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FL: Sarasota County School Board wants more money to pay teachers for doing less?

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Sarasota County School Board members. Front row: Caroline Zucker, Shirley Brown. Back row: Dr. Carole Todd, Jane Goodwin and Frank Kovach. For a larger view click on the photo.

The School Board of Sarasota County is pushing for the extension of a 1 mill tax on all county property holders on March 25th. They are using school funds to lobby in favor of and promote the 1 mill tax. According to their official Report on the Uses of Referendum Funds since 2002, ”This vote allows the District to maintain existing programs, provide additional programs and continue the District’s commitment to quality education.”

In a previous column I questioned whether the School Board is really committed to a “quality education”. School Board Member Caroline Zucker responded to my column in an email stating, “There u go telling incorrect info.” I replied, “What is incorrect?”. To date Zucker has not answered my question.

Historically the revenue from the 1 mill tax goes directly into teacher’s salaries (see the District Report on the uses of referendum funds since 2002).This is why the School Board holds a special off cycle referendum at a cost to the School District of $.5 million. Doing so suppresses the vote.

However, teachers come out in droves to vote for their pay raise, and the union promotes the referendum via teachers and parents as a must have do-or-die effort to insure a “quality education.”

What the referendum does is make for a “quality union salary and benefit package” for teachers and administrators. For their $.5 million investment the School Board gets an ROI of an estimated $30+ million annually for four years. Not a bad deal but will it lead to a better education for Sarasota County public school children?

There are two issues. The first is that the School Board is all in with Common Core. This means that teachers have little or no control over what is taught, how it is taught, when it is taught and how it is tested. Parents are totally out of the picture. Common Core cuts out the ideal of local control of the education process, leading to a top down approach designed and implemented by the US Department of Education.

Terrence O. Moore, an assistant professor of history at Hillsdale College, states, “The Common Core Standards control the testing and curriculum of public schools and a large number of private schools in over forty states in the nation. Sold to the public as a needed reform, the Common Core nationalizes absurdity, superficiality, and political bias in the American classroom. As a result, the great stories of a great nation are at risk, along with the minds and souls of our children.”

So, teachers will be given what they must teach – in effect and in practice – Sarasota County teachers will be getting paid more, if the referendum passes, for doing much less due to Common Core.

The second issue is the children themselves. Which does research show truly enhances student achievement – teacher salaries or the child’s family?

Rod Thomson in an op-ed writes, “The debate over extending the extra tax for Sarasota County schools needs to be seen in light of the much larger debate over the future of our children and grandchildren and their opportunities for improved lives. In that context, the extra money taken by the school district is not just a waste of taxpayer money. It is a feel-good but ultimately empty distraction that allows us to vote for something without taking any action on the actual underlying, fundamental causes of poor student achievement and lack of upward mobility. But those root causes are hard to correct.”

“An extensive Harvard study was recently released titled ‘Where is the Land of Opportunity?‘ The four researchers concluded that the largest predictor of a child’s positive ability to move up in life is a family with both parents at home. For lack of upward mobility, they wrote, “the strongest and most robust predictor is the fraction of children with single parents. This study piles on top of a snow-capped mountain of data pointing to what all of us really know to be true — the metaphorical elephant in the living room. And spending more money on programs and salaries is simply irrelevant to the driving factor of family,” notes Thomson.

So why doesn’t the Sarasota County School Board recognize this disconnect between teacher salaries and student performance? Why they want to get reelected. Who gets out the vote for them? Why the teacher’s union of course. Are they buying votes? All we can say is that since the referendum was first introduced only one school board member wasn’t re elected – Caroline Zucker. But she ran again and was elected.

Three school board members are up for reelection in 2014. Perhaps that is why they are pushing the 1 mill referendum?

EDITORS NOTE: Stephanie Simon from Politico writes that with states such as Florida, Texas, and Washington state recently deciding not to require courses such as chemistry, physics, Algebra II or a foreign language for high school graduation, they are thumbing their noses at Obama’s call for a “rigorous college-prep curriculum” for all students, supposedly embodied in the Common Core State Standards.