Friday, June 20, 2008

Jeb is half-right; he recognizes there's a problem. If he had a mirror, he could see it.

Thanks, Larry, for welcoming me to post here at the Miami-Dade-Dems blog. I'm not just your candidate for State Representative in District 119, but I've been building online communities, blogging, and using the net to foster interactivity for the past 10 years. While my posts here won't be directly about our campaign, I look forward to discussing some of the issues that matter most to us Floridians and I suspect my perspective as a Young Democrat born and raised here in Miami-Dade will shine through.

I don't want this to be a place to preach. I want to fully encourage you to interact with the bloggers here. Let us know where you stand. We can learn from each other, and together, implement some of the change we need.

Our kids' education is always among the top concerns of Florida's parents and voters. And though it's taken a backseat lately to more immediately pressing economic issues (this week, the crazy offshore drilling plans), it's an issue that deserves attention.

At this weekend's national education conference in Orlando, former Governor Jeb Bush used the following metaphor to describe our schools:

"The world is much more interconnected, much more technologically advanced, and it is much more interdependent. And yet our education system is an 8-track system living in an iPod world."

I couldn't have said it better myself. But that's as far as Jeb and I agree.

Bush's education gamble hasn't paid off for Florida's students.

Our dropout rates were worse when he left than when he came into office. They're the worst in the country — and that's using some funny math that includes students who don't really graduate.

Our students are being exposed to less learning as they're being taught how to pass the FCAT. Rep. Dan Gelber probably said it best: "Most parents want more than minimal competence for their children." I'd add that most companies want more than minimal competence for their employees as well.

Our per-student spending is shameful. Bush's counterparts at the conference spend far more and their students see the benefits. New York spends more than twice what we do. And yet, the legislature keeps cutting funding, even after promising to "hold education harmless."

I like metaphors. I think they can help make points more clear. So let me stretch this one out a bit.

Our public school system is not the outdated 8-track. No, what's obsolete is the stereotypical politician who thinks he knows better than experts.

Our public school system is the music we all want to hear. The artists performing that music — our teachers — need to be given the freedom to teach as their students need them to.

If we want to be a well-rounded society, we need to listen to different types of music. A wide variety of different subjects have to be important in school.

And if we want that music to sound the best it can, we need to be willing to make the investment in our children's future. For our kids to be competitive, we have to recruit and keep the best talent, we have to upgrade the technology used, and we have to remix our curriculum.

We need a strong system of public education. Let's be honest about the real problem. The real problem is that we've had people in leadership roles who don't want to see it work. We need to rise above ideology and embrace the solution that works. Public schools work, but we have to give them the resources and freedom to prosper.

Look out for constitutional amendments headed to the ballot this year that, if passed, will further damage public schools and make it more difficult for our children to get the education they need. I'm sure we'll have a chance to discuss them soon.

Edit: Wouldn't you know... just hours after I originally posted this, Ray Seaman adds some information on Progress Florida's initiative to fight the amendments on FLA Politics.


Larry Thorson said...

I like the suggestion that Jeb look in the mirror to understand the problem. May I also suggest one reason we're out of money on the state level is that Jeb Bush set up the state "money market fund" so that it was raided by purveyors of sub-prime mortgages. And Jeb is now a paid consultant to one of those purveyors. Look at yourself, Jeb.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more