (We have a full report on this year’s “Youth Pride” event coming up. Here’s our report from Youth Pride Day 2009.)

A group of activists from BAGLY posed for us at the 2014 Youth Pride event earlier this year.

BAGLY does not hide the fact the fact that children and adults freely mix (see top photo). Its website admits that it has no minimum age, and that:

All LGBTQ youth ages 22 and under are welcome to participate in BAGLY’s program activities and events. The average age range of the youth who currently participate in our weekly programming is 14 – 20, while our annual events are usually more inclusive of 21 and 22 year-olds.

BAGLY’s attitude toward sexual activity between participants is also very clear:

[O]ur approach to programming and services is youth-centered, non-judgmental and “sex-positive” (meaning we think consensual sex is natural and healthy).

Despite all of this, the state continues to fund BAGLY’s activities and the schools continue to include it.

“WAGLY”

Literature from WAGLY (West Suburban Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Youth) was also distributed and promoted to kids at the conference. As BAGLY is mostly centered around the Boston inner-city area, WAGLY is located in the western suburbs.

ABOVE: WAGLY contingent marches in this year’s “Youth Pride Day” parade.LEFT: These are the kinds of people they pair up schoolchildren with: Man marching at left of top photo, wearing WAGLY shirt, is wearing women’s high-heel shoes.

WAGLY uses many of the same strategies to attract schoolchildren as the other “LLGBT youth” community clubs. They seem to focus on offering kids “a welcoming place” for “support,” and the group meets in unsupervised “gay friendly” settings away from the public schools.  Some of WAGLY’s literature, which was passed out at the conference, is shown below.

In 2010, the WAGLY adults and kids marched with a different banner, but the same purpose.

“LGBT Coalition of Western Massachusetts”

The LGBT Coalition of Western Massachusetts is also disturbing because it is much more overtly adult-oriented than the others. But seems to use the same “mentoring” tactics to attract kids and to involve them in ts events and activities. Their literature was also passed out at the conference.

RIGHT: LGBT Coalition booklet passed out at conference.BELOW: Excerpt from the LGBT Coalition booklet describing their youth/adult “mentoring” program.
Postcard passed out as part of the LGBT Coalition package, also pitching their “mentoring” program.
And, of course, a business card.

Other “LGBT youth” community groups

There are several other “LGBT youth” community clubs across the state that are quite active, but weren’t promoted at this conference. However, we’ve observed that those groups use the same tactics and work as closely as they can with local public school administrators and teachers.

It is shocking that most parents, citizens, and even politicians are completely unaware that this is happening to vulnerable kids in their public schools and communities – and that teachers are being instructed in how to promote it to schoolchildren at conferences like this. MassResistance will continue to expose this!

Florida: Lee and Palm Beach County looking to opt-out of high stakes testing (+Video)

There is a growing movement against the high stakes testing requirement in Florida’s public schools. The School Boards of Lee and Palm Beach County are seriously looking at opting out of the Florida (Common Core) State Standards testing program.

NewsPress.com’s Emily Atteberry reports:

FCAT. Florida Standards. Common core.

No matter what you call it, the school board wants it gone.

[Palm Beach County] Board members unanimously expressed their disdain for standardized testing at the school board meeting Tuesday, pledging to research the possibility of “opting out” the entire district from standardized testing.

“There needs to be a come-to-Jesus meeting … to talk about these issues point blank,” Chairman Tom Scott said.

Read more.

Lamarre Notargiacomo, American Coalition 4 Property Rights, in an email writes, “Thanks to the efforts of the Lee County School Board, Chris Quackenbush and other dedicated parents, their decision to opt out of Standardized testing is having a domino effect. Miami-Dade School board has also said they want out, but their legislators are not listening to them. PBC wants to allow parents to opt out. Parents, if we defeat the high stakes standardized testing (huge corporations profiting from the tests being administered, to the people who are being paid to ‘grade’ the tests, which can be very subjective), we can defeat Common Core. Pass on this good news. Call your legislators and governor Scott and tell him we want to reject the Standardized, computerized AIR testing consortium.”

Sandy Krischke notes, “Another interesting tidbit of information I found out was that, according to Florida state law, the ONLY standardized testing currently mandated IS that singular, high stakes test.  While I agree that we should absolutely be able to opt out of it…I also think we should start pressing our districts to explain WHY our children are testing so much outside of that mandate. They gripe and complain all the time about unfounded mandates, yet our teachers must prepare for, administer, and study the results of numerous other tests throughout the school year, many of which start just weeks into the academic year. How much curriculum can be taught and time spent on our kids learning instead of all these tests.  Benchmark exams, etc….I have spoken to several teachers and they are told this is a requirement….but had no idea that the state did not mandate these tests. Time to hold their feet to the fire. Let’s keep the pressure on.”

Will this movement spread? Florida groups like Teaching is Not Testing and the Florida Stop Common Core Coalition are working to educate the educators on the pitfalls of high stakes testing, which is an integral part of Common Core. The below videos tell the story being heard by local school boards across Florida and beyond.

Palm Beach School Board Remarks on Standardized Testing

Remarks by members of the Palm Beach County School Board about excessive standardized testing. August 20, 2014. NOTE: This clip has been edited to focus on just remarks about standardized testing.

More and More Testing, Less and Less Instructional Time

Parent Clare Kirchman speaks to the School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida on August 20, 2014 about the excessive standardized testing which makes for less and less instructional time.

Kids React to 2+2=5 (Common Core)

This is a composite video covering the history of Common Core and the use of bio-metrics to monitor students in the classroom with the objective to measure how well a teacher is teaching.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

The Privatizing Agenda of Survey-producing Education Next
“Reframing” California Common Core for a Better Public Sale
Peter Greene: Why Teachers are Breaking Up with Common Core
The AstroTurf Lament: Common Core in Two 2014 Public Opinion Polls

The Ferguson Riots and Lessons from 1964

Policesign

The wrong lesson.

It’s a sad day when the first day of school is delayed a week because of rioting, as it has been in Ferguson, Missouri.  Teachers, instead of being in classrooms teaching, have been getting “crisis training.” Those who have irresponsibly been quick to judge in the case of the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer without all the facts have only added fuel to the fire.  This is the case in the lessons about Ferguson that have been prepared, free for teachers to download.

They follow the numerous lessons already fashioned out of the Trayvon Martin case (such as one by PBS called “Debating Race, Justice and Policy in the Case of Trayvon Martin”), with the focus on race and social justice, instead of real justice–as in the jury system, evaluation of evidence, etc.

It almost seems that the indoctrinators have been waiting with material.  Within days of the shooting, the lessons were ready for teachers to download. PBS has come out with an entire list of “resources” for teaching about Ferguson and Michael Brown to grades 7-12 (including links to videos from the PBS News Hour). The Anti-Defamation League offers a detailed lesson plan (Common Core-aligned), with discussions centered on race, the “militarization” of police, and the best ways to engage in “activism.” Teachers are instructed to play the lyrics of rapper J.Cole who has already written a song about Michael Brown. Teachers are then to ask students:

“How did you feel while listening to the song?”
“What do the lyrics mean?”
“Why do you think he wrote the song?”
“Will it make a difference?”

These lessons follow the lead of journalists, who have been quick to condemn the police, blaming the “militarization of police” for criminal and subversive elements. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch presented the first night’s looting, which seemed to go on while police stood back, as a justified release of emotion.  It was not.  The gangs came out in even greater force the following nights, perhaps encouraged by their successes and enflamed by the rhetoric of the race agitators that have come out at such moments throughout the twentieth century, especially fifty years ago.

Fifty years ago in Rochester my neighborhood was set on the path to destruction by the riots. This July in a perverse kind of “celebration” media outlets and libraries “looked back” to 1964.  The rationalizations for the rioting back then were what they are now: poverty, unemployment, discrimination, bad housing.

Nothing was the same after the riots in Rochester in 1964, no matter what the teachers or commentators said.  The destroyed businesses, ruined property values, and deteriorating schools that we had to live with defied the politically correct lessons and the commentary from perches in the suburbs or Washington, D.C.  The criminals 50 years later know the script; they know that their actions will be excused by the agitators and the oh-so-sensitive who write from offices far from the violence.  It’s shocking to see it happen over and over, in Rochester in 1964 and in Ferguson in 2014.  Today, audaciously, pundits in Washington, D.C. lecture police to be more understanding, more “brave.”

What’s different today is that the anti-police pundits are seen as being conservative.  But these conservatives are new kinds of conservatives, they insist.  They disparage the old-fashioned conservatism.  All they want is freedom, they say.  They’re purists, lumping every form of social control under Big Government.  They are, proudly, Libertarians.

Barry Goldwater 1962

Barry Goldwater 1962

Really?  Then they ought to consider the words of Mr. Libertarian himself, Barry Goldwater, who in 1964 said this in his acceptance speech for the nomination of Republican presidential candidate:

Security from domestic violence, no less than from foreign aggression, is the most elementary and fundamental purpose of any government, and a government that cannot fulfill that purpose is one that cannot long command the loyalty of its citizens. History shows us – demonstrates that nothing – nothing prepares the way for tyranny more than the failure of public officials to keep the streets from bullies and marauders.

This is what we need to start putting in lessons for school children…after teaching the adults in Washington, D.C., who would lecture us about the “militarization of police” or being more “brave.”

Florida High School promotes Godlessness in the name of ‘Diversity’

Dena Sturm

Dena Sturm, IB Program Adviser, Spanish teacher Riverview HS.

Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida has an International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Under the Riverview High School IB program is a category titled “Service Organizations.” One of these organizations is the Coexistence Club. Dena Sturm is listed as the Docent Program Adviser for the IB Program Coexistence Club.

According to EmbracingOurDifferences.org:

The Embracing Our Differences partnership with Riverview High School’s International Baccalaureate (IB) Program continues to be the jewel in our crown.

Under our Docent Program, IB students and members of the Coexistence Club serve as docents and mentors to other students participating in our education program. Our student docents work in the parks daily leading groups and inspiring youngsters to recognize the messages delivered through the art and quotes. With their guided questions and planted seeds of inquiry, our young visitors are led to make realizations of their own about diversity and acceptance of others, including those different from themselves. [Emphasis added]

Learn more about Embracing Our Differences.

andrea rankin

Student Andrea Rankin the creator of Life’s Library.

What are the ” inspiring messages” being planted like seeds into the minds of youngsters at Riverview High School?

Perhaps a large 30’x30′ banner titled “Life’s Library” by Andrea Rankin can give us a clue. The banner hangs prominently on the wall at the entrance of the high school directly across from the school’s administrative offices. The banner is in full color and sponsored by the Coexistence Club Riverview High School.

Rankin, a student at the Sarasota Technical Institute, created the “Life’s Library” based upon “her own experiences.” Rankin’s Life’s Library won the Best-in-Show and People’s Choice Award at the Embracing Our Differences 2012 art exhibit.

The “Life’s Library” book titles are solely Rankin’s view of the world. It is her view that is being viewed daily by Riverview High School students, faculty, staff and visitors.

photo (7)

The titles of the books in Rankin’s Life’s Library show exactly what is being promoted in the name of “diversity” by the Coexistence Club. Here are just some of the book titles:

  • Divorce was the best thing for my son.
  • I have two mommies.
  • I am not the 99% and it makes me feel guilty.
  • My brother is now my sister and I still love her.
  • People say I am skinny but I hate my body.
  • Sober 3 years, two months and 3 days.
  • Born this way (with gay flags).
  • I Love My Bubber with Star of David (a bubber is a wino or junkie)
  • I am not sure who God is or if there even is a God.
  • Being Muslim in America is hard.
  • Human – everything else is irrelevant.
  • Every tattoo has a deep personal meaning.
  • My tribe was the original homeland security.
  • My piercings make me pretty.

Diversity now means embracing an anything goes mentality when it comes to family, marriage, sexual behavior, tattoos, body piercing,  science and God. Rankin’s titles confuse nature’s gender differences with unnatural sexual behaviors. It compares real differences based on ethnicity and applies them to human behaviors. It creates cognitive dissonance in the young and impressionable by mixing metaphors. It equates Muslim life in America without addressing Muslim life in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Rankin takes morality and turns it on its head in the name of coexistence.

Perhaps the Sarasota County School Board should look into what exactly the Riverview High Coexistence Club is pedaling to the Riverview High School students?

The absurdities listed on this poster are quickly becoming the norm in our public schools, much to the detriment of our community. That is the reality. Our public schools, with the support of the Sarasota County School Board, are creating a generation of Godless children, who have no moral basis upon which to make life’s critical decisions. The only thing being embraced is Rankin’s view of the world, but then again she is a product of our Sarasota County School system.

As Ronald Reagan said, “Without God there is no virtue because there is no prompting of the conscience…without God there is a coarsening of the society; without God democracy will not and cannot long endure… If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation gone under… Government should uphold–and not undermine–those institutions which are custodians of the very values upon which civilization is founded: religion, education and, above all, family.”

Perhaps the “jeweled crown” of diversity needs to be replaced with one made from the vines of a thorn bush and placed upon the head of a Nazarene who was crucified by a people who embraced many of the ideals displayed on this banner.

You see, there is one book you can judge by its cover – The Holy Bible – for it is the library for life. Its lessons are conspicuously absent from Rankin’s Life Library.

EDITORS NOTE: Below is the original “Life’s Library” by Andrea Rankin.

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Why is the ‘Conservative’ BizPac Review endorsing Democrat Karen Brill?

Voters_Guide-2014-web-optimized-231x300The Palm Beach County based BizPac Review has sent out its August 26th primary endorsements. Jack Furnari sent out “Jacks 2014 Conservative Primary Voters Guide“. Furnari describes himself as “a conservative writer and political strategist in Boca Raton.” On Jack’s list is Karen Brill running for re-election for the Palm Beach School Board District 3 seat.

Many wonder why a conservative publication endorsed Brill, a liberal Democrat, over her conservative opponent John Hartman. Brill is pro-Common Core and was recently installed by the Florida School Board Association as President of the Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards.

The Greater Florida Consortium of School Boards’ 2014 Legislative Program has a “Priority Goal” to:

Support Common Core State Standards and Accountability, and develop a workable timeline for the implementation of accountability, but not before July 1, 2017, that includes student, teacher, principal, school and school district assessment, professional development, and evaluation.

Karen_Brill

Karen Brill, Democrat Palm Beach School Board, District 3.

Brill will be responsible to implement the Consortium’s legislative program, which includes:

  • Repeal requirements for districts to adopt EOCs in every subject not covered by the state assessment program.
  • Allow alternative ways for Post-Secondary Readiness Test compliance, such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, AICE, or Dual Enrollment programs.
  • Oppose any further expansion of the Florida Tax Credit and John McKay Scholarship Programs.
  • Provide state funding for any increased costs to the employer’s contribution to the Florida Retirement System.
  • Identify alternative revenue sources, including efforts to enforce the states existing sales tax on all internet sales made in Florida, and study a phase out of exemptions on non-essential goods.
  • Extend the voter-approved operation millage authority from four (4) years up to ten (10) years.
  • Provide state wide assessments in multiple languages for the first two years of testing.

Does this sound like a conservative legislative program? Is Brill, who will be pushing this program, a conservative? Many think not.

Brill’s campaign website states, “Prior to joining the School Board, I was actively involved in education locally, statewide and on the national level – most notably as an advocate for students with disabilities.” Yet, as President of the Consortium Brill will be working against further expansion of John McKay Scholarship Programs that help students with disabilities. Is this an oxymoron?

We will let you decide if Jack’s picks are conservative or not. Some may want to re-consider the Jack and BizPac Review 2014 Voter Guide?

CAIR: A Shocking Textbook Expert on Peace and Religion

Why is the above image wrong?  Let us count the ways.

1. The quote does not come from the Council on American Islamic Relation (CAIR). It does not even come from a press release. It comes from a fatwa issued by the Fiqh Council of North America at a press conference convened by CAIR. The press release, dated a day earlier, did not contain any such line.

2. CAIR is not a religious authority. It is an activist and advocacy group. In fact, in that press release, CAIR described itself as, “America’s largest Muslim civil rights group.” Educational material should not use advocacy groups as authorities, let alone as experts on religious interpretation. Perhaps the textbook should have quoted a Muslim religious scholar or just explained that the Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa on this issue. Maybe the authors thought that using the correct terminology would be scary or confusing. But that would be kind of bigoted, wouldn’t it?

3. Neither the quote provided in the text nor the full fatwa actually validate the textbook’s claim that “people may mistakenly think that Islam encourages violence.” This fatwa does call on Muslims to refrain from violence against civilians, including terrorism. But it does not state anything about the religion encouraging or not encouraging other forms of violence, such as against militaries.

And finally…

4. No one should listen to CAIR on the issue of peace. The organization simply is not credible. If you are wondering what we mean about this, just look up the following phrases together: CAIR, unindicted co-conspirator, joint venturer, U.S. vs. Holy Land Foundation.

If you care about accuracy in textbooks, contact Verity Educate to find out what you can do.

The Best Debt in the World by Emma Elliot Freire

Hard to believe, but Britain’s student loan problem is worse than the Yanks’.

In late 2010, tens of thousands of British students took to the streets of London. They protested government plans to cut direct funding of higher education and raise the cap on tuition from £3,290 ($5,500) to £9,000 ($15,000). Some of them occupied government buildings and clashed violently with police. Hundreds were arrested.

Maybe they shouldn’t have gotten so worked up. It’s now becoming clear that most of them won’t repay their loans in full. Some of them will even be getting their education for free.

The UK government’s student loan scheme is more generous than its American counterpart. Any British student who is accepted to a university is automatically entitled to a government loan for the entirety of their tuition. Most universities are charging £9,000 per year. British students can also get loans for their living costs, which range from £4,418 to £7,751 per year. The average student will graduate £44,000 ($74,000) in debt.

The core difference between the British and American systems lies in the terms of repayment. American students typically have to start repaying 6 months after they graduate. Opportunities for loan forgiveness are extremely limited, and loans cannot be discharged via bankruptcy. By contrast, British students don’t have to start repaying until they are earning £21,000 ($36,000) per year. They must then pay 9 percent of their gross income as long as they stay above the threshold. Their outstanding balance is automatically forgiven 30 years after it became eligible for repayment. Also, the loans do not appear on their credit report. 

“The thing people worry about with debt is that they won’t be able to pay it back. The way this is structured means that is not a worry ever, and it doesn’t follow you around until your old age,” says Sam Bowman, Research Director at the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market think tank. 

Bowman finds it helpful to understand loan repayment as a tax. “You can either think of it as a graduate tax or it’s the best debt in the world,” he says. “It makes sense to think of it as a graduate tax, a specific kind of tax on a specific action that is designed to offset the cost of that action.”

Uncharted waters for repayment

The first students to take on the new, larger type of loans have yet to graduate, so it is hard to estimate what repayment rates are likely to be. However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), an independent research center, is already projecting that 73 percent of students will not repay their loans in full. They believe the average amount written off will be around £30,000 ($50,500).

report released in July by a committee of the British parliament reached similar conclusions. “By providing favourable terms and conditions on student loans, the Government loses around 45p [cents] on every £1 it loans out.” When the new policies were first announced in 2010, the government projected it would only lose 28p per £1 loaned out. The report notes that government loans to students are expected to total £330 billion by 2044. “We are concerned that Government is rapidly approaching a tipping point for the financial viability of the student loans system,” says the report.

By and large, students still think of themselves as having “real debt” for their education. “One valid criticism of the loan system is that students don’t realize how generous it is,” says Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute. “Students think they’re paying for the entirety of their education when actually they’re not. Taxpayers are covering quite a lot of the cost.”

The IFS report notes that the lowest-earning 10 percent of graduates will only repay £3,879 (in 2014 prices). A survey earlier this year showed that 40 percent of graduates are still looking for a job 6 months after leaving university. If this trend continues, some graduates may never start earning £21,000.

A few savvy individuals are learning to work the system. British financial advisors encourage parents who could contribute to their child’s education to have their kid take out government loans instead. Martin Lewis, who runs the popular website moneysavingexpert.comwrites, “If a parent pays the £27,000 tuition fees upfront, and their child becomes a poet and never earns above £21,000, the whole £27,000 would have been wasted.”

The only people who can expect to repay their loans plus interest in full are the small group who take high-paying jobs soon after graduating and get regular pay increases for the next 30 years. These individuals are thinking hard about whether they need a degree. “The only income group that has gone to university less are the richest. That might be surprising, but what the debt does is it imposes some cost on people for going to university,” says Bowman. “So if they have other options, they take them. Maybe they could skip college and join their parent’s business or their parents can find them jobs.”

This is one immediate impact of the new loan scheme. There will undoubtedly be unintended consequences that may only become evident years or decades from now. For example, Britain may see an increase in the number of stay-at-home parents. Loan repayment is tied to an individual’s income. Spouse’s earnings are irrelevant. Child care is already very expensive. For some families, the extra 9 percent they would lose in loan repayments will be enough to push one parent out of paid employment.

Loans without borders

Loan repayments are collected by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the British equivalent of the IRS, via withholding from a person’s paycheck. This makes it fairly simple to collect money from anyone working for a British employer. Things become harder when a graduate leaves the country. 

“There is no way that the government can collect money from people who go abroad,” says Bowman. “There is a big incentive for them to stay away. Say you’re an English graduate and you go to America for a couple of years to work. If you have this debt waiting for you when you get home, there’s a big reason for you to stay abroad for as long as possible.”

The number of students who would actually permanently leave is probably very small. “It would be a much bigger problem than the student loan book if we were seeing Irish levels of emigration,” says Bowman. However, a determined few will be able to dodge repayment.

And then there’s the question of students who come to Britain from other European Union countries. Since 2006, EU law has required Britain to offer these students the same loan deals for tuition, though not for living costs. It is a tradition in British politics to blame problems that are largely homegrown on the widely-hated EU. As the issues with loan repayment have come to light, stories about EU students borrowing money and then “going to ground” have also been hitting the headlines.

This problem is still fairly small, since EU students have only been receiving loans since 2006. Hillman says that about half of EU students who study in Britain choose not to borrow or repay their loan in full before they leave the country. Many EU students enroll at British universities because they want to work in Britain later. Thus, they have a strong incentive to repay. However, data is now emerging that shows unpaid loans in the low millions. “The issue is less about what has happened to date but what might happen in the future because there aren’t many people yet who are liable to repay, but it’s growing all the time,” says Hillman. 

“If a French or Dutch person studies at a British university then goes home and gets a job, we can certainly chase them through the French or Dutch courts because they’ve signed a legal contract and they should repay,” Hillman says. “But the trouble is that it’s an incredibly expensive business. The person may owe £27,000, which is a lot of money, but chasing someone through the courts can easily cost that much.”

One way to address this problem would be an EU-wide agreement. “But there’s no real incentive for other European countries to do this because other European countries don’t use loans in the same way we do,” says Hillman. 

Relative improvement

Despite the problems, both Hillman and Bowman say the new system is an improvement over the way British higher education used to be funded. Tony Blair’s government only introduced tuition in 2004. “Before loans and fees came in, British taxpayers paid 100 percent of the cost of going to university. Now they don’t. But they still fund part of the loan cost,” says Hillman.

Bowman says it is important to remember the overall British context. “The alternative is not a kind of free market where you have everybody paying their own way and banks privately making loans to people. The alternative is going back to a situation where the government pays for everything, and that’s a disaster,” he says. “The political climate in the UK is very hostile to any kind of marketization of anything. That’s not going to change for a couple of years, at least until we’re growing rapidly, and we all feel rich and safe again.” 

Potential Solution

One interesting idea put forward by David Willetts, a Member of Parliament and former Minister of State for Universities, is to sell government student loans to universities, making them responsible for collecting repayment. This approach would address a problem that afflicts both American and British higher education: Universities collect tuition upfront and then have little incentive to ensure loans are repaid. 

Bowman supports the proposal. “Making universities responsible for whether people repay might make them more willing to turn people away if they’re not a great bet in terms of their future earning, and that might counteract some of the qualification inflation. Right now, you need a university degree for any job that isn’t blue collar manual labor.”

He believes Willetts’ idea is politically viable. “Britain has lots of middle-class people who think of themselves as being working-class. They feel like they’re fighting against the man when in reality they are the man. You could say to them that we don’t want people who haven’t gone to university picking up the bill in any way for people who have gone to university.” 

The only question is whether universities would go along with it. Right now, they have a very beneficial arrangement. 

Much will depend on how loan repayment rates develop in the next few years. Graduates will probably soon grasp that they have the best debt in the world. Maybe taxpayers will start to realize this debt isn’t such a good deal for them. 

ABOUT EMMA ELLIOTT FREIRE

Emma Elliott Freire is a freelance writer living in England. She has previously worked at the Mercatus Center, a multinational bank, and the European Parliament.

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EDITORS NOTE: This column with images is republished with permission. The featured image is courtesy of FEE and Shutterstock.

A picture is worth a thousand words!

In 1911 New York Journal editor Arthur Brisbane while discussing journalism and publicity said, “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” That has morphed into the now commonly used phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” So it is with politics.

Early voting has begun in Florida. In Sarasota County at least two of the three races, and perhaps all three, for school board will be determined on August 26, 2014. To win the primary one of the candidates must receive 50% plus one vote.

The picture below tells you who the local union, Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association, is backing.

scta school board candidates

For a larger view click on the image.

If one picture is not enough to convince you where Brown, Goodwin and Marsh stand on issues then here is another picture worth a thousand words. It is the early voting ballot put out by the Sarasota County Democrat Party:

democrat party of sarasota 2014 primary

For a larger view click on the image.

To learn more about Brown, Goodwin and Marsh read these articles:

Any questions?