A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

The WA has watched, with ever increasing dismay, the recent coverage by the two local papers of state senator John Legg’s recent whirlwind romp through his senate district, feigning empathy with his constituents while shrewdly advancing his public-money-to-private-pockets political agenda.

Legg’s recent behavior is somewhat puzzling to me, because he frames his sudden realization that voters are tired of an out of control senate in an obviously disingenuous subterfuge of concern for kids.

A Sudden Concern for Public Schools

To understand his vision for the future for education in Florida, you have to take a look at his record in the Florida legislature. To any defender of public education, it is appalling. Legg has had his hand on virtually every anti-public education bill that has become law in Florida since he became a Florida legislator. It appears he may have finally come to a reckoning. The destruction of public schools is a legacy that he seems to want to avoid. He’s in awfully deep. He’s going to need to pull off a real coup.

Legg was a disciple of John Thrasher, the unabashed public education annihilator. We can only thank our lucky stars that School Basher Thrasher worked out some sort of favor swap to get a sponsor and a cush job in FSU!

Let’s look at Legg’s latest creation, Senate Bill 616. This is the bill that’s supposed to make Legg look like some sort of cavalry-to-the-rescue kind of guy. In it, he proposes that no school district can use more than 5% of school time for testing without obtaining parental permission. Additionally, he reduces the minimum weight of student test scores and so-called “student learning gains” on teachers’ evaluations from 50% to 40%. He sets the minimum weight of observations at 30%, and “other professional and job responsibilities” at a maximum of 30%.

What a nice guy. He leaves in place all the punishing language he’s helped to pass over the last few years, like the provision that prohibits school districts from paying teachers more for an advanced degree, or all the ridiculous, union-busting, so-called “performance pay” language that effectively spells the end of effective union representation in Florida public education. He leaves untouched all the meddlesome, top-down, centrally-planned, authoritarian language concerning student assessment. It’s still all state prerogative and district responsibility.

While this bill of Fast Johnny’s is really only lipstick on a big, fat, ugly pig, it is welcomed, in the way a bowl of bug-infested rice is welcomed by an emaciated captive hanging from a tree in a cage.

This guy is no good. He’s just realized that a total citizens’ revolt in Florida public education is nearly afoot, so he did the absolute bare minimum to avert total disaster. His own words betray his woeful dearth of knowledge about what he is doing. This is what he said:

“Like everything in life, you have a good plan and realize there are some adjustments. What we’re trying to do is create a framework and guide posts.”

Total bullshit. Again.

So, what about all the people whose lives have been affected by this grand state experiment? How many students, schools, and teachers have been affected by a state education policy that seems to change like the phases of the moon?

What about the fact that as a charter school operator, this guy’s own school is largely exempt from a lot of the accountability rules that he imposes on public schools? What about how the new accountability rules for charters are designed to make it look like they’re rigorous when they’re not? What about how his obviously self-authored biography that circulates among the political sites and publishers claims that he’s an educator/teacher? What kind of baldfaced lie is that? How does a charlatan like Legg get away with it? Why don’t the local rags pursue this?

Con Man

This guy, and his pals in Tallahassee, have colluded to attack and oppress a venerable public institution, and in the course of doing so, have nearly brought a multi-faceted catastrophe upon the citizens of Florida.

Recently, during a Senate education Committee meeting, he reportedly became frustrated with his constituents’ repeated philosophical objections to the onerous state testing regime foisted upon us by Tallahassee miscreants. He retorted that the debate about whether to test or not was closed. What an obfuscating con artist this guy is.

No one ever said the debate was about testing. The debate is about too much testing. The debate is about using testing as a means to execute a pogrom against real educators. The debate is about making the teaching profession so unattractive that only the desperate will even want to teach. The debate is about destroying the local character of individual school districts and eliminating academic freedom and the eclectic nature of the teaching profession by reducing it to a tedious, scripted, drone-like monologue synthesized by people who don’t teach.

The debate is about how a guy who runs a charter is allowed to lord over public education like some sort of king. He said, “This will be a priority. I’m hearing from my friends in the House and the governor’s office that these are the four points everyone wants to address.” What he means is that this thing is on the fast track. Everyone knows how close Florida parents are to outright revolt, and they’re trying to contain this thing before the Democrats can capitalize on the blunder circus they’ve created. Alas, I don’t see much of a threat there. The Democrats are a flaccid bunch. They and their union friends haven’t been very effective in battling the far-right destroyers of education lately. Newspapers don’t seem to be interested in much truth-seeking in Florida public education either, so they’re a big waste of time outside of getting a very rudimentary grasp of what’s going on. Local journalism is depressingly banal.

Fear the Parents!

Of course, these pseudo-statesmen fear parents, because parents can send them back home. He and his buddies have tried to embed the scorn of parents in state education statutes. They have attempted to use parents as weapons against teachers and public schools. Now it seems, parents are waking up. An advantage for us public school teachers is that we spend our days with the kids of the parents, and the kids, especially the older kids, see the game for what it is, and the parents hear from the kids, and before long, (like what’s happening right now) parents get upset, and not long after that, parents have had enough with the assembly of malefactors they’ve sent to the capital. We can only pray.

The challenge for public educators is to convince parents that destroying public education and teaching will also destroy learning, and that the vast majority of the decisions Legg and his minions presume to make are best left to be made at the local level.

Legg and his ensemble of scam artists are hoping to keep the wool over everyone’s eyes by throwing us a bone. We shouldn’t let them get away with it.

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