Our first referendum on the hateful Florida model, part 1: Ron DeSantis is the Florida educational establishment. Just look at his top supporters.
It's official: Ron DeSantis will enthusiastically continue Florida's unique brand of oppressive top-down test-punish-fraud education. If you like paying testing companies to hurt kids, you'll love Ron DeSantis. If you like Betsy DeVos, you'll love Ron DeSantis. If you like Kelli Stargel, you will love Ron DeSantis. If you like that Tallahassee sneers at your choice of any school that isn't a charter or voucher school, you'll love Ron DeSantis.
If you like VAM, 7069, politically rigged school grades, lousy pay, strangled funding, and endless unfunded mandates from Tallahassee, you will love Ron DeSantis. And you should vote for him. If you're a public education stakeholder, and you like inflicting pain on yourself, Ron DeSantis is an ideal sharp object.
The tell for all of this isn't what's in the collection of ancient, nonsense talking points he calls an "education plan." It's in how the political and bureaucratic Florida education establishment rushed to fluff him. See this story. Key quote:
As yet another signal of DeSantis being embraced by establishment Republicans, his campaign on Thursday rolled out a list of endorsements for his education policy.
Primary among them are former Gov. Jeb Bush, whose eight years in Tallahassee stressed educational reform and who was the last conservative defender of Common Core, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who abandoned his own gubernatorial ambitions and backed Putnam in the primary.
The teacher-hating people in that story complaining about the teacher-hating "bureaucracy" that they themselves built are the same teacher-hating people who tried this year to create yet another new bureaucracy to exclude charter schools from meaningful oversight by local School Boards. That was the point of Amendment 8. The fact that they tried to bury their real intent in other stuff is the reason it got tossed off the ballot.
They are the same people who think teachers should be punished based on this equation related to their test scores.
DeSantis mostly wants to be on TV. So I suspect he doesn't actually know anything about education -- and doesn't care. The intellectual staleness of his "plan" is pretty clear proof. That's a big problem for any governor. Governors are the most important education officials in the country because education policy decisions are overwhelmingly made at the state level. That's why Betsy DeVos is so ineffective in her awfulness. She doesn't have all that much power. A governor does. And DeSantis will outsource that power to the people who have worked as hard as they can to hurt teachers and education stakeholders for a generation with endless top-down interference. Trust me on this.
And that sets up our first, imperfect referendum on the hateful American/Floridian creation that "the right" calls Common Core and "the left" calls test-and-punish education. Indeed, I know of nothing else that "the left" and "the right" agree on so thoroughly as that this approach to education sucks.
When I search for a single word to define Florida's education system since 1998, I keep coming back to "hateful."
Everything about it is built around hatred of its core stakeholders. Its policies are designed to hurt the people of traditional zoned schools and force them to choose "choice" schools of some kind, whether they be charter, voucher, magnet, or whatever. It's designed to use the very idea of compulsory education requirement to discredit the idea of public education -- and enable new businesses. It's designed around hating the choice of a traditional school and eliminating the choice to learn outside of the influence of useless high stakes tests.
It's designed to chase people out of the teaching profession by pushing them out of the middle class and making their work experience miserable. Maybe the people imposing this model think they will replace them with cheap computers for the masses, who don't need health insurance. But mostly, I think it's enough for them to see public education as a welfare program they should destroy. What comes next? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Not their problem.
Despite that cruel, mindless generational policy approach from Tallahassee and Washington, our teachers and stakeholders on the ground have held public education together. They have continued to create meaningful experiences for our kids and rallying points for our communities. They've done it for my children; and I am grateful to them.
They have suffered to do it; and sadly, as political stakeholders and voters, we have not had their backs for a generation. We've let them suffer, largely in silence.
The first referendum
That's why I don't see Gillum vs. DeSantis as some lame referendum on Bernie vs. Trump. I see it, instead, as the first, imperfect referendum on the Florida Model and the entire idea of test-punish-hate-fake compete-cheat education. There will be many more.
We champions of humane, meaningful education are ascendant. And we're not backing up. The turgid educational establishment of a generation in Florida and America, embodied by the mindless Ivy League credentialism of DeSantis, is losing the battle for ideas -- because they have none. They only have fake data, subsidized think tank magazines, and vanity. They offer only pain and lies. That's why they were so desperate to sneak Amendment 8 on the ballot. It was a rear guard action to protect their dying grift.
This first referendum in Florida is not as clear as I would like because Democrats, for some strange reason, still lack the will to simply say: "End test-and-punish education."
They lack the will to talk and explain the way I do to truly mobilize what should be their core constituency -- teachers and public education stakeholders. Most people in Florida still don't understand the full reality and consequences of test-and-punish education. That's why I spend so much time and repetition explaining to them.
The national teacher shortage should be Democrats' number 1 domestic issue, like "law and order" is for Republicans. They should never stop talking about it. But it's not; and they don't talk about it at all, really, as the core political, infrastructure, and middle class imperative that it is.
Even in the powerful red state teacher revolts, teachers themselves led the revolts, not politicians. Teachers will have to lead it in Florida, too, this year. But one day, some state or national politician is going to run relentlessly on a simple message, "I will end test-and-punish education. And I will rebuild the teaching profession." That politician will win.
For now, even with those institutional Democratic shortcomings, Andrew Gillum is infinitely better than Ron DeSantis for teachers and public education stakeholders. And Bob Doyel is on a different planet than your Senator Kelli Stargel, who has never met a plan to hurt educators and kids she did not embrace. She's never met a teacher shortage she didn't try to make worse.
If you're a public education stakeholder in any way, in any party, a vote for Stargel or DeSantis is an act of self-mutilation.