If you doubt this campaign is making a major difference, if you doubt that they hear us in Tallahassee as well as Bartow, listen to Adam Putnam.
The likely Republican nominee for governor in 2018 had this to say very recently at the Florida Chamber of Commerce Future of Florida Forum.
"We have begun to lose the support of the most important shareholders in the education conversation -- and that's the parents. In many cases, the most involved parents."
You can see the whole speech here. Adam seems to think this is a question of poor communication on the state's part. I disagree. I think the state has communicated as clearly as it possibly can what it thinks of parents, teachers, and students.
Florida despises most parents
In truth, Adam, Florida is losing parents because state education leaders do not remotely respect parents or teachers in traditional zoned schools. They do not honor the educational choices that parents make to attend traditional schools. And you've let them get away with that for years. You shouldn't be surprised now.
The parents and kids of the Stigmatized 5 schools had no choice over what was done to their teachers with discredited VAM scores. No one asked any parent at Kathleen Middle if they wanted 9 of 11 English/Language Arts teachers transferred to other schools and replaced by subs after the school year started.
This is "choice," Florida style.
And honestly, that contempt for human beings spills over into other schools, too. See this piece from a few days ago. The "choice" community is sick of Tallahassee's incompetent authoritarianism, too.
A Polk parent looks state contempt in the eye
I know all this firsthand, viscerally.
Last year, I was the parent of a 7th grader at a charter school system in Lakeland. That made me a good parent, whose educational choice was respected and worthy of investment.
This year, I'm the parent of an 8th grader at Crystal Lake Middle School in Lakeland. And I'm a bad parent, unworthy of basic courtesy from the people who oversee public education in Florida.
This was made very, very clear to me recently.
Remember, I attended the state Board of Education's meeting in Tampa last month. My son's school was on the agenda at the meeting. I burned a vacation day to tell my state of Board of Education what I do not want for my son's school. I do not want the BoE to order the removal of my son's teachers during the school year based on a fraudulent VAM score the way it did for the Stigmatized 5.
I wanted my BoE to know I expect them to honor my choice. My BoE responded with utter contempt. And a bouncer.
Marva Johnson, the BoE chair, removed Polk's schools from the meeting agenda a few minutes before it was time to talk about them. Then she tried to cut me off, with cold malevolent eyes, as I explained that I was a parent at Crystal Lake -- and that I had taken the day off at my own expense to engage in my son's education. Sorry, come to Tallahassee in a few weeks if you want to talk to us, she said.
I managed to talk through Johnson and make most of my point to the only BoE member who seems to have any personal decency, Rebecca Lipsey. And then Johnson sicked a burly bouncer on me.
This little scene got on television. I publicized it on my Facebook page and website. And a big swath of the Florida educrat industrial complex witnessed it firsthand. They all sat by in cowardly silence. This includes Shan Goff, whose life's work involves marketing segregation, creating teacher shortages, and dishonestly calling it "choice."
I introduced you to Goff in this post a few weeks ago. I saw her again in Tampa and smiled at her. She didn't smile back. But she did have a chance to stand up for real choice and for parental involvement. She said nothing. Just like every other DoE official who was there.
But what do you expect?
They've all got mortgages and car payments. And the educrat gravy train provides a nice, easy living if you say the right buzzwords about the right people -- and if you don't say the right buzzwords about the right people.
The self-interest equation is starting to change
Of course, not one of my elected representatives said a word about this scene. Not Kelli Stargell. Not Colleen Burton. Not Adam Putnam. None of our School Board members, with one funny exception. Nor did they object to Gary Chartrand mocking our superintendent.
Indeed, the only elected official in Polk to say a word about any of this is Hunt Berryman. And he's tried to use it against me. As if I'm the bad guy in this story. He took Marva Johnson and Gary Chartrand and Shan Goff's side, as he always does. As he always will. Somehow I should have known my place and not tried to engage for my son's school. That's Hunt's position.
And now he's spending $50,000 of his own taxpayer-subsidized money to lie publicly about me -- the parent of an 8th Polk County grader. Think about that. That's what Hunt Berryman thinks of parents. It's what Florida thinks of parents. And not one of his friends has the courage to call him out for it. And then he and various folks complain about parental involvement.
The people of our county and state, particularly parents, are waking up to the fact that our state government and Department of Education is a hostile occupying army in our schools. Teachers have known for a long, long time. The rebellion is real and growing. It crosses all ideological and party lines. Adam Putnam is hearing about it and talking about it.
The Ledger, which has not always been my greatest fan, is all but quoting me in its editorials. I'm getting campaign mailers from sitting state legislators chronically hostile to public education, who are now attacking "bureaucrats" and gushing about "our hard-working and exceptional teachers."
Who cares if they mean it in their hearts? They see where their self-interest lies. Self-interest is the fuel of political movements.
I'm trying to build a broad political movement to dismantle the corrupt, destructive Florida DoE as we have known it. I want to rebuild it as something useful and decent. If my legislators think it's in their self-interest to more or less quote me and sign on to what we're leading, well, welcome to the fight. Your bravery is inspiring.
Rumor has it, Adam, you want to be governor in 2018. You're a smart guy.
Which side do you think is more likely to generate votes in 2018? Parents and teachers? Or standing with Marva Johnson, Gary Chartrand, Shan Goff, and Hunt Berryman? Do the math. Because there will be a high stakes test.