Letter: Why Teachers should vote for Ron DeSantis

Joseph Ryan
St Augustine, FL

Dear Historic City News editor:

Ron DeSantis is the first candidate seeking statewide office in Florida who is against common core. Having Ron DeSantis as our Governor is probably the only way we can finally stop common core in Florida.

Other than to promote the sale of common core aligned textbooks, common core serves only two purposes.

One reason we still have common core is to flunk third graders if they fail on one of the end-of-year Florida State Assessments. I suppose traumatizing every third grader as a “failure” for messing up on one test may help pad the State’s statistics. But, how accountable can a little third grader actually be?

The other reason Florida holds on to common core is to provide assessment data to the teacher evaluation method called the “Value Added Model”. VAM is accountability on autopilot. If the score finds them less compliant to the common core standards than their peers, it can fire teachers and close schools.

If you are a teacher, you probably have an opinion on common core, high stakes testing, and the VAM. There are so many studies that have raised important questions about the validity of test-based evaluation and the value-added model. Teachers unions, including the Florida Education Association, have pointed out the problems with the VAM. As a teacher, you, no doubt, could point out your own issues with having your career depend on the results of two tests every year. In 2018, the situation, in Florida, is that no one is permitted to even raise the question of the VAM’s validly, let alone remove it.

Which brings me to the reason I support Ron DeSantis. He said he wants to get rid of what does not work in our education system. Of all the candidates that ran for Governor, Ron DeSantis had the highest rating from the Stop Common Core Coalition of Florida, with an A. His opponent, Andrew Gillum earned a D.

As governor, Ron DeSantis gives us the best chance to make changes, up to and including, getting rid of the entire common core system. This includes the high stakes assessments and the VAM teacher evaluations. Over the years, DeSantis has repeatedly expressed his belief in local control over education, parental involvement in education, and autonomy for teachers.

DeSantis is uniquely qualified to break up the good ol’ boy, crony network that has been under the thumb of Jeb Bush for over two decades. When DeSantis beat Putnam, it signaled an end to Jeb Bush’s control over Florida’s education. With funding from Bill Gates into Jeb’s foundations drying up, so too will Bush’s influence over Florida education.

Maybe now is the time for Floridians to free our kids and our teachers from all the mandates coming from Tallahassee and the US Department of Education? Maybe now is the time to keep what works and toss out what does not. Maybe now, we can at least start discussing what is best for our children and the teachers who care about them.

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  1. If you think Andrew Gillum will raise your pay, you are mistaken. First, he needs to raise the corporate tax to pay for it, and that takes a supermajority in the legislature to do so. Most stales legislators will never vote for that because it would devastate job growth in Florida. Andrew Gillum knows this or at least he should. I have talked to Ron DeSantis and more importantly, I have talked with his staff and I can say that Ron DeSantis is against common core, and if common core is gone, so is the basis for the VAM.
    Teachers should be paid more. Both my parents were teachers, and we had a big family; it was tough making ends meet. But my parents were not teachers for the money, but because they wanted to teach young people and help them learn to love learning.
    The VAM requires good test results or your fired, even if the test is not aligned with your curriculum, as they are not in Florida. Teachers must comply and are literally forced to teach to the test while being warned not to do so. So what would you prefer as a teacher, a rise in the minimum salary (only) for teachers, or your autonomy in the classroom? You cannot have both. The pay raise will probably never happen. However, you have a chance that Ron DeSantis will be able to break through the education morass in Tallahassee and give teachers back their autonomy.

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