The Truth Isn’t Rocket Science

You need only to do a quick “Florida teacher shortage” web search and the stark reality of an impending crisis in education is indisputable: The pool of those who want to teach is shrinking rapidly. Why?

Politicians and local level cronies and misfits will have you believe that it’s a complicated problem that’s hard to solve, and that they’re doing their level best to get qualified teachers into classrooms throughout the state.

Well, that’s just not the case. It’s actually much more simple than that. It’s the offensive pay and the even worse working conditions in schools, combined with the horrible way Florida’s Republican-dominated government treats the teaching profession and those of us who choose it.

Fifteen Years of Assaults on Florida’s Teachers

For fifteen years now Florida’s politicians have been doing the bidding for corporate “reform” players who want the money that should go to teacher salaries to go into their wallets instead. We’re talking about outfits like The New Teacher Project, Teach for America, American Institutes for Research, Alpine Testing Solutions, Charter Schools USA, ad infinitum. The number of vendors and “nonprofits” looking to cash in on the public school dime is awe-inspiring.

What makes it all the much worse is that the people entrusted with the stewardship of public schools have turned out to be a bunch of rotten opportunists themselves. It’s not just a problem at the federal and state level; it’s also true in many districts. Pasco County Schools is indeed one such animal.

Pasco in the News for the Wrong Reason, Again

A recent story by Casey Cumley of WTSP 10 News of Tampa Bay shed some of the more recent light on the coming dearth of teachers. For his story, he interviewed none other than Pasco County Schools mouthpiece Linda Cobbe. Cobbe went way out on a limb and told Cumley, “It is a chronic problem.”

I just about fell out of my chair when I read that. I mean, has Bubba authorized her to say such a thing? Has she mentioned it to him? Judging by his behavior since he became superintendent, my guess would be that he’s quite unaware of the problem.A couple of statements he’s made since becoming Top Dawg on the Third Floor down at the Pasco Abomination HQ show that he is utterly unqualified to lead a public school district.

Last December, that venerable puppy-housebreaking and window washing supply maker, the Tampa Bay Times, ran an article about Florida’s teacher evaluation results. In that article, two very different superintendents shared two very different views of what the “problems” with the results were. Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego, who actually comes from an education background and had to submit a resumé, be vetted, interviewed and hired based on solid professional credentials (that Bubba doesn’t have) in the arena he aspired to administer, said, “Local districts need to be the ones in the business of teacher evaluations,” obviously referring to the state’s intrusion into local prerogative regarding public education.

Blithering Bubba’s Bad Attitude Towards Teachers

Browning, on the other hand (the way, way other hand) said, “The system, from where I sit, is flawed…How do you have 99 percent of our teachers rated effective or highly effective? It just can’t be.” The actual figure was 98%; not 99. His comment was very illustrative of his general attitude toward teachers in his district. It gets worse. Here’s a quote from the same article:

Browning saw state involvement as a good thing. He suggested that local flexibility creates sliding criteria that make it impossible to really know if teachers are good or bad compared to their peers statewide.

He argued that state guidelines would change the percentages of teachers in each category to be more realistic.

Even with all the evidence that clearly shows the new Florida teacher evaluation guidelines to be in willful ignorance of reality itself and that the protocol is unnecessarily draconian in its very nature, Browning said it was too lenient, and argued to tighten the noose. For the sake of the length of this post I’ll get back to the figures themselves another time. Rest assured; they are there.

Browning’s support for state intrusion into home rule is astounding. What is wrong with this guy? It’s safe to say that local level officials who welcome state meddling in their affairs are few and far between. Browning has a BA in Political Science and a Masters in Public Administration. He claims to have surrounded himself with very capable people. Yet he pines for state control, and bellyaches over local “wiggle room.” It just doesn’t make any sense at all. Anyone with an amateurish grasp of American politics and policymaking knows that higher level encroachment into lower level government business always leads to more problems than it solves. Always. For publicly yearning for more state control, Bubba has shown beyond a doubt that he’s a hack. Still yet, it gets worse than that.

Bubba Hates Unions

Since taking office, Bubba has engaged in a shrewd full court press on the United School Employees of Pasco, the local union that represents not just teachers (though they remain his main target), but most non-supervisory employees of the district. He began his term as superintendent by declaring to anyone who might listen that he had told the leaders of USEP at their first meeting, “Look, we’re on the same side guys.” To be perfectly clear, Browning and USEP have been anything but on the same side since that very day. There are numerous examples of Bubba attempting to rewrite the very nature of their relationship by altering longstanding practices that have been the template for discourse and policy discussion since USEP became the collective voice for employees of Pasco Schools. Browning is a union buster at heart. If he gave a hoot about teachers, he wouldn’t spend so much energy trying to discredit their professional organization. I, for one, gladly pay my dues, and recognize that USEP is the only force in my relationship with the district that keeps people like Browning from engaging in outright tyranny against their own employees. USEP can only do so much to begin with. By law in Florida, as unions go, it is inherently weak. Browning should accept it as the voice of teachers and other school employees and cease his constant posturing against it.

Pitiful Pasco Pay

The biggest issue is pay. Browning loves to brag about the raises he’s given teachers. The raises that teachers in Pasco have gotten since Browning took over are better than ol’ Scarf Lady Fiorentino ever gave (zilch), but they are still wholly inadequate considering that teacher pay was essentially frozen in Pasco for six years, while the step-based salary schedule was thrown out the window. I have an old salary schedule from before the Great Recession; a teacher with fifteen years experience now hardly makes what one made with the same longevity in 2007. How’s that for a pay raise? When you hear Browning boast about the raises he’s agreed to (simultaneous sneeze/fart), just know that he’s definitely stretching the truth to its metaphysical limits.

The teacher shortage in Pasco County is overwhelmingly the direct result of terrible pay for teachers in the district. That is the rock-solid truth. Bubba and his band of minions and failed teachers at district can try to recast reality into something altogether different all they want, but their efforts will never alter the truth.

All the big recruitment schemes will only, at their very best, convince prospective teachers to try out Pasco schools for a very brief, nightmarish time. Once they’ve had Pasco’s bitter taste in their mouths long enough (a year or two), if they have any sense at all, they’ll leave, because teaching in Pasco doesn’t pay.

When, in terms of pay, your district sits at the bottom end of the scale in a state that sits at the bottom end of the scale in the nation, you’re just not a very attractive destination.

Browning needs to get real and get off the money. Teachers have bills too.


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