WaPo: Teachers Speak about Supplies

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Might last a week.

The joke goes that teaching is the only profession where employees steal supplies from home to bring them to work. From the Answer Sheet, the outstanding column written by Valerie Strauss, teachers talk about the supplies they have to buy out of their salaries for their classrooms.

Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) confesses that he, too, buys supplies as needed, but not to this extent that these teachers do. Being the grump that he is, he refuses to buy supplies that the school system should be providing. There are a few exceptions: staplers, because the quality of the school staplers is poor (in fairness to his employer, GOT has also bought staplers for his work when he was in business–same issue); whiteboard erasers, because the school provides felt erasers which smear the whiteboard because they were manufactured for chalkboards; golf pencils for those without, because that encourages children to take responsibility to bring their own basic supplies; paper clips, because GOT likes the plastic-covered ones; and that’s about it.

It should be noted that the state of Florida provides teachers an annual check to purchase classroom supplies. By law, the funds are not to be used to buy pencils, paper, and other supplies for which schools should budget and purchase from their operating funds. The funds may not be used to buy equipment or food, but they are to buy all the extras that teachers need and school budgets do not cover.

For GOT, that means compasses and protractors for Geometry, toner for his classroom printer (that he had to provide for himself because the central printers–one is broken and the school system won’t fix it; the other has a bad power supply and crashes regularly), copy paper (math uses lots of paper), tissues (taking a roll of toilet paper is a poor alternative), graph paper, and instructional aids.

The annual check is between $200 and $400 depending upon the economy and Florida’s sales tax revenues. This year, the amount is $325 per teacher.

In further fairness to the school system, most principals are good-hearted, understand that their teachers need support to succeed, and will work to get them what they need. But it takes time, planning, and patience and many teachers buy with personal funds what they could submit a purchase request for.

For example, this year my Geometry colleague and I asked to have tables and chairs in our rooms rather than student desks. The principal agreed, first and foremost because we believed that the change would improve the student learning environment. He also was not adverse to taking the desks from our rooms and allocating them to other classrooms. Due to increasing class sizes, our classrooms are always short of enough desks.

Oh, the years we teachers have had students daily move desks among the rooms on the hall based on class size so that every child had a place to sit and work! But this is a separate issue, one caused by class size, not underfunded districts.

GOT did not expect new tables and he did not get them. But it was the best the school system could do and he made it work. His colleague took one look and went to Lowe’s and bought tables for her room.

GOT has more patience and fortitude. He will not use his personal money. If he has to do without or put up with junkety furniture, so be it. He remains on the lookout for upgrades, but not on his dime.

Purchasing supplies for the classroom is a decision that no teacher should ever have to make, but every teacher has to decide: will I? if so, what are the limits?

Amazingly, Las Vegas has a solution to consider (and they are not alone):

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I’ll never feed a parking meter again.

The Mask of the New American Feudalism

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that extols maximum political freedom and autonomy of the individual, including the ideals of individual choice, freedom of association, and ownership rights to private property free of government confiscation.

Libertarianism views modern governments, with their reach and regulation of society, as an evil to be curtailed. Libertarians question why a government should be allowed to take their money (note the sense of private property) and give it to others in the form of welfare programs, research grants, health insurance and benefits, provision of a pension, and education. (Especially education.)

Libertarianism decries the law-making and regulatory power of government that attempts to guarantee the safety of food, the fairness of markets, financial and otherwise, the efficacy of medicine, the solvency of banks, the management of money and capital, accident-free workplaces, disease control, … it’s a long list of the many roles and responsibilities government has taken on.

A libertarian wants government out of people’s lives.

A worthy goal perhaps, but libertarianism has never caught hold of the American imagination because it is impractical for the world we live in.

Libertarianism would restrict government to the functions of foreign relations and defense, the only two functions for which it sees a collective effort necessary.

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Libertarianism is the mask of the new American fuedalism.

Persons such as the Koch brothers* extol the virtues of libertarianism. But that is not the goal they seek. If it was, they would not support school choice programs, which take the public’s tax dollars away from public school systems and hand them over to private operators of charter, religious, prep, segregation, and other academies not controlled by democratically-elected school boards.

Libertarianism denounces ‘government schools,’ but it does so because it pronounces that education is the responsibility of parents, not the public. True Libertarianism would end school taxes and place the burden upon parents to obtain and pay for the education of their children. True libertarianism would recognize the right of ‘choice’ as a parent’s right to not educate their children at all.

This is not the intention of the Koch brothers or other wealthy philanthrocapitalists who seek to control the population in order to enhance their wealth and satisfy their ambition. But libertarianism forms a useful mask for their true intention to erode the rights of ordinary people, to become the barons of competing fiefdoms (remember the Devos’ quote that “money is how we keep score”), and to roll back the New Deal that FDR ushered in.

Education is a key battle for the new American Feudalism. What education reformers push is not a libertarian call for individual rights in totality; it is a diversion of that libertarian-despised ‘confiscation of wealth,’ also known as taxes, and choosing who will use that wealth for the provision of education to the young.

The feudalists are winning. The idea of parental choice is appealing to the libertarian streak we all possess in some measure. What is lost in the volume of the debate over the choice options of charters and school vouchers is that parents are not choosing to fund their child’s education themselves. They are content to allow that to remain an obligation of the public.

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If I wear this at school, will it keep me from the disease the feudalists are spreading?

Divide-and-conquer is a time-tested strategy for winning wars. It is also the strategy the uber-wealthy are using in their maneuvers to usher in a new era of feudalism in America. Charter supporters, charter opposers, parents looking for a good school, defenders of public education, journalists, teachers, and even politicians are being divided in the education debates. Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) is not discussing authentic debate over policy; he is recognizing the deep divisions being created in American society as people no longer care about truth in an objective sense. It’s about identity and winning, an approach to life and career espoused by Jacksonville’s current mayor, who likes to proclaim that “I win,” as he exchanges tweets with Richard Corcoran, the current education commissioner of Florida, whose hatred for Florida’s public schools is unbounded, who has made it his mission to see that a large majority of Florida’s children will be in charter and private schools.

To control education is to program the minds of the upcoming generations. That is why the privatization of America’s schools is a key objective of the uber-wealthy, the new American Feudalists.

That is why public schools, true public schools, remain a threat to their dreams.

In an upcoming post, GOT will explain the danger of public school systems to their goals.

The first post in this series, The New American Feudalism, which is an overview of the phenomenon.

*David Koch recently died so perhaps GOT should not use the phrase ‘Koch brothers.’ However, as David was a partner with Charles in pursuing the new American feudalism, it is useful to refer to both brothers as the feudalistic spirit of David remains with his brother in pursuing their agenda.

The New American Feudalism

1000 years ago, European society was structured by a political and legal system known as feudalism, whereby a local lord or baron controlled a grant of land from the king. Serfs and vassals lived on the land under obligations of service to work the land and hand over a portion of the produce as well as military service, if needed. Vassals enjoyed limited freedoms; serfs had none.

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Fine living … for the barons.
Vassals and serfs didn’t have it so good.

Peasants were bound to the land, either legally or economically. They could not escape the control of the local lord, who would draft them into military service as needed or direct their labor on the estate: agriculture, trades such as farrier, carpenter, and blacksmith, and whatever other pursuits the lord desired.

Times change, the Crusades introduced trade, working people organized into Guilds, merchants formed a middle class, and the resulting freedom eroded the power and structure of feudalism. The people broke free of the control of their feudal lords, who would turn to a new form of societal and economic organization, capitalism, to retain wealth and control, albeit at lower levels.

Throughout the capitalistic era, wealth and labor engaged in great battles over the condition of the working people and the rights of labor. While the 19th century was touch-and-go, in the 20th century labor won bargaining rights such that the foundation was set for the great expansion of the middle class as codified in the laws and policies of the New Deal of Franklin Roosevelt.

Since then, under the guise of conservatism and since the time of Ronald Reagan, libertarianism, pushback against labor unions, workers, and the middle class has taken place.

The reduction of income tax rates from 70% to today’s low levels combined with the abandonment of regulatory power that the federal government wielded, free trade agreements and blocs, and technological innovation whose key piece is the internet, resulted in globalism, in which economic power can be held outside the check of democratic government.

The uber-rich now find themselves in the position of feudal lords, whereby they can use free trade and globalism to erode the rights and threaten the existence of labor unions. If the workers get too agitated about falling wages (in real dollars) and loss of benefits such as medical insurance and pensions, they can move the production to another country where the workers won’t protest conditions.

Through the use of modern propaganda techniques, developed by the science of psychology and manipulated by politicians in the service of ideology, persons have found social media an ideal platform for exploiting the thinking of persons who are bound by tribal loyalties rather than truth.

And so, as long predicted by persons such as George Orwell (1984) or Aldous Huxley (Brave New World), the very few lucky, privileged, and wealthy have found the means of controlling the masses, the large number of persons who live each day trying to survive.

Grumpy Old Teacher thanks you for your indulgence as you wonder how this relates to education. Education is the lynch pin and the critical piece to establishing the new American feudalism, whereby the poor and working class lose their freedom as they watch the wealth their forebears left them flow into the hands of the uber-rich. Education is the threat that holds the uber-rich back, and yet, education is the means by which they can achieve their goals.

GOT will explain in his next post.

Not a Keeper

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Smiling for the mug shot.

Every angler knows that the size of fish that may be kept is regulated. For example, in South Florida, speckled perch under 10 inches in length caught in Lake Okeechobee must be released at once. In salt water, such as would be found around the Florida keys, a red snapper must be at least 20 inches in length if caught in the Atlantic Ocean or 16 inches in length if caught in the Gulf of Mexico.

Someone needs to explain this to the Dennis Ward, the State Attorney of Monroe County (Florida.) From a news network in the Keys comes the story of the arrest of a 10-year old girl for the act of being terrified of a school shooting and bringing a steak knife to school with which to protect herself.

Not a keeper: she’s too small.

“This was an unfortunate incident, but it was handled quickly and professionally by our School Resource Officer Robert Bulnes and school officials,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “I’m grateful this young girl did not threaten anyone and that did not appear to be her intent. I’m also grateful to report that the incident was handled jointly with our law enforcement and community partners who decided what the appropriate criminal measures should be going forward.”

That gurgling sound you are hearing is air in the school-to-prison pipeline. In Monroe County, they need to fill it up and any size will do.

For the rest of us, we have to question the wisdom of this decision. The 5th-grader had no intention of threatening anyone, even less than to harm anyone. Why an arrest? Why proceed with criminal charges?

What is the point?

It would be better to proceed with restorative practices, to address the young girl’s fears, and to explain to her why she made a bad decision and how it impacted others.

Why is this so hard nowadays?

Yesterday, a young lady walked out of my room. Many teachers might have immediately written a referral, but Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) did not. She walked out for a reason and, until GOT knows what that reason is, he cannot decide upon the best reaction. GOT planned to call her mother during his planning period and ask her to talk to her child, but he had an opportunity to talk to the student at lunchtime. She explained why she left the classroom and GOT had the opportunity to explain how he had to work as the teacher in the room. The issue was resolved; no punishment needed.

Do not tell GOT that the 10-year-old couldn’t get counseling services to deal with her fears unless she was given a juvenile arrest record and entered the justice system. There are ways of doing that if services are needed without an arrest.

We have become a harsh nation indeed if we have lost the qualities of mercy and grace. The authorities determined that she did not threaten anyone or intend to.

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She’s not a keeper. Put her back in the water, Mr. State Attorney, Mr. Sheriff, and all others involved in this terrible decision.

Quick Draw McGraw

Note to Greatly-Appreciated Readers: Grumpy Old Teacher is a reflective blog. GOT doesn’t try to break the news or be the first to opine. Rather, GOT allows himself time to ponder the meaning of what is happening in the education world and then to express his thoughts, sometimes funny, sometimes odd, sometimes with the crowd, sometimes not. Thus, GOT is only now getting around to last week’s news about the Commissioner of Education saying that schools should arm teachers and dismiss their School Resource Officers.

Commissioner Corcoran brings back memories of childhood.

“In 10 years, every single school in the state of Florida will have guardian teachers,” he said. “It’s coming. It’s going to happen. It’s volunteer. It’s the safest, most absolute best outcome practices that you can have.” Thus said the Commish.

Is he for real? GOT supposes this is how our esteemed Commissioner views school security and the need for professional, trained personnel:

Love that dog biscuit at the end. Is there any better way to grasp how Florida’s politicians treat Florida’s teachers?

What could go wrong? Don’t reply everything–you would be correct, but the man from Lake County, which gave the state the shameful Willis McCall and his many outrages of miscarried justice and outright murder that Lake County residents were too cowed to effectively stop, believes himself to be the law and the law to be whatever he decides.

Let’s take a look at what the Commissioner has in mind:

At least school guardians get 176 hours of training, the equivalent of five weeks,
oh wait, that’s what TFA teachers get. Is this a coincidence or a farce?

GOT admits you may find this piece ridiculous, but that’s about all you can say about arming teachers in schools. But in this age of T…. (not gonna say it or the haters will troll me ad infinitum), anything seems to be accepted.

If you needed a visual of how Guardian Teachers … or custodians, secretaries, cafeteria workers, anyone else working in a school, would be expected to perform, go into the mine with Quick Draw.

And if you think this is a serious solution to school violence, don’t come out. And please, pretty please, pretty please with a cherry on top, take Corcoran with you.

A theme song for the Commissioner. He ought to open every Florida State Board of Education Meeting with it.


Dear Lenny, it’s never a good idea for a politician to tweet in the wee hours of the morning.

Lenny, Scott Shine will fill you in.

From First Coast News, we get the exchange: A local teacher responded to a Curry tweet complaining about the air conditioning in his classroom. The mayor took the bait and responded that he would see that repairs would be made if the teacher told him where he taught and his classroom number.

Apparently sometime later, another teacher urged all teachers to send their maintenance needs to the mayor’s office.

Lenny, you enthusiastically responded. You thought this was a great chance to show up the school board and the superintendent as incompetent. The hero mayor to the rescue! Lenny will see it done.

Mayor, you’ve been had.

The idea for teachers, parents, and students to drown your office with emails about needed maintenance has been kicking around for about two months giving your obstruction over the sales tax issue and your willing accomplices on the City Council following your orders.

The many activists who want to see the referendum on a ballot never took up the idea.

Until now. How many emails are you getting? If very little, it only means that as a protest against your bullying ways, people realize it will have no effect.

Or, since you have invited the emails as a propaganda play, teachers et al. are too savvy to fall for this.

Lenny, last week a teenager refused to take his headphones off in class and stop listening to music. When I insisted, he tried to stare me down. Do you think I would take the dare and engage in a staring contest? That would pull me down to his level. No, I am the adult and he is only a child. I quickly established that fact and the child put his headphones in his book bag as I told him to.

You are acting childish. You are cutting a ridiculous figure as you think you can one-up the school board and the superintendent. That is what a child would do.

As GOT (Grumpy Old Teacher) said, early AM tweets are never a good idea for a politician. Far better would be a good night’s sleep. You need about eight hours a night, and your tweets indicate that would mean you need to stay in the sack until about 10 AM–far after the time you should arrive for work.

Yes, Lenny, go to bed. Stop embarrassing yourself.

All you have shown the city is your partisanship, your desire to rule all, and the rest of us are collateral damage.

If you really wanted to fix the AC, you would not have tweeted. You would have called Diana Greene in the morning and told her you would move ahead with the repair of schools.

In the Crosshairs: Diana Greene

“The School Board should have let us choose the new superintendent.” –The Civic Council

Jason Fischer led off by amending his J-bill to change the Duval County School Board from an elected body to a mayor-appointed one. Now he wants to make the Superintendent of Schools an elected position.

The Charter Review Commission has taken up the idea and they are brooking no opposition. In an astounding confusion over how a Jaguars game should end and how a public commission should end its meeting, the Chair, Lindsey Brock, gaveled an end to yesterday’s meeting at 12 Noon sharp, not only depriving attending citizens of their right to public comment, but also cutting off two commission members who were going to dissent.

The idea was first floated by Jacksonville’s mayor, whom Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) affectionately calls ‘Boss Curry.’

To understand all this, we have to go back to the Nikolai Vitti years, when the now-Detroit superintendent was running Jacksonville’s schools.

One of the puzzling aspects of Dr. Vitti’s leadership was that he didn’t seem to regard the elected School Board as the persons who hired him and to whom he was accountable. He seemed to act like the persons he really answered to were the unelected wealthy and political elite of the city, who (at the time) controlled the entity Jacksonville Public Education Fund and worked out their desires out of the scrutiny of the public through the private organization known as the Civic Council, whose point man on education is Gary Chartrand, the Ponte Vedra businessman who has pulled strings in Jacksonville for over a decade.

We learned this in a moment of candor when a former mayor, John Delaney, said, “For what it’s worth I’ve been warning Gary (Chartrand) and others for years that Vitti’s weaknesses need to be managed.”

After Nikolai Vitti resigned to take the superintendent job in Detroit, the School Board began the process of hiring a new leader for Jacksonville’s schools. It was at this time that the Civic Council intervened as they argued that a school board election was six months away and that the new board members should be the ones to hire the superintendent. In the meantime, they would do the city a favor by conducting a search for candidates themselves and selecting the person who should be hired.

To say it displeased Gary Chartrand and his Civic Council pals as well as others in the elite that the School Board ignored them, went ahead with a search, and hired Dr. Diana Greene would be an understatement.

It’s not personal, but she won’t answer to them. She works with the School Board, the constitutional, elected officers entrusted with oversight of the city’s school system. They cannot stand that and they are out to change it.

The first idea floated was to change the school board from elected to appointed. That would require approval by the city’s voters and the idea is deeply unpopular. If Boss Curry could appoint the school board, he could control it like he does JEA and other city boards and dictate his decisions to them.

But it is unlikely he could gain that control. So the solution is to take the superintendent away from the Board, thus rendering them impotent as far as policy-making goes.

A county-wide election would place the position into large fund-raising needs in order to gain name recognition among the electorate. That favors any candidate put forth by the wealthy elite.

Are you now getting it? Boss Curry, along with the concurrence of the elite, sees that control of the schools lies in being able to determine who the superintendent is.

And they don’t want Diana Greene.

They want to privatize the city’s schools. Greene would revive them, especially in the long-ignored places like the Northwest corridor.

Rebuild schools with a sales tax? They oppose that. They know that Greene’s success in Manatee County in having the voters approve a supplemental tax has resulted in rising enrollment numbers in Manatee’s traditional schools.

Diana Greene is a nightmare for those who claim that the only chance a child has in Jacksonville is in a charter school. (Looking at you, Rory Diamond, and your attempt to walk back on First Coast Connect last Monday didn’t work.)

Don’t believe them when they say that the voters desire to choose is what they want.

They want to get rid of Diana Greene.

They want a superintendent who will turn the city’s schools over to private operators.

It’s about money and control, not serving the needs of the city, its citizens, and its children.

The irony of all this is that the last time Jacksonville had an elected superintendent was during the pre-consolidation days. You remember that time when the schools lost their accreditation.

GOT is only expressing an opinion here, but it seems to him the Boss Curry, his minions, the City Council, and the Civic Council would be okay if that happened.

They could close all the schools and make Jacksonville 100% charter in one move.