State Rep. Neil Combee is a sycophantic puppet of Richard Corcoran, the imperial Speaker of the House who fancies himself Florida's dictator. Trust me, whatever Neil says about public education does not emerge from his own brain. Until a few months ago, he did not even know that he sets the Polk School District's funding levels. HE. DID. NOT. KNOW. Told me this personally. He did not know the basics of his own job -- the one you've all given him.
I also told him during one chat: "You're on Richard Corcoran's side against your own community."
To which he replied: "That's right. And more every day." This is a quote. Go ask him if you don't believe me. Neil is nothing if not chatty, which I is why I love him in my way. But our disagreements and positions are about the public good, not private affection. Separating the two is one of my few skills.
So I want you to look at Richard Corcoran's intellectual and moral contempt for traditional public school employees and students laundered through Neil Combee's rather ignorant mouth.
Yes, that is a sarcastic, contemptuous "thank you" to Polk County School employees who suffered all Irma week to serve the people who took shelter in our schools. Try to imagine Neil saying, sarcastically: "Thanks to all the police and first responders who for doing their jobs in the cars and trucks taxpayers give them."
Actually, it's impossible to imagine that. But this despicable tweet is no different, except that only a handful of hourly custodial staff at Polk schools got paid to staff shelters. Yet, staffed they were, with limited help from the Red Cross.
It's important to know all this about Neil because he recently announced that he's asked to play a larger role in education this year in the Legislature. So you can expect he will bring this level of contempt to the job. All available evidence suggests he'll do whatever his master tells him to do to hurt you, if you are a traditional community school employee, parent, or student.
I want to put that marker down right now -- so it's not easy for him to do it. Everybody reading this should call or email Neil and tell him what you think of his public behavior. And tell him how you expect him to behave in Tallahassee during the 2018 session.
The traditional public school system is the new Red Cross
Indeed, it's important for everyone in Polk County and Florida to know that your public school system played the role during Irma that those awesome new Publix commercials imagine is played by the Red Cross.
That's not a dig against the Red Cross or Publix. It's just a fact. Only your traditional public school system has the scale and building codes to perform that role. Government + volunteerism provides scale and stability that the private sector + volunteerism cannot.
Across Polk County and Florida, law enforcement officers and educators volunteering/working long uncompensated hours at their own schools made the shelter network function and serve. From intake to comforting to management to cleaning (and cleaning was a big deal).
Yet one can easily forgive the public or Publix for not understanding this. Our turgid and tired state politics works very hard to hide it. Republican Tallahassee (Sorry, it is Republican Tallahassee; I'm not politically correct. They own it.) has worked so hard to make public educators into enemies for 20 years that most GOP politicians couldn't even bring themselves to thank them for their tireless grueling work of care during Irma.
(Richard Corcoran still hasn't, to my knowledge. But I'm happy to be corrected. The president of the United States didn't either, as far as I know. But I'm happy to be corrected on that, too. Did Betsy DeVos?)
One big exception was Travis Pillow, the editor of the main Jeb Bush education propaganda outlet. I often give Travis crap, quite honestly. So I need to reward good behavior. This piece is the most good faith I've ever seen from Travis or Redefined. I hope to see more. To his credit, he recognized, expressed appreciation, and even defended traditional school employees for once. I thank him for it now. And I thanked him for it at the time.
In the course of addressing all this on Twitter, I got into a silly, but illuminating, flame war with several of the oh-so-senstive broflakes of the powerful and personally brittle Tallahassee swamp, errrr, establishment. These included Neil and a guy named Fred Piccolo, who is one of Richard Corcoran's petty henchmen.
At one point, I mentioned the heroism of Merri Crawford, the principal of Phillip O'Brien Elementary School in Lakeland -- which was Lakeland's only pet-friendly shelter. Mrs. Crawford worked herself damn near to death over multiple days. And was mopping up pet-stained floors herself the day after the storm, when various people arrived to relieve her and order her to go home.
Neil Combee and Richard Corcoran can't even thank her with a straight face.
Here are a few screen shots of this Twitter exchange. It's kinda funny, but also sad. We shouldn't have to have these confrontations over the virtue of common community purpose: