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The Florida State Legislature is considering going back to a Special Session.  The Florida Education Association is calling for an increase in education funding to be put on the agenda at this Special Session. But nothing will be discussed on education funding unless we demand it.  They will decide by early next week; so we need to move quickly. See the Tampa Bay Times article discussing this here.

We are also asking educators, parents, students and supporters of public education statewide to wear red on Monday, as well as to contact your state representatives and hold local rallies to demand Governor Rick Scott reconvene the Florida legislature be to fully fund Florida education and teacher salaries for the 2018-19 school year. You can get your representatives contact information here and send Governor Rick Scott an email here .
Miami Beach Action Alert! This coming Monday April 23rd at 4:00 pm we will be holding a rally to demand Governor Rick Scott reconvene the legislature for education funding at the North Beach Bandshell (7275 Collins Avenue).  All supporters of public education are welcome to attend (teachers, parents, students, local politicians…).
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We have all heard by now that teachers in Florida cannot go on strike for fear of being strung up on a lamp post by their toe nails and publicly flogged as they watch some Tallahassee bureaucrat from the FLDOE light up their hard earned teaching certificate and incinerate their careers. So what can Florida teachers do to let the public and politicians know their salaries have stagnated and their morale has declined with each  punitive piece of legislation passed each session?
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Consider taking a selfie wearing red or this awesome t-shirt made in Miami.
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You too can look this beautiful in this flattering red v-neck or crew neck as you demand to be paid for your labor.
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And your back side will look just as good and also make a statement!
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Can’t get the shirt? No problem. Wear red and hold a statement sign letting the public know how this state treats their teachers. If you aren’t a teacher, wear red and let the public know you support fully funded public schools and fairly compensated professional teachers. Make it your profile picture on Facebook through the month of May. Here are two examples:
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Are you a South Florida teacher who was illegally removed from the grandfathered step schedule? Want to know how much you should have been making 15 years ago compared to your actual salary in 2018? You can find the Palm Beach County and Miami Dade County 2006 step schedules below.
Palm Beach County’s 2006 Pay Schedule 
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Miami Dade County’s 2006 Pay Schedule
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Feeling camera shy? Want to keep your Facebook anonymity? Consider making this your profile picture for the next few weeks.
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Are you so inspired by your fellow protesting pedagogues in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona that you want to hold your own rally? Go for it! Look at what these motivated educators were able to pull off last week in Miami!
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Miami Action Alerts! Would you like to let your superintendent and School Board know that you will not accept another year without a substantial raise and that blaming Tallahassee is not good enough? That teachers deserve homes, not housing? Would you like to express your appreciation to School Board member Lubby Navarro and the United Teachers of Dade for their petition to put a referendum on November’s ballot to fund teacher salaries locally? You can do so at the next School Board meeting this Wednesday, April 25th. The form to speak must be faxed in by Monday afternoon. Click here for the form. We are also planning a larger rally for the final School Board meeting of the school year on May 16th. The budget will be decided by July’s School Board meeting so the time to act is now! Have no fear, your leader is even jumping on the pay teachers more bandwagon!
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To stay informed about future Miami actions, follow and like the Miami Educator Facebook page
Have a story to tell about teaching in Florida? Want to hear stories about other teachers in Florida and podcasts featuring education leaders? Tune into the Teacher Voice podcast and offer to tell your story. You can listen to my story in last week’s podcast here

In case you missed Kafkateach’s debut into the vlogosphere, you can check out my YouTube channel to witness one woman’s guerilla PR campaign about the absurdities of teaching in Florida (or descent into madness). Considering making your own short videos exposing the truth bombs about being a teacher in Florida. You’ll get the most views by posting them on Facebook.

Join the Florida Educators United Facebook group to more actively engage and organize. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can share this blog by emailing your friends.
If you think of any other actions, feel free to post them in the commenting section below.
Whatever you decide to do, just do it! And do it now! The time to act is now, because now is the only time!
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SRO

  1. You get paid dawg! Starting salary of $46,410? It only takes a Pinellas County teacher 13 years to break $46,000. Annual salary increases and you’ll break $50,000 by year 4. We have teachers in Miami who haven’t broken $50,000 after teaching 20 years!
  2. Signing bonuses? Relocation stipends? All they do to recruit teachers in Miami is offer to build them affordable housing projects at a school in one of the worst neighborhoods in Miami.
  3. You get a take home vehicle! I bet you don’t have to pay for gas or insurance either.
  4. No college degree required! No need to worry about hefty student loan debt that could saddle you for life.
  5. No papers to grade! After school hours your free to do whatever you want.
  6. No lesson planning. Enjoy every Sunday afternoon without the 4 p.m anxiety attack setting in when you realize you have nothing planned for Monday morning.
  7. You can retire after 25 years!
  8. No VAM! No undecipherable algorithm to rate your professional worth and determine your pay. No SAT scores required for bonuses either!
  9. No emails or parent teacher conferences with irate parents who will blame you for their child’s F even though little Johnny spent every class period playing Fortnight on their Macbook Air using tax payer funded district wi-fi instead of paying attention in class.
  10. Number of teachers and school personnel killed in Parkland, 3. Number of school resource officers killed, 0.

As the state of Florida prepares to spend $400 million on a school resource officers who so far have only been proven to hide behind walls when active shooters are present and who have fallen asleep in their squad cars at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school AFTER the shooting, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask school districts to at least match teacher starting pay to that of school resource officers.

While I’m at it, considering that most school personnel and teachers have multiple job responsibilities, maybe school resource officers could be asked to fill in as subs, proctor tests, make copies, answer the phone at the front desk, relieve teachers for bathroom breaks, or help enforce the school uniform and ID policy?

Considering the fact that the average American has a 0.0012% chance of dying in mass shooting according to the CDC, the Florida legislature might want to reconsider allocating  at least another $400 million of categorical funding for teacher salaries the next time they convene. We know the money is there, we know you can you do it. What will it take for you to finally value the classroom heroes in your state?

 

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In the wake of the largest teacher protests this century over teacher salaries and benefits, Florida teachers unions have been remarkably silent.  It’s as if the crimson tsunami of teacher rebellion sweeping across the nation from West Virginia to Oklahoma and now Arizona has completely bi-passed the Sunshine state. Are we somehow better off than teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona? I would argue that other than a closer drive to Disney World and a free annual pass to Legoland, the answer is a resounding “No!”

The situation is even more dire for teachers in Miami-Dade who face some of the highest housing costs in the nation but have median salaries similar to those of teachers in Oklahoma and Arizona. According to the Florida Department of Education, the median teacher salary for teachers in Miami-Dade in the 2016-17 school year was only $45,236.

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Compare that to a median salary of $50,919 in Tucson, Arizona. Note that housing costs in Miami are nearly double that of housing in Tucson and someone earning $50,919 in Tucson would need a salary of $65,800 in Miami just to compensate for the cost of living difference.

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Similarly, although median teacher salary in Oklahoma is comparable to median teacher salary in Miami-Dade a teacher would have to make almost $74,000 in Miami to compensate for the higher cost of living!

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The reaction of Florida teachers unions to this unprecedented widespread teacher activism has been a deafening silence.  Scroll through the Facebook page of the United Teachers of Dade and you won’t find one post about either the illegal yet successful strike in West Virginia, the threat of a strike in Oklahoma and their legislature’s immediate response with a bill promising a 5% pay raise, and now Arizona teachers’ protests demanding a 20% raise. Instead, you’ll find a post about women workers striking in Spain and a worker walkout over the fight for a $15 an hour minimum wage.

So what gives? Why are Florida teachers unions choosing not to ride this wave of teacher activism and gather up the troops for a rally in Tally over inadequate teacher salaries? Granted, this is a rally that should have taken place last month while the legislature was still in session and the budget hadn’t been signed yet. Why did the FEA not seize this historical moment to finally make some demands of the Florida legislature and governor?

For the past decade teachers in this country have been vilified in the media as lazy vacation lovers with bloated pensions.  Now the tide has finally turned and we are being portrayed in a more sympathetic light, as underpaid and devoted public servants who risk their lives every day for other people’s children. The fact that we are getting any media attention at all, let alone positive attention, is an important step in the right direction. I turned on the Today show this morning and the lead story was about teachers in Arizona demanding a 20% raise.  Even The Talk held a brief discussion about Miami’s plan to house teachers at schools and when Sara Gilbert commented, “Well, if it’s such a rich area pay your teachers more,” the audience actually applauded!

For the first time in years teachers have the public’s support and the media’s attention. Unions need to capitalize on this critical moment in order to try to win back some of the financial losses teachers have incurred over the past decade.

So where are Florida teachers unions at this pivotal juncture?

Perhaps many unions with faltering membership like UTD are more concerned about possible decertification than being part of this teacher salary zeitgeist. But the sad fact is that when your median teacher salary is $45,000 and teachers can’t even afford housing in the city where they teach, they don’t have an extra $90 a month to pay the highest union dues in the country with a promised return on investment of 0-3%.  When teachers in Arizona are demanding a 20% raise and our union settles for 2% repeating the annual mantra of “something is better than nothing,” teachers start to lose faith in their union’s ability to negotiate a fair salary.

Since the decertification bill was passed this year, Florida unions are desperate to increase membership. But instead of calling for radical action, they have turned to blaming the teachers themselves for the sad state of their profession.  Based on recent Facebook comments of  union leadership and people representing union leadership, their talking points seem to consist of: A) What have you done for your union? and B) Teachers need to go out and vote.

Who the hell is telling unions the best way to recruit new members is to blame the victim? What kind of sick and twisted marketing strategy is that? What if Weight Watchers’ marketing strategy consisted of “Hey you fat lazy tub of lard, put down that donut and go for a jog! Now pay me $88 a month and be grateful that you don’t gain even more weight on our program. What? You only lost half a pound after 6 months of Weight Watchers? Well something is better than nothing. Be grateful you didn’t gain five pounds. Now drop and give me 15 push ups.”

I don’t even understand what it means when unions ask, “What have I done for my union?” What exactly is it that I’m supposed to be doing? You asked me to wear black, I wore black. Nothing changed. You asked me to email the School Board. I emailed the School Board. Nothing changed. I went and voted. My candidate won. Nothing changed. You asked me to work to the contract? I worked to the contract. Nothing changed. Please ask me to do something more meaningful, more radical, more effective because the status quo is not working. When teachers in West Virginia rocked the status quo, it worked. When teachers in Oklahoma threatened similar action, their legislature  suddenly found $447 million for a 5% raise. Teachers in Arizona are aiming high. Will they get a 20% raise? Probably not, but I bet they end up with more than 2%.

It may be too late to effect change in Tallahassee this year. But local bargaining sessions for the 2018-19 school year are about to begin. Stand strong Florida teachers. Don’t back down and don’t settle for less than you are worth. Organize at the local level and ride that crimson tide of teacher activism. The time is now because now is the only time. Carpe Diem.

 

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For the seasoned veteran teacher, the thought of calling their school, or any other school, “Home Sweet Home” is enough to fill their mouths with the type of bile reserved for only the most nauseating of ideas. Most teachers balk at the idea of even living in the same town as the school they teach in, wanting to maintain some semblance of an independent anonymous adulthood where they can drink a beer, wear a bikini, and shop at the grocery store without some parent tapping them on the shoulder in the midst of a maxi-pad purchase demanding to know why little Johnny got an F on his last essay.  God forbid you run into a student while buying your monthly supply of sanitary napkins instead! The latest teenage torment of teachers includes snapping an unflattering photo of their teacher with their phones, generating a funny meme, and posting it on social media so they can all get their jollies humiliating you. Let your guard down at the store while buying maxi-pads for a moment and the next thing you know there’s a meme of you on Instagram with 1,000 likes captioned “Ms.Smith being  a b***h lately? This explains it.”

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So it should come as no surprise that when the Miami Herald ran an article about the school system’s plan to build teacher housing on two school sites located in the trendiest and priciest neighborhoods in Miami, teacher responses on Facebook ranged mostly from red hot angry emojis to green puking emojis. But don’t flatter yourselves dear disgruntled and impoverished veteran Miami teachers, these affordable housing units aren’t meant for you anyways. The fact that the median income for Miami teachers in 2016 was only $45,000 tells you this school district is more interested in recruiting than retaining teachers.

So who is Miami Dade County public schools hoping to attract by offering affordable housing on school sites in trendy neighborhoods like Wynwood and Brickell? Does this answer your question?

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TFA recruits are fresh out of college and will see teacher housing built on school sites as an extension of dorm life. The fact that they can put in 13 hour days in the classroom and then just walk across the parking lot to their 275 sq. ft. government subsidized studio for a quick shower and then head out for an evening of craft beer, graffiti art, and overpriced artisan tacos will be appealing to this segment of the teaching population. The number of TFA recruits currently working in Miami Dade Public Schools stands at approximately 165 teachers and according to the Teach for America Miami website, “school leaders have told us they would like to work with even more Teach For America educators.”
There’s only one problem with Miami being able to attract more Teach for America recruits, housing costs. Even Teach for America’s own website shows that trying to live in Miami on a beginning teacher’s salary will result in an annual deficit of $2,500 (some of which might be recouped with a spring time Best and Brightest bonus).

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In order to expand this relationship with TFA, Miami Dade County public schools will have to find some way to surmount a salary that does not afford a modest lifestyle for even a single person. In exchange for creating affordable housing on school property, the majority of Teach for America teachers will do the school system the favor of leaving the profession before putting in enough years to contribute to future pension costs for the district.

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While spending time in Miami, Teach for America recruits can not only work on their tan lines, Spanish, and student loan forgiveness, they can also make crucial connections for future careers in the charter school movement. The Leadership for Educational Equity is just one organization looking to hire TFA alumni to help expand school choice and charters. The Board of Directors for LEE includes an active funder of KIPP and private school scholarships for inner city youth as well as a member of the Walton Family Foundation which has been a crucial player in funding the expansion of charter schools.

According to the Huffington Post, TFA has transitioned from an organization aimed at filling teacher shortages in the urban core, into a breeding ground for the charter school movement, “TFA now claims that their corps members are superior to traditionally trained teachers and the organization has effectively changed its mission to “enlist, develop, and mobilize as many as possible of our nation’s most promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational equity and excellence.”

School districts pay an additional $2,000-$3,000 per teacher to TFA as a finders fee, but the study showed those costs are recuperated in the long run, “Our analysis found that using TFA to staff teaching positions will, after nine years, provide the district with cheaper labor options than continuing to pay for raises and pensions for career teachers.”

Housing Teach for America recruits together would also help perpetuate the cult like mentality of the organization. One former teacher left the following review on glassdoor.com, ”

“Cult-like, 24/7 job – if you drink the Kool-Aid, you’ll love it. Otherwise, be prepared.”

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So don’t worry veteran Miami Dade County public school teachers, those affordable housing units at schools are not intended for you. The school system doesn’t care if the idea of teachers living at schools is ludicrous and insulting to you. They want you to feel insulted, they want you to feel like your salary will never be enough for even a lower middle class lifestyle, they want you to quit. In the long run, it’s cheaper to recruit with glossy brochures of teacher housing projects in shiny Brickell or artsy Wynwood than to retain a committed workforce with higher salaries.

Just ask the Miami Herald editorial board.  They agree that this affordable housing is not being built for veteran teachers, “True, veteran teachers may not be gung-ho on the idea, or those with families, but we bet young millennial teachers, especially those just out of college would jump at the chance to totally give up on a commute.”

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This week many Miamians and New Yorkers managed the impossible and watched a Miami Dade County School Board meeting.  They immediately came to two conclusions about School Board meetings in Miami that those of us already familiar with Miami School Board meetings knew all along: they are way too long and they are carefully orchestrated spectacles that revolve around one main character, Alberto Carvalho. It didn’t take long for the Twitter world to sum up our School Board meetings with a hashtag, #TheCarvalhoShow.

But what the Miami and New York viewing public witnessed was not your typical School Board meeting. This was an emergency School Board meeting where apparently the normal rules of the game need not apply.  In a non-emergency School Board meeting, no one is ever allowed to mention the superintendent by his name and clapping and cheering are strictly prohibited. Apparently at emergency School Board meetings both bans are lifted because people were dropping “Alberto Carvalhos” on the mic without incident and the crowd erupted into boisterous rounds of applause and standing ovations at several points. At one point audience members even chanted “please don’t go.”

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Two hours would pass before Carvalho even spoke. An assortment of carefully selected students, parents, administrators, community leaders, people with contracts with the School Board (and a few more people with contracts with the School board) begged, pleaded, and groveled for the rock star superintendent to stay in Miami. Even “Uncle Luke” Campbell made an appearance and called his potential leaving “a travesty.”

I’m not sure exactly what the relationship is between Mr.Carvalho and Uncle Luke but it is a bit odd that every time a rumor circulates that Mr.Carvalho may be moving on from Miami Dade County Public Schools, Uncle Luke comes out with an editorial in the Miami New Times begging him to stay. Call me crazy, but if I were the superintendent of a school system who was trying to suppress a reputation for being a bit of a philanderer, Mr. Oh-Me-So-Horny, Face Down *bleep* Up, and Pop that *bleep* would not be my first choice for number one fan.  At least he didn’t bring an entourage of Hoochie Mommas to the School Board meeting.

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While Mr. Nasty as He Wants to Be was on his best behavior at the School Board meeting, several of the ladies on the Board made a few provocative statements. At one point one member referenced the superintendent’s alleged affair by letting a “well, no man is perfect” comment slide in while another geriatric member boasted about the superintendent’s sexual prowess, “Nobody does it better. Isn’t that right Maria?” (referring to Carvalho’s wife).

By that point New Yorkers watching the meeting must have been wondering to themselves, “What the *bleep* kind of School Board meeting is this?” Not just any School Board meeting my friends, it’s the Carvalho Show complete with mood lighting and entertainment as one former Herald reporter noted. Don’t think our School Board meetings are something special? Try watching a Broward County School Board meeting with florescent lighting, folding chairs, and no performances by student Zumba dancers.

Some two hours into the meeting, the superintendent broke into his 2020 campaign speech for Mayor of Miami. It was a great speech and his performance at the end was worthy of an Academy Award.

“”I just don’t know how to break a promise to a child (and) how to break a promise to a community,” said Carvalho.

(Teachers on the other hand, he knows how to break a promise to teachers by involuntarily kicking them off the pay schedule the district promised them back when they were hired, but I digress…).

After a suspense filled 30 minute break, Carvalho returned to the dais with his final decision, “I am breaking an agreement between adults to honor an agreement with the children of Miami.”

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Funny, if you asked a typical Miami Dade County public school student about an agreement they had with the superintendent they wouldn’t have any idea what your were talking about. Most of them don’t even know who Alberto Carvalho is. Ask them who the superintendent is and the most common response is, “Oh, you mean that guy that kind of looks like Tony Montana?”

But facts on the ground don’t really matter on the Carvalho Show. It’s about the spectacle and the pretty little words. As one local reporter tweeted, “You will love having him in New York. He speaks in sound bites and is a walking quote machine.”

At this point half the teachers in Dade County were doing a mad scramble trying to delete any  premature social media celebrations on Carvalho’s departure from the night before.

For those of us dying to see Carvahlo stand up to a questioning press, his decision to stay was a bit of a let down. The man was Chancellor of New York City Schools for less than 24 hours and made these entertaining headlines.

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He didn’t even step foot in New York and the NY Daily News ran a political cartoon about him! When was the last time the Miami Herald ran a political cartoon of Carvalho?

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Let’s face it, after the beating poor De Blasio has taken over Carvalho-gate, nobody is going to risk this level of ridicule to offer Carvalho a job heading another school district any time soon. The National Superintendent of the Year isn’t worth ending up looking like this guy in your local media.

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Carvalho ended his future job prospects as superintendent outside of Miami in such an epic way, that he is now eternally relegated to hero status in the MIA and is second only to Pitbull as Mr. 305. By turning a decision to decline a job offer into a publicly televised spectacle, I think Carvalho has earned himself the right to become part of the local Dade vernacular.

For example, if someone rejects you in an unusually insensitive and over the top manner,  you could say, “Damn bro, I just got Carvalho-ed.”

Have a boyfriend you want to break up with and publicly humiliate because he cheated on you? You could say, “I’m finna Carvalho his a**.”

Or you could use Carvalho in the noun form. Invite your besties to a Carvalho at your house this weekend. It works like this. Tell your friends you’re moving out of state, throw yourself a going away party, disappear into the bathroom for a few minutes and then say, “Surprise! I love you all too much. I’m not leaving after all!”

Why exactly Carvalho chose Miami over New York is probably something we will never know. The narrative that he chose to stay because of two undocumented immigrants is  lovely and is sure to win him some political points, but not even people closest to him believe he quit his dream job for the dreamers. His former Principal, retired Chief Human Officer of Miami Dade County Pubic Schools, and current mayor of Aventura was quoted in the New York media as saying, “Carvalho worried he wouldn’t be given “a free hand to be able to do the kinds of reforms that would be necessary.”

At a public education media event in Miami on Monday, ironically sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, Carvalho admitted his decision to quit had more to do with the fact that he couldn’t pick his own players than undocumented immigrants, “I am a true believer that if you want me to land the championship ring, if you want to win the Super Bowl, but I have a field that I’m not going to be able to necessarily pick my quarterback … that the plays will be called, co-consulted, then that may be a deal breaker for me,” Carvalho said.

As a former Herald reporter wrote in her Chalk Beat piece, “Those outside of Florida don’t realize how good Carvalho has it in his adopted hometown, and how much he would be giving up if he left. After Carvalho finally made his big reveal, an education insider there told me: “Here in Miami, he is the king.”

Carvalho would be foolish to leave a compliant School Board, a complacent union, and a complimentary press. In Miami, Carvalho pretty much has carte blanche. The only one he occasionally has to answer to is Tallahassee. And even that might change if his constitutional referendum allowing school districts to become charter districts is approved. Love him or hate him, he is all ours, and we are all his (at least until 2020). Welcome to the Carvalho Show.

 

 

 

 

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In a rare break with the Trump agenda, Governor Rick Scott’s school safety plan did not include arming teachers. Other than not calling for an all out ban on assault rifles, most of Rick Scott’s proposals were common sense solutions: increase spending on school security, hire one police officer per 1,000 students, hire more mental health counselors, allow police to remove weapons from people who have been deemed a threat or Baker Acted, a “See Something Say Something” hotline (hopefully not managed by the same incompetent crew who run the FBI’s call center), making it a crime to threaten to shoot up a school, and raising the age to 21 to purchase a firearm.  Rick Scott must have missed the crowd’s reaction when Fox new’s Latin liberal punching bag, Geraldo Rivera, suggested someone should have to be 21 before purchasing an assault rifle. The CPAC crowd at the event put together by Sean Hannity in response to the “staged theater” of the CNN gun panel, quickly descended into a Romanesque mob which would have gladly fed Geraldo to the lions had there been any in the room. Maybe this is why Rick Scott’s picture mysteriously disappeared  from the speaker list at an NRA event in May.

Regardless of Rick Scott’s break with the Republican party line, there still may be hope for my would be assassin colleagues who were looking forward to packing heat in the classroom. The Florida House and Senate continue to advance bills that would allow school personnel to be armed and our Reality star president would like to give 20 percent of teachers “a little bit of a bonus” (insert Trump hand gesture showing a tiny amount) to carry guns at school.

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So if we were to combine the absurdity and stinginess of the Florida legislature with Trump’s bonus proposal we may likely end up with a “Best Shot and Bravest” bonus for teachers who score in the top 20% at the gun range and are rated “most likely to go above and beyond by willingly taking on a school shooter armed with an AR-15” by an administrator.

Both the President and the Florida legislature would never provide enough funding to give bonuses to all the well-deserving teachers who are willing to carry in the classroom, so only the teachers who can prove top notch sniper skills would earn the so far undisclosed “little bit of a bonus” (probably $800 knowing how much our legislators value teachers). The President and Florida legislature don’t realize how hard up most teachers are for a “little bit” of extra cash and by financially rewarding teachers for their marksmanship, you may find more and more teachers spending their weekends at the shooting range instead of lesson planning or grading papers. Don’t believe me? Look what has happened as a result of the SAT based Best and Brightest bonus. Teachers are actually spending their weekends prepping for the SAT and sitting for the exam alongside their students. Personally, “a little bit of a bonus” would not be enough for this teacher to spend her weekends taking the SAT or shooting up targets at the gun range. If I’m going to carry a gun in the classroom, I want a great big reality game show “HUGE” Apprentice style bonus!

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But teachers getting paid well for their sacrifices does not fit nicely into the teacher martyr narrative in this country that dictates that teachers should live in poverty because “they love children.” Not only are you expected to live an impoverished lifestyle in teacher nunnery housing projects , some members of the American public think teachers should be willing to go on a suicide mission attempting to take on school shooters armed with AR-15s. According to President Trump teachers will make more effective assassins than highly trained police officers because “they love their students.” And some teachers themselves have professed that they are willing to carry guns at school and take down the shooter because they love their students (somehow implying that those of us who aren’t willing to be slaughtered by an AR-15 in a failed attempt to kill the shooter don’t actually love our students). Look, if four Broward police officers hid behind cars during the shooting because they knew their pistols were no match for an AR-15 than don’t expect teachers to run out into the hallways on suicide missions either.

If you think your little pistol and weekend warrior training sessions will be a match for a lunatic armed with an AR-15, you’re living in a Rambo inspired fantasy world. If you think armed teachers can prevent another Columbine, Sandy Hook or Parkland style school slaughter, you may as well start arming the maids in hotels, preachers in churches, and the ushers at movie theaters. Perhaps if the musicians performing at the Harvest Music festival had been armed, they could have taken down the Vegas shooter between sets? The only people capable of taking down an insane shooter armed to the hilt, is a highly trained SWAT team who are equally well armed. Unless we pass legislation to ensure that the good guys will always be better armed than the bad guys, don’t expect civilian acts of heroism to keep us all safe. Is this the world you want to be living in America?

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The name “Parkland” used to be synonymous with the American dream, last week it became the American nightmare. I wasn’t going to write about this week’s shooting in Parkland. I wanted to avoid the fray and there has been plenty of Facebook eloquence on this tragic event already. Besides, the topic at this point has unfortunately become redundant. After the shooting in Sandy Hook I wrote a blog post, A Race to Stop Mass Slaughter proposing the Education Department create a competitive grant program to end school shootings. It was in reference to President Obama’s Race to the Top program which was created to increase competition amongst teachers and schools to improve performance and attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession. The federal government spent $4.3 billion dollars and the net result was stripping the teaching profession of any redeeming qualities, imposing absurd evaluation systems, demoralizing what little morale teachers had left, and leading to the worst teacher shortage in decades. Given that the majority of my blog posts are about three main topics: the absurdity of the Florida legislature, the low pay and high cost of living in Miami, and this crazy algorithm called VAM that rates me as a teacher every year thanks to Race to the Top, I guess writing one more blog post about a school shooting isn’t going to make me any more redundant than I already am.

There are other reasons why I may have wanted to avoid writing about the shooting in Parkland this week. This shooting strikes a little too close to home. We almost bought a home in Parkland two years ago, for the same reasons that everyone else in South Florida wants to buy a home in Parkland: safety and great schools! Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), I couldn’t afford to buy a home in Parkland. So I stuck it out in Miami Dade County where the schools are meh and our young people die on the streets on the daily but they are usually shot outside of school and are generally black, brown and poor so other than their immediate communities national outrage and media coverage is limited.

Maybe I didn’t want to write about the shooting because I have a friend who’s son was at the school during the shooting and lost one of his best friends. Maybe it’s because I teach geography and just like the geography teacher who was killed, I have to go outside of my classroom into the hallway to lock my classroom door. The Florida legislature wants to allow me to arm myself in the classroom but all I really want is a classroom door that will lock from the inside! My only solution is to keep my door locked all day and try to discourage my students from ever using the bathroom in order to limit the inconvenience of having to constantly open the door.  The NRA wants to arm me with a semiautomatic weapon and I can’t even get a filing cabinet with a lock on it! It took two days for the students to steal all of my left over Halloween candy, how long would it take before one of them steals my glock! I guess I could go full out Charlie’s Angels and wear my gun on my hip as I strut around the classroom. It would sure help with classroom management but in the case of a deranged shooter armed with an AR-15, I’d be dead before I could get the gun out of my holster.

All of the well meaning ideas that have been floated around in the media on what could have been done to prevent such a horrific school shooting are useless unless we take the weapons of mass destruction away from the maniacs. The school had single point entry, the school had an assigned armed police officer, the shooter did receive mental health services (which most of the time just results in a prescription for meds which may just worsen the problem), the cops were called, the FBI was tipped of TWICE by people who did see something and say something. There is at least one Nikolas Cruz sitting in every high school in this nation. We are all sitting ducks in this country until someone in D.C. puts on their big boy pants and tells the boys, “No, you may not have that toy. It’s just too dangerous. Play with this instead.” But the pockets of the big boy pants are lined with NRA cash so it’s unlikely that anything will ever change unless…………..unless………..we fill the other pocket of the big boys pants with even more cash!

This is where the proposal of students to hold a national walkout of schools on 4/20 and not come back until something get’s done to stop school shootings could get really interesting and may actually work. I’ve always said the strongest agents in taking back our public schools are the students themselves. Teachers are powerless and have too much to risk financially to do anything radical to fight for schools. Students have the power. They have the will, the social media, the spirt of rebellion and innovation, the hope that things can change (and it helps that they don’t have to worry about getting fired). The system depends on the students. Schools don’t get paid unless students show up. Large testing corporations can’t make their billions unless students take their tests. This is why a student strike starting on 4/20 might actually work.

It won’t take much for the average high schooler to be peer pressured into skipping school on 4/20. For the totally clueless, 4/20 is the unofficial “National Smoke Weed Day.” But 4/20 also marks the anniversary of the Columbine school shooting as well as the beginning of a month long testing hell session in most public high schools. Between the state end of course exams, reading and writing exams, AP exams, and IB exams, most schools are on testing lockdown mode from 4/20 to 5/20. If students walked out of school on 4/20 and threatened not to come back until assault rifles were banned, something might actually get done because all of the adults in the system, including large testing corporations which line the pockets of our politicians in D.C. just as much as the NRA, would be having a national sh*t fit. I would be having a personal sh*t fit because I teach AP courses and have thousands of dollars at stake based on those test scores but that is a sacrifice I’m willing to make to end this perpetual cycle of mass slaughter.

What would happen if we pitted the billion dollar gun industry against the billion dollar testing industry in D.C.? Who would win? If young people managed to get marijuana legalized in states across this country and the District of Columbia, a little student activism might lead to banning the sale of assault rifles as well.

Take the Pledge to End Gun Violence  on 4/20 to show your support for this movement.

DISCLAIMER: KAFKATEACH DOES NOT CONDONE OR PROMOTE THE SMOKING OF MARIJUANA OR STUDENTS SKIPPING SCHOOL.

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In case you were too busy celebrating “Digital Detox Day” and missed the Florida House passing HB 7055, which may spell the end of the Miami Dade County Public School system as we know it, here is an update highlighting how the latest education train bill coming out of Tallahassee may wreck the teaching profession in Florida. Only this is a high speed Brightline train that has the potential to knock out the traditional public school teacher before they even know it’s coming.

Most teachers may only be familiar with the teacher union busting portion of HB 7055 which stipulates that teachers unions with below 50% membership may be decertified. Teachers are most likely familiar with this portion of HB 7055 because UTD organizers have been at every staff meeting trying to drive up union membership, which in Miami Dade County, is currently below the 50% threshold. Some skeptics believe the unions may be using this as an opportunity to drive up membership and this portion of the bill will be dropped at the final moments as a compromise for keeping all of the other horrendous crap in HB 7055. This scenario played out in last year’s education train wreck bill HB 7069. Teachers, if you thought HB 7069 was bad, there is a much faster locomotive headed to demolish your profession in HB 7055.

The unions may be crying bloody murder over the 50% clause portion of HB 7055, but they don’t seem to be paying much attention to the portion which would allow school superintendents to turn over traditional public schools to independent governing boards which essentially grants them charter school status and renders teacher contracts with the district level school board null and void.

“(a) Recommendations may include the organization and operation of schools by an independent governing board to create the optimal learning environment to address the academic needs of students by giving instructional personnel freedom from  burdensome regulations. To avoid any conflict of interest regarding the review, approval, and oversight of the school,  members of the governing board may not be employees of the school district or any school operated by the governing board.  Any school in which all instructional personnel are employees of an independent governing board shall operate in accordance with:

1. The contract between the independent governing board  and the school board. 3. The provisions of s. 1011.6202(5)(b) and (c), relating to tort liability and employer status.” (see p.28 of HB 7055)

While the language “giving instructional personnel freedom from burdensome regulations,’ may sound appealing to many teachers, this language comes directly from the charter school movement. The Florida Charter School Alliance describes charter schools as schools where “teachers are given the freedom to be innovative in their classrooms.”

Judging from the online confession of a former KIPP charter school teacher such freedoms may include: working 11 hours a day, having no personal life, reciting cult like chants, having nervous breakdowns, rooming with students on week long excursions, and going door to door in dangerous neighborhoods to recruit new students.

KIPP will be making its first debut in Miami Dade County this year despite its poor performance in Jacksonville. But our school superintendent promises that KIPP Miami will be somehow be different, “My expectation for KIPP Miami is one that needs to be wildly different from what we have seen in Jacksonville,” Carvalho said. Time will tell, but given that KIPP is a national charter chain that operates in the same manner in every location, I’m not sure how “wildly different” KIPP’s Miami locations can be.

KIPP is coming in large part due to charter school loving Richard Corcoran who would like to see national charter chains populate the state, “Powerful Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran — who is expected to run for governor — has repeatedly lamented that KIPP and other national charter firms have such a small presence in the third-most populous state. Last year, he successfully pushed for a new law to try to change that. His signature proposal, dubbed “schools of hope,” was included in a larger bill that passed by only one vote in the moderate state Senate and drew virtually no support from Democrats. Since, more than a dozen school districts have challenged the law in court.”

Only guess what Miami Dade? Your school district was not one of the Florida counties that joined the lawsuit. Your superintendent and School Board seem to love charter schools. So much so that they hand over space in traditional public schools for the charters to operate and in exchange, KIPP will offer professional development to Miami Dade administrators and teachers, “KIPP Miami Sunrise Academy will “co-locate” with the existing Poinciana Park Elementary School, paying $1 per year in rent. In exchange, KIPP will open up its trainings to district teachers.”

Oh, happy happy, joy joy! If there is anything teachers love more than professional development, it will be a nationally recognized “no-excuses” charter chain (except when they are making excuses for their poor performance in Jacksonville) that relies on cheap easily indoctrinated TFA recruits and computers (AKA “blended learning”) to tell them how to teach!

The house passed HB 7055 last week and it looks like the Senate may try to stall it, or at least make it go through committee, but even if all parts of HB 7055 fail to become law, our superintendent is currently pushing a constitutional referendum with Jeb Bush surrogate Robert Martinez which would allow high performing districts to become “charter districts.” Exactly what a “charter district” would entail is anyone’s guess but if one spends a few moments googling what happened in New Orleans   when the district became an all charter district after Hurricane Katrina it’s a horror show which, among other things, involved firing 7,000 veteran teachers and replacing them with TFA recruits. Why a constitutional referendum or HB 7055 is needed when Miami Dade already has four district managed charter schools (who’s teachers do not fall under the jurisdiction of UTD’s collectively bargained contracts) isn’t exactly clear.

This referendum makes the Parent Trigger bill of 2013 seem almost quaint. Remember the fuss that was raised when there was a proposal to allow parents at failing schools to vote to turn it over to a charter? That bill failed but now we have “Schools of Hope” which allow charter schools to sweep in and taking over failing public schools and a possible constitutional referendum which would allow high performing school districts to become charter districts with only a mere School Board vote. The charterization of the traditional Florida public school teacher has begun, welcome to the McMDCPS!

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Let’s say you are a bright young second year teacher in Florida (then again, you couldn’t actually be that smart if you decided to start your teaching career in Florida) but let’s say you have SAT scores in the top 20th percentile, qualifying you for a Best and Brightest bonus IF you have highly effective evaluation. Your odds of earning an extra $7200 a year ($6,000 for a Best and Brightest bonus plus another $1200 for a highly effective bonus from the state) will be substantially higher in some Florida counties than others. Listed in this chart you can see which counties have more generous evaluation systems than others and where your odds would be higher in earning a Best and Brightest bonus. Okaloosa County came in top place with 97% of its teachers earning a highly effective evaluation while Putnam County must have the worst teachers in Florida with only 1% earning a highly effective evaluation. To be fair, Putnam County only has 663 teachers total and for some reason it was the counties with the lowest number of teachers that tended to have the lowest percent of highly effective teachers. This is probably why the Palm Beach County School District decided to leave out the names of the counties when they passed out this chart to administrators:

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The Palm Beach County School District just happened to pick the seven counties with the lowest percentage of highly effective teachers and just happened to leave out the names of the counties (most of which were small districts) when they were trying to make a point to their administrators that they were being too generous with evaluations. If you look at the actual data state wide, 34 out of the 78 counties had a higher percentage of highly effective teachers than Palm Beach County.

But kudos to you Palm Beach County for having one of the highest percentage of highly effective teachers in South Florida and kudos to you for informing teachers prior to winter break regarding which state Best and Brightest bonus they qualify for. Teachers in Palm Beach received the following email.

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Meanwhile, in Dade County where only 32% of teachers were rated highly effective in 2015-16 we continue to wait for our 2016-17 evaluations. Teachers in Miami Dade will not be informed of their VAM and final summative evaluations until after January 8th even though our principals will have access to them as of December 18th. http://briefings.dadeschools.net/files/36843_2016-17_SPE_EOY_Guide_and_Calendar.pdf  I guess no one working downtown bothered to consider that qualifying for an additional $7200 from the state might have altered some teachers plans for winter break had they been informed in advance.

For a long time many teachers didn’t particularly care about their VAM or whether they were highly effective or effective. Now that there is real money attached to these evaluations, some teachers might be lured to another district at the prospects of earning a highly effective evaluation and more money from both their districts and the state. Let’s take a look at two south Florida second year teachers, one works in Miami Dade County and one works in Palm Beach County. They both started at $41,000 a year and they both have SAT scores in the top 20th percentile. Teacher A in Miami received a low VAM score from the district’s covariate adjustment model which lowered their overall evaluation to effective. Teacher A will now receive a 2% raise instead of 2.67%, up to $800 instead of $1200, and no longer qualify for a $6,000 Best and Brightest bonus. Teacher A will earn $42,620 with their effective evaluation.

Meanwhile, Teacher B in Palm Beach County received a highly effective evaluation. They now qualify for a 3.5% raise, a $1200 state bonus, and another $6,000 Best and Brightest bonus. Teacher B in Palm Beach county will take home $49,635! Over $7,000 more than  Teacher A in Miami.

It’s time for young teachers to realize they do have choices and they do have mobility. Why teach in a county where you are significantly less likely to receive a highly effective evaluation and earn thousands of dollars less in state bonuses and raises every year? Why teach in Florida at all is an even better question, but if you do find yourself addicted to 80 degree weather and beaches, at least teach in a county where your odds are highest for taking advantage of Florida’s wonky bonus programs.

You can find an alphabetical listing of Florida teacher evaluations results for 2015-16 here.

 

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DISCLAIMER: THIS IS FAKE NEWS BUT IT MIGHT NOT BE TOO FAR OFF FROM THE TRUTH BASED ON SEVERAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS IN SOUTH FLORIDA PROPOSING SOLUTIONS TO THE TEACHER HOUSING CRISIS.

A South Florida school district held a press conference today to announce a creative and elegant solution to the affordable housing crisis for teachers.  The superintendent known for innovation and promoting private/public partnerships with the school district has entered a ten year cruise ship leasing program with a major South Florida cruise company.

“This is a win, win solution for all parties involved. Teachers will have an affordable place to call home, cruise companies will find a utilitarian and environmentally friendly use for their outdated ships, the school district can continue to recruit and retain the best and the brightest teachers without increasing their salaries, and the average  homeowner will see a cut in their property taxes.”

Under the plan, the school district will pay $100,000 a year to lease 5 outdated cruise ships that will remain docked in the city port. The superintendent estimates he will be able to house almost half of his workforce on the five ships where teachers will pay an all inclusive monthly fee of $800.

The $800 a month charge will be deducted directly from teachers’ paychecks and will include breakfast and dinner buffets, free wi-fi (district monitored of course), and free access to the gym and pool areas.

“It’s like taking an all inclusive cruise for only $800 a month! Alcohol excluded of course,” joked the charismatic superintendent.

As one school board member explained, “With the soaring price of real estate and the lack of land available to build affordable teacher housing, we turned towards the next frontier in affordable housing, aquatic barges! As an added bonus the district will not have to worry about the astronomical cost of flood insurance.”

The forward thinking superintendent known for cost efficient strategies sees an added bonus to the cruise ships, “As the teacher shortage worsens in Florida, the district may have to look abroad for its future workforce and the cruise ships can double during the summer months as an affordable mode of mass transportation for overseas recruits.”

While the teachers’ union has expressed some concern over potential issues with teachers getting sea sick, norovirus outbreaks, and the occasional teacher falling overboard, the union president endorsed the superintendent’s solution as “honoring the work of educators by providing them with a cruising experience they might otherwise not be able to afford.”