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Column: Jeb’s education cuts no time for singing

The local news can be interesting. Less the stupid special interest stories, of course. Local stations must get some kind of kickback for each time they show images of dogs in turtleneck sweaters or dogs swimming. Or perhaps just dogs in general?Otherwise, local news is informative. But the other day I had to laugh as I watched our valiant Gov. Jeb sitting amongst children at a school as they sung him “Happy Birthday.”

The scene cut to Jeb talking about how, this year, he was going to focus on reading in Florida public schools because too many students couldn’t read at their grade level.

Wherever he is buried, John Dewey must be rolling in his grave. Elsewhere, Katherine Harris and at least half of the USF Board of Trustees are celebrating, dancing a Conga line to the Queen tune “We are the Champions.”

This year? How can Jeb hope to make any changes to the bottom feeding Florida public education system? And why this year? Why not last, when in December he cut $639 million from the education budget?

According to Jeb, he did do something last year. He raised the allocation per student from $4,923 last year to $4,949 this year, an increase of 0.1percent. Jeb expects the extra 26 bucks will cover the rising cost of facilities maintenance and teachers’ salaries. The real truth is that public schools are getting comparatively less than they did 12 years ago. Public universities are dead last in the country in availed funding. In spending on students in general, Florida is thirty-eighth in the country. I guess Jeb could say that we are middle of the pack.

But, national rankings aside, one has only to glance at Jeb’s “advancements” in public education in Florida to see the man is a farce. He has turned school vouchers, a bad idea, into bad policy. Setting aside the constitutionality of the issue, the ramifications of school vouchers and how they are received is staggering.

The FCAT, the test that determines if students in “failing” schools receive vouchers, has turned into a pissing contest amongst schools. Administrators raffle bikes and gift certificates for student attendance on FCAT testing days. Teachers’ raises are based on the scores of their class. Curriculum is being centered not around information a well-rounded student should know but things that will be on the test.

There’s also Jeb’s “One Florida Initiative,” a move by the Bush clan in Tallahassee to try to convince the citizens of the state and the rest of the nation that discrimination in Florida is such a non-issue that there is no need to keep in place the standards that have governed the university acceptance process for decades.It’s as if Jeb, who’s shown he’s far from an educational genius, knew something that the countless experts who were skeptical about the move didn’t.

The fact is that Jeb doesn’t know much about education. He doesn’t care much about education. He’s more concerned with building roads and courthouses and jails. His concern for the life of education is not altruistic. Instead, he’s simply fishing for votes in a very close election year.

Jeb’s record says a lot about his concern for how well students can read. He’s as concerned as I am about whether tonight’s news will have more pictures of cute little puppies.

  • Joe Roma is majoring in political
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