Re the May 21 article Florida education head rejects testing firm gay claim: The problem with Charles Van Zant isn’t what he said; it is he is pretty typical for Florida’s Republican legislators.
Not just the state of Florida, but the nation has reacted with outrage over Van Zant’s comments that the American Institute of Research (AIR), the group administering Common Core in Florida, is trying to turn children gay. What I don’t understand is why this is outrageous, considering all the other things the Republicans in the Legislature have said and done.
They voted for cheap and comprehensive health benefits for themselves while denying the Medicaid expansion for hundreds of thousands of poor Floridians who desperately need it. They balanced Florida’s books on the backs of its teachers and public service workers when they took 3 percent of their pay. This money didn’t go to the pension fund, but instead to the general fund. They did this while at the same time giving a tax break to people who bought expensive yachts.
With vouchers the Legislature literally had to twist themselves into knots ignoring their stances on STEM, accountability and teacher evaluations to vote for an expansion this year. Then they forced merit pay on teachers despite the fact studies say it doesn’t work and testing experts say tying teachers pay to a high-stakes test is foolhardy. They routinely thumb their noses at educators whom they have practically reduced to second-class citizens.
There are, however, plenty of reasons not to like AIR. First they brought the disastrous Value Added Model evaluation method to Florida. After that, how they got a second chance to do anything is beyond me, but they are charging Florida $5 million to field test questions in Utah.
There are plenty of reasons to dislike Common Core, too. It doubles down on high-stakes testing, which has sucked the joy of learning and teaching out of education for many students and teachers alike. It is untested and it doesn’t address our real problem in education — poverty.
What the Republicans in Tallahassee haven’t told you as they have been running around saying the sky is falling on education, is that if we factor out poverty, then our scores zoom to the top and that was before Common Core. What do you think is a better idea, to give our struggling schools extra resources or to blow up the entire system? Gov. Scott and most of the Republican-dominated Legislature think it is the latter.
So, yes, we should be outraged by Van Zant, but the Republicans in the Florida Legislature have given us many other opportunities to be outraged, too.
Chris Guerrieri, publisher, Education Matters, Jacksonville