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Education-by-gangster, part 1: The Florida racket finally killed the Florida system. Don't waste tears, Lynn.
A multi-part open letter to my dear friend Lynn Hemp - teacher in great demand, devoted citizen, organized crime victim. Foundation of what Florida education could be if it wasn't a mafia.
The leaders of the Florida state education system — and state government as a whole — are best thought of as gangsters running a very very lucrative racket. Everything makes sense when you internalize that, as I did long ago.
At the beginning of the school year, these state education gangsters — call them "The JebSantis Family” — executed a “bust-out” on your long-time school, Elbert Elementary near Winter Haven.
What does “bust-out” mean for a conventional mafia? Here’s a good explainer:
The bust-out is what happens when the mob moves in to take control of a business that's heavily indebted to a loan shark … The reason to take over the business is to loot it 1,000 ways to Sunday, from buying vast amounts of liquor on credit to, ultimately, torching the place for the insurance money.
Florida’s state education gangsters torched Elbert with a VAM pogrom, one of their most effective tools for looting K-12 schools. We’ll dive a little deeper in part 2 on VAM — a long ago discredited “lib” statistical mumbo jumbo tool. Florida Republicans stole it from “woke” libs some years ago and have gleefully used it to de-stabilize schools with test scores and chase teachers away from poor kids.
How a racket governs
These same exact gangsters impose no testing or oversight at all on Florida’s publicly-funded private voucher schools, which had a collective 61-percent 2-year dropout rate according to the closest thing ever done a study a few years ago.
Elbert’s test scores would destroy the median “private school” in Florida — if Florida wasn’t afraid to test them. That’s all you need to know about legitimacy of a VAM pogrom at a real public school.
Here’s how you recently told me Elbert’s VAM pogrom went down, Lynn.
They called six of us the night before school started [for teachers] and told us what school and that we had to move [to another school] the next day. All but one was veterans over ten, even twenty years at the school. One was a new teacher who started the year before and had earned a highly effective at a school where the administration told her it was impossible. She quit this year after two years and told me she’ll never teach again in Florida.
They replaced you with: “[four] existing Elbert teachers who would have been displaced due to declining enrollment. Two others were filled with international teachers who meet or exceed Florida certification requirements,” Polk Superintendent Fred Heid told me. These international teachers, new to American education, were thus assigned to a hugely challenging and vastly under-supported American school.
There’s no good way for a district to prevent or handle a VAM pogrom bust-out; and unsurprisingly, the Polk district didn’t prevent this one or handle it well. We’ll take a brief look at that in part 2 as well. But I’m not really interested in stoking district-on-teacher-on-district Hunger Games. The state racket does that quite effectively without my help.
A dead system not worth mourning
I want to focus today on how the Elbert bust-out epitomizes the Florida Model of education. This education-by-gangster has given Florida’s K-12 students America’s worst state “learning rate” on two different test models over two decades — if one cares about test scores. Here’s the full story, which your mob-run state government refuses to tell you, because it would hurt the racket.
I assure you, Florida’s state VAM would be so bad that it would have purge itself it ever tried to calculate one.
Back in 2017, Florida even formally studied its failures. Unsurprisingly, it found that running America’s cruelest, most chaotic, most corrupt system — and creating its worst state teacher shortage — creates America’s worst student growth performance. Then Florida buried the study.
As an elected Polk County School Board member between 2016 and 2020, I tried very hard to end education-by-gangster to save the Florida system. (It was just the Jeb Family back in 2016.) We had a short window where I thought it was possible to save the system from the racket, if everything broke right. I didn’t expect to succeed. But I felt obligated to try. Fewer people — adults and kids alike — would have suffered if I succeeded.
We did create the most significant and lasting cross-partisan, pro-public education political movement of the Jeb Bush era in Florida. We rattled the gangsters enough that they declared me “Public Enemy Number 1.” And the politics we built protected our county from the feral ghouls that took over other counties’ elected boards in our most recent School Board elections.
But, ultimately, everything didn’t break right; and we didn’t succeed in that long-shot goal of saving the state system with radical, racket-crushing reform from within. That window of that remote possibility I saw for reform is now firmly closed.
The JebSantis Family’s racket has now definitively killed the system. It can’t be saved and reformed. I do not mourn its death at all. Good riddance. I was always ambivalent about any effort to save a gross system hijacked by racketeers.
Now that no one can, I look forward to bringing the fight for the future to the gangsters — for a system totally remade.
A new era of education politics, driven by demand for robust, humane education services that JebSantis cannot provide
We’re entering a new political era, Lynn.
With the Florida system dead, the public’s unrelenting demand for your human-centered education services will crash head-on into the JebSantis Family’s corrupt control and bust-out of education supply.
That’s where the political action is.
It starts now.
The JebSantis Family wants to force Florida’s death racket on everyone. We’re going to have a national referendum in 2024 on Florida’s advanced form of education-by-gangster — which has now killed the public and private Florida education systems alike. When your private education “system” voucher program has dropout rates of 35% (one year), 61% (two-year), and 75% (three-year), you don’t have a private “system,” you have a private bust-out racket.1
Jefferson County grifter Richard Corcoran’s hilarious $784K salary for doing nothing but busting out New College and its 670 students is a prime example of the government-by-gangster that Ron DeSantis is putting on the national ballot in 2024.
How the JebSantis Family steals capital from children
Back to Elbert.
This Winter Haven-area zoned public school welcomes and serves the kids of low capital, high stress neighborhoods that its neighboring magnet or charter schools — like Brigham Academy or Dundee Elementary Academy — actively avoid serving.
Thus, Elbert protects wealthier “choice” parents from the behaviors often correlated with low capital neighborhoods and high learning disability (ESE) populations. That’s the primary purpose that Elbert and schools like it serve in Florida’s gangster version of “choice.”
The handful of wealthy magnet, charter, and private schools (which are themselves struggling mightily with staffing shortages created by the JebSantis Family racket) don’t do difficult behaviors or ESE at any scale or difficulty. That’s how “choice” works. Schools choose kids.
All of those “choice” schools for important people, Lynn, would snap you up in a second as a teacher. You’re in great demand everywhere but the school where you want to be.
That’s because you work for people who work for gangsters.
Very special people like you, Lynn, choose Elbert kids, rather than herding them out of sight. For that, the gangsters will always seek to punish you and rob the kids. In ripping you away from your school, the JebSantis organization stole the only significant public or private capital many of these kids will ever have. Here’s an example of that capital, in your own words:
I have been a teacher at Elbert for ten years but I was a long term substitute for Polk for ten years before that. I spent most of my time subbing at Elbert too because my girls attended there. One of the other teachers moved taught my girls. I also volunteered there, I lived there, lol. My career has been at Elbert
I subbed there in vacancies, maternity leaves, volunteered at the track meets, my girls are even in the DARE video and I helped film it. That’s why I was hired when I finished my degree after I got my kids through school
Put up signs to protect a gopher tortoise last year and one year used a crow bar to get a baby bird out of the ceiling. I have so many memories there. I had grown up students visiting me, I still have them emailing.
That’s why it’s so hard, it’s a huge part of your life
Harnessing, protecting, and growing your extreme civic decency as capital for the state education system was the purpose of my activism — and then my politics. You were the purpose of my politics — even before I knew you. You still are. You always will be. I love you.
Recognizing the limits of my power to protect people I love within this corrupt and brutal system was the worst part of working as an elected education official with a conscience. It’s the worst part of being Public Enemy Number 1, too.
The final bust-out
The Elbert bust-out is no different, at heart, than the New College bust-out, the Jefferson County bust-out, and the countless other bust-outs that went largely unreported over many years.
Florida’s education mafia has been looting the state school system and the public good for a very long time.
These gangsters were “laying siege to the institutions” of public education in Florida and elsewhere years and years before the precocious New College trustee Chris Rufo — the guy below — gave the fake Christian version of the racket a helpful name.
Rather than fake Christianity and CRT, the gangsters of the recent past used dishonest data, engineered teacher shortages, fraudulent school grades, mass 3rd-grade retention, VAM pogroms, and “choice” conferences at luxury resorts.
In a darkly hilarious irony, most of that siege happened in the name of fake “wokeness.”
Failure Factories — the gangsters’ most potent, Pulitzer Prize-winning Florida weapon of the last decade — was actually about the evils of segregation, not public schools as a concept.
Post 2020, Florida’s entire education racket (heretofore “woke” Jeb Bush very much included) pivoted with breathtaking ease and speed to Ron DeSantis’ “anti-woke” gibberish and organized, racialized anarchy.
The governor started removing local elected board members for fake sins, punishing local districts, torturing superintendents, ordering teachers to lie about history, and backing mobs of gross, anti-social, book-banning, crazy people like Rick “T.I.T.S.” Nolte.
The easy shamelessness of the civic and ideological pivot to Jan. 6th-style public menace and chaos shocked many people who didn’t yet grasp — or didn’t want to believe — that Florida’s state education system is run by a gangster racket. DeSantis smashed any remaining doubt.
He busted out what remained of the entire state system, which was terminally weak from decades of Jeb’s “woke-washed” abuse. He obliterated any distinction between the state racket and the 67 local districts that made up the state system.
That political choice that will prove a political mistake for him and his fellow mobsters, I think.
Jeb Bush and his foundation always kept that tenuous distinction in place for a reason. It allowed them to direct blame — both from political capital and from the public — onto the system at the local level for the sins and failures of the state mob’s leadership racket.
It helped them hoodwink and bribe the corrupt national education policy/journalism class into fawning complicity and credulity through conference Chardonnay, brie tartlets, fellowships, and flattery.
Stop being a decency zombie
Thus, superintendents and elected School Boards have long provided an effective political blame buffer between the JebSantis Family racket and the Florida system. Not anymore. Now there’s only you, Lynn.
Only very special educators like you — and the ad hoc learning relationships with children you create — provide the illusion of life in patches of the JebSantis Family’s busted out zombie system.
In your rapidly diminishing numbers, you’re like “Last of Us” cordyceps fungi of decency. You animate the corpse of this system so gangsters with official power can lie to the public and claim a functioning state education system still exists — public and private alike.
But fewer and fewer of you are giving your lives for the JebSantis’ racket — which ultimately depends on the existence of the system for its pay off.
It’s a cordyceps, too.
The racket needs a host to survive; so killing it is self-destructive. That’s one of many reasons Jeb Bush is much smarter than Ron DeSantis.
Do you care what El Chapo thinks about your VAM score, Lynn?
What you experienced at Elbert was a figurative crime, Lynn. But when I refer to Florida’s government and education-enabled criminality, I often mean it literally.
See the DoE/Jefferson scandal; and cover-up. It features Ralph Arza, a literal convicted criminal witness tamperer. Ralph moonlights as Florida’s grossest charter school lobbyist and a made man of the JebSantis Family. At one point, back in 2018, Ralph was too racist and gross and criminal even for Ron DeSantis. LOL. Not anymore.
See also Polk County, where state education and government power backed actual criminals — both convicted and self-declared — in Polk County’s most recent School Board elections. They mostly failed because a loose coalition of good citizens — with no help at all from our elected sheriff or state attorney — fought the criminal and criminal-adjacent people effectively on our own.
In the aftermath of that fight, state and local law enforcement leaders like fake tough guy Sheriff Grady Judd, weak Polk State Attorney Brian Haas, and DeSantis’ state Election Commission have taken the side of the criminals.
They’re actively shielding serial felon James Dunn and self-declared campaign felon Rick “T.I.T.S.” Nolte from public scrutiny and justice. They’re doing this to protect their many GOP associates tainted by Dunn and Nolte from embarrassment — including Ron DeSantis, who endorsed Nolte.
That’s what mob rackets do.
They corrupt investigators to protect the mafia’s “made” men and women. In Florida’s case, the racket is actually the government, which controls the education system and law enforcement and the courts for the benefit of the gangsters.
So it’s all “legal.”
Thus, when education mafia godfathers Jeb Bush or Ron DeSantis — or low-level hitmen like Richard Corcoran or Chris Rufo — express an opinion about teachers or education policy, we should imagine El Chapo saying it.
JebSantis’ or CorcoRufo’s words carry exactly that level of moral and intellectual weight. Their power comes not from any idea — but entirely from their legal capacity to inflict pain through systemic moral crime. You would not debate curriculum with El Chapo; so don’t debate it with CorcoRufo.
I never debate them; because I don’t debate gangsters or people I don’t respect. I work to define them, mock them, and weaken them, as best I can.
Demand, absolution, and power
Even the gangsters’ fake Christianity, racism, and LGBT “hate” emerges from who makes the easiest marks and targets for looting. Religious and racial hate politics are always a grift first. Always.
You and so many others unwittingly help the gangsters sell that scam, Lynn. You stand in the civic gap between gangsterism and public demand.
You protect gangsters from the political and civic consequences of failing to meet public demand by your very goodness and competence. The racket cannot exist without you. You’re their evidence that “school,” as commonly understood, actually continues to live in Florida.
During COVID, they weaponized your value politically for the portion of the public that demanded “in-person” learning. But you’re also who the gangsters blame with weaponized data for the human outcomes of their racket so they bust out your school. The gangsters bank on you then saying this to yourself …
I’m old, it’s hard to be put away from friends and support and families who were both with a stigma as a crappy teacher.
To state the obvious: you’re not a crappy teacher. You’re a crime victim. You wouldn’t blame yourself or feel stigma if Ron DeSantis stuck a gun in your face and demanded your teaching certificate. So don’t feel stigma that his gangsters stuck you up with a corrupt VAM measure — which they likely miscalculated anyway — to data-jack your school and kids.
There is not one elementary school in Florida — public or private — that would not snap you up immediately to meet the growing, unmet public demand for education services. Indeed, the Polk district immediately put you to work with kids who don’t need you as much as Elbert’s kids. That’s how a racket behaves, not a system.
Gangsters have blackmailed you emotionally with the humanity and suffering of your kids for a long time. Most political capital and some of the public routinely insult your humanity and work — until they both need you, until capital’s free government child care for employees goes away or they want their own kids educated in a humane, robust way. (That should have been the number 1 lesson of COVID school drama, by the way.)
So I’m writing to absolve you, Lynn, if I can, of any guilt you might feel over the death of this system and its consequences for children, which are real and significant. You are entirely blameless for those consequences. You can’t stop them; and you’ve shouldered them for too long.
I’m hoping to reorient you mentally to cold aggression — and to an understanding of the power that comes with the public demand for your service. That power can manifest in many ways, organically, that can damage the racket and move it closer to public accountability and then death. You will find ways to sabotage the racket if you’re looking for them.
And the sooner we kill the racket as dead as the system, the faster we can rebuild a humane, living system anew that harnesses your decency and skill for the development of human potential.
The public needs you, Lynn — the racket needs you — far more than you need the public or the racket. And I’m writing you this letter to remind you — and the public — of that fact as we enter this new era.
A bust out is not privatization
I tend to laugh at the idea that the education supply can be privatized. It can’t. It can be destroyed and temporarily replaced with nothing. It can be busted-out, at national scale; but it can’t be privatized.
You can’t be privatized, Lynn.
There is no large scale private provider network of you — or of services that provide what the public demands for its kids in Florida or anywhere else. The JebSantis Family racket has wasted billions in private and public capital in Florida on privatization schemes that have produced zero net private capacity. That capital has produced lots of bling and fraud, though.
Just look at Jefferson County for an object lesson in what privatization — even by well-funded charter scammers — cannot do.
Indeed, Florida proves beyond any doubt that “privatization” has no future.
And the only question that matters after that is this: do you want a functioning, humane public education system? Or do you want no education system at all, public or private, in which gangsters loot your children and taxes, day after day? That’s a political question; and politics will decide it.
Florida does have the raw material to build an outstanding and humane new public state system from the rotted compost the JebSantis racket has left us — if the public and capital decide to do so, politically.
By killing the Florida system with the Florida racket, DeSantis is forcing American voters and Florida capital into a reckoning over how to supply what public demands from education — which is precisely what the JebSantis gangsters have destroyed and cannot supply.
That dynamic will drive education politics — and more — for a generation to come, I predict. Don’t do anything to get in the way of that collision, Lynn.
Morally and systemically, it’s not your problem, Lynn.
You’ve more than done your part. Now it capital’s problem and the public’s problem. You don’t beg them to exist; but they demand your service. So make them confront the gangsters and fix their own system. Stop suffering for them. They and their racket are not worth it.
Never pretend they’re anything but gangsters
Like most people and businesses and schools, Lynn, you can’t ignore the lethal bureaucratic bullets the JebSantis/CorcoRufo organization fires; but their “ideology” is nonsensical, ever-shifting, ever-contradictory bullshit.
Never engage it as if it’s real. Never again put yourself in a position where one of these motherfuckers can hurt your feelings, rather than your body.
Laying siege to — and then looting — institutions of public good is what cartels and mafias do. Do not, ever, accept that JebSantis and CorcoRufo are doing anything else. When a weaselly Fredo like Rufo brags that he runs a racket for which truth is irrelevant, believe him. Deny them intellectual and moral legitimacy, which they crave and weaponize.
You don’t ever have to torment yourself with their bullshit. Indeed, this is far, far better from you:
I feel like this is a huge step for me. I tried to go the channels, everyone needs to know what kind of people they are. You can do that and I’m on board with whatever you write. I stayed there with the other teachers because we care about the less fortunate kids, they use and abuse them and us. I’m going to go all out when you publish, I will make them fire me.
There’s a bit of the Maarva Andor in that; and we need more of it.
It’s easy for the dead to tell you to fight. And maybe it’s true, maybe fighting is useless. Perhaps it’s too late. But I’ll tell you this, if I could do it again, I would wake up early and be fighting these bastards from the start.
With all my deepest love and best wishes, Lynn
Part 2, tentatively titled: “When the loan shark was libs” will focus on how the racket made and makes everyone working for it complicit, even those with good intentions, from U.S. DoE down to the Polk superintendent.
These dropout numbers come from an Urban Institute “study” a few years ago that was actually designed to sell vouchers as helpful for increasing college attendance. It’s the closest thing to a study anyone has ever done on Florida vouchers. And it’s devastating, which is likely why the Urban Institute seems to have taken it down so I can’t link to it anymore. LOL.