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The Sentinel Gets it Wrong

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By Jerry Waxman

“All I know is what I read in the papers………………………” Will Rogers

So, what else is new? They recently published two articles on the current contract negotiations between the Orange County School Board (OCPS) and the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association (CTA) with misguided slanted statements as well as with oversimplified rhetoric which is designed to sway public opinion against the teachers and marginalize their professional standing.

When you have an organization that that has made a fiasco out of well meaning collective bargaining over the recent years, reducing the level of professionalism in teachers and support staff, what’s your next move? That’s easy. Let the Orlando Sentinel take positions with facts from only one side and use generalizations to gloss over the true story. The first sentence of each of the recent articles seeks to vilify the CTA. The last we knew it took two sides to bargain. If one side is intransigent on a policy or a contract language, and it takes at least 2 sides to bargain, then bargaining cannot take place. The CTA has learned a lesson over time and it now takes contract language very seriously, as the spirit of the agreement has been broken by OCPS many times over the last 4 years devastating many teachers economically. One result is that CTA plans on tracking the number of teachers who have to rely on public assistance during employment and shortly after retirement. Yes, it is important to work together, but it needs to be done fairly, out in the open and collaboratively.

The point is did the reporter write the articles exactly as they appeared, or did the editor change the tone and nature of them? Quoting from the April 4 article:

The union wasn’t objecting to the raises, per se, but to other elements of the proposed settlement. In many cases, the objections are over language that union leaders contend would reduce teachers’ bargaining power.

They also objected to a middle ground on health care benefits. The district wanted to pass on health care cost increases largely to employees. The union wanted the district to pay the full cost of health insurance premiums for employees opting for higher-benefit plans. The magistrate recommended that the district pay the first 8 percent of any premium cost increases, with any additional costs split between the employees and district.

The union also wanted language that would have forbidden the district from using “directives,” which are written clarifications of expectations, against the employee. The magistrate, M. Scott Milinski, wrote that he couldn’t recommend that change, since directives are intended to improve employee performance.

The latest action by the union appears to be sowing some discord among teachers. Carl Howard, a teacher who has long butted heads with union president Diana Moore, wrote her a letter Thursday demanding that she poll union members — or at least school-level union leaders — on what they want done. “A reasonable person would have settled long ago,” wrote Howard, who is a union representative at Princeton Elementary.

The rejection comes amid a contentious union election, with observers from the Florida Education Association threatening to withdraw oversight.

Had the reporter or the editor properly vetted the people they talked to they would have found Carl Howard a completely unreliable source. True, he and current CTA head Diana Moore are at odds with each other, but that’s been his history for years. He showed the same opposition to past CTA head Mike Cahill and in the process angered mostly everyone in union leadership. In case the Sentinel had forgotten, this is the same Carl Howard, who was a sitting Water & Soil commissioner when he was arrested for shoplifting about $800.00 worth of marking pens a few years ago. Howard is also behind the recall petition for Moore which has pitifully few signatures. Howard has also been using the OCPS e-mail system to push his agenda which is both unethical and not intended for that purpose, which could have the school board take corrective action against the union. Moore has said that she has received a multitude of phone calls and messages from teachers complaining about Howard and his tactics

Then on April 5 The Sentinel again published an article focusing on Moore’s leadership. Here are some excerpts from that article:

The focus of the campaign is Diana Moore, who has brought a combative, aggressive style to the union presidency since she emerged victorious from a contentious election two years ago.

“She’s made enemies of the people we need to be working with,” said Teresa Yates, a West Orange High School teacher who has thrown her support behind Glyniss Hudson, a colleague running against Moore.

Still, Moore has many backers.

“I think she’s done a lot to revitalize the union,” said Vincent Johnston, a teacher at Rolling Hills Elementary who thinks the district has tried to undermine Moore.

Moore has headed the union with a strong hand and little interest in compromise. The school district agreed last month to a proposed settlement that would give 99 percent of Orange teachers a raise of at least $2,475 but also require performance pay.

The union on Wednesday rejected elements of that ruling, which was brokered by a special magistrate.

Why is it that a woman who is steadfast in holding the line is viewed by this local media as combative, yet a man would be seen as being strong? Why is it that a woman who shows leadership is aggressive and a man demonstrating leadership is in control? The issue of demeanor aside, the two recent articles fail to connect the dots in tracking just how much of the governor’s money will not reach the teachers for personal budgeting. It may be as high as 33 Million dollars. The union lost out four years ago on the contract talks because of weak leadership with no negotiating skills, and as a result only came away with $500.00 bonuses for all teachers. The union was determined not to let that happen again. They were much better this time and it was because of stronger, more focused leadership. They made some mistakes but you only learn by going through this kind of experience.

The real culprit here is a lack of understanding the budgeting process by almost every member of the board itself, none more clueless than former chair Joie Cadle. She’s the main reason the teachers did not get raises four years ago, and she’s part of the reason that they are in that situation now. Another part of today’s problem is Chairman Bill Sublette, the only elected official in this entire country with two votes. Sublette is a former state legislator who would never question the state’s directives on VAM scores. Every other county in Central Florida, as well as all large counties in the state seemed OK without using VAM scores to settle, but not OCPS. A third part of the equation is Superintendant Barbara Jenkins. Jenkins is a graduate of the Broad Academy, which is notorious for school reform along with the Gates and Walton Foundations, which are dedicated to rigid testing, vouchers, mislabeled school choice and devaluation of teachers in general. It’s no wonder that OCPS schools are up for the Broad Prize, which was just announced on April 9. Barbara Jenkins needs to share her philosophy on union-management partnerships and the process of collective bargaining. Both the teachers and the public would like to know if Superintendent Barbara Jenkins is anti-union.

Most importantly did the Sentinel research the backgrounds of the candidates that have made comments in those articles that show an appearance to be biased in favor of one side? Is the Orlando Sentinel attempting to influence the CTA’s leadership in the upcoming election that will be held on April 11? Collective bargaining cannot properly occur with a board that begins and ends with the philosophy of “take it, leave it or lump it”. On the other hand, “advanced” public school districts with the highest scores from state to state on national tests also have the most productive union-management partnerships with true collective bargaining. They keep their word on agreements made avoided twisting terminology and false claims of legality. The issue here is what’s best for the children? This current school board has shown time and again that the 187,000 children in the system don’t matter to them. Obviously Jeb Bush’s education policies along with the Broad Foundation’s headlong attempt to destroy public education as we know it mean much more to them. The only people who actually do care about the children are the teachers. That’s why they teach. It’s certainly not to get rich.

It is the vision of CTA President, Diana Moore and her supporters to walk the narrow line through negotiations for a win-win result and a stronger contract to guide the growth of students, parents and teacher professionalism in Orange County Schools.

But Wait!!! There’s More—This just in!

In the April 5 Sentinel the article stated:

In a harshly-worded statement, FEA president Andy Ford wrote that the local committee overseeing the Orange CTA election “has no prior experience or expertise in conducting an election and that some members do not have the required neutrality to administer a complex elections process.” He said that the FEA would not continue to help oversee the election without specific direction from the CTA about what the expected role of FEA staff is.

Apparently, the Sentinel had gotten hold of an e-mail sent to Moore and others on her board expressing FEA’s concerns. When questioned by the Sentinel, Ford expressed confidence that the elections will be fair. Of course, when you read the article that statement wasn’t there. At 10:38 AM on April 9 Ford sent word to Moore that after several exchanges with union representatives he was rescinding his withdrawal of support, and at the same time he bemoaned the fact that the Sentinel chose to be deliberately misleading. Here are portions of the e-mail he sent to Moore:

Following thoughtful messages and requests from several committee members, I am rescinding my withdrawal of support for the election. The Chief of Staff has directed Tom Fackender and Aaron Hilligas to once again provide active support to the Elections and Surveys Committee, although they have continued to provide requested support to the co-chairs since last Wednesday because they knew the committee required that help.

Based on the work of the Committee and our staff, we believe that a foundation now exists for that purpose going forward.

I am aware that my email last week was provided to the press. That is an unfortunate occurrence most likely the result of someone forwarding a copy to the reporter, a likely symptom of the atmosphere that now exists in your local. We had no role in that release. When asked for comment by the Sentinel reporter, we told them that we were completely confident that the election was being conducted in a fair and legal manner and that our differences were related to lines of responsibility only. The Sentinel chose not to report our comments.

Stay tuned for further developments. There’s more to come.

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“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!”

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By Jerry Waxman

In B. Traven’s 1927 novel, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, part of the plot involved outlaws pretending to be police in order to murder the American gold prospectors for whatever loot they could steal. In the novel, Bob Curtin asks them for identification to which one of them replied: “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges (expletive deleted)!”  This was at a time following the Mexican Revolution when many of the revolutionaries split up into bandit gangs. The Mexican government had their own police force, The Federales, as well as the army dispensing quick justice to those that they caught. The 1948 movie was as faithful to the novel as the Hollywood Code would allow, but there were a few changes that did not impede the story. In the movie Fred C. Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) asks the question, and Gold Hat (Alfonso Bedoya) responds with the now immortal quote in this piece’s title. Taken as pure entertainment The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is one of my favorite all time movies, and I’ve also read the book. If people actually read the books that most of these movies were adapted from they would be aghast at the liberties taken and regard them, no matter how entertaining, as cheap imitations. I hate what Hollywood has done to Steinbeck and Hemingway and so many others. So, why this diatribe? That’s simple; I hate cheap imitations and I hate fraudulent representations like Teach For America.

Yes, it’s coming to OCPS and that is tragic. Ask yourself a few questions. Would you choose a doctor or dentist who only had five weeks of training out of college and not a member of the AMA to diagnose and treat you? Would you hire someone who only had five weeks of training without having taken the bar exam, and is not a member of the ABA to represent you? Would you hire any professional be it an electrician, plumber, air conditioner repairman who isn’t licensed? If you would even think about it you’re a fool. There are plenty of con artists out there who fool people all the time and they pay dearly for it. TFA is just another con that our very lackluster school board has fallen for. Shame on them. OCPS spends well over a billion dollars on construction and maintenance every year and I’m sure that their building contractors are quite reputable. That’s no Penny Saver handyman doing that construction, yet they’re quite willing to put people in the classroom that are in no way qualified to teach our most precious assets, who don’t have any stinkin’ badges. Where’s the sense there?

You might want to blame it on OCPS. Their divisive policies have forced 2300 teachers out of the system since 2012 with more to follow. They’re still fighting the teachers over a minimum raise which should have been settled long ago, yet they are willing to bring in TFA people and pay them the same money as hard working teachers who have years of classroom management experience as well as professional credentials in their chosen fields. The money will be supplied by funding from Race to the Top, which is something that any sensible school board would have rejected, but then this board has no guts. Instead of advocating for the children, they act as babysitters for their funders. They are as culpable as any Orange County and state agency, yet they could not have that power unless they were elected, and there is the missing part of the equation. Shakespeare said it eloquently: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”  There’s more to that quote but its meaning is clear; we elected them without knowing who they are or what they do and we pay for it dearly. This is very traceable back to former governor Jeb Bush, who at the time was quite popular. Unfortunately, the Bush era brought in legislators that harmed this state, especially in the area of education. Bush founded some foundations that set about to siphon off public money to fund unaccountable charters and enable nonproductive testing to evaluate teachers and school systems. The real enemy of education in this state is Jeb Bush and his minions, yet he was able to convince big money, like The Waltons, The Broads and The Gates Foundation to go along with his ideas. Until we completely discredit and reject Jeb Bush, Florida will wallow in less than mediocre stature

Why do we elect people who do us harm? Why do we elect people who leave us worse off than we were before? The answer to me is obvious. It’s from another famous novel and movie, All the king’s Men, where the main character reveals who the voters really are: “Now listen to me, you hicks. Yeah, you’re hicks too, and they fooled you a thousand times like they fooled me.” Again, this is not the entire quote but the message is clear-the average voter in this state is a hick who will continue to be fooled come election time. The eleventh largest school system in the country deserves much better. I just got this e-mail from Diana Moore, president of the Orange County CTA and I want to share it with you:

“Our school board members think that spending the $1.5 million additional dollars they just received from Race To The Top on a group called Teach For America is a wise investment.

Well, your Orange County teachers want you to know, that there is NO substitute for training and experience!

Orange County children don’t deserve a revolving door of teachers due to the low morale, inconsistent implementation of this evaluation system by poorly trained principals and assistant principals and holding their step level raises hostage. 2300 teachers have resigned in Orange County since 2012.  The school board members set the tone and vision for our schools, but you as voters elect them.

Paying TFA $41k and $3250 bonuses after 5 weeks of training to go into inner city schools is another slap in the face to your hard working Orange County teachers who have still not settled their contract to bring starting pay up by $3000 to $40k. That is $26.00 an hour to $28.10 since not getting a raise since 2007.

Parents and community members, now is the time to ask your school board, what they are planning for your children, and If the question at the end of the day will be “Who was your teacher today?” instead of “How was your day today?”

Read this article to see:

http://atthechalkface.com/2013/06/30/an-open-letter-to-new-teach-for-america-recruits/

Meet at 445 W. Amelia Street at 4:00 on March 11th to stand with our teachers before the next school board meeting.

These members are running for re-election in August 2014: Joie Cadle-District 1, Bill Sublette, Chairman, Daryl Flynn, District 2, and District 3. Call them about your concerns at407-317-3200.

Diana.Moore@floridaea.org

This is not a time to sit back and complain about what’s going on. This is a time to take direct action. The teachers need the support of the public and the public needs to know the facts. There’s an election coming in August and it’s time for the public to demand accountability from these people. After all, these are Public Schools we’re talking about. I have no complaint at this time on the construction projects recently. These edifices are magnificent and beautifully done. They were built by first class, licensed and insured builders. Shouldn’t what goes on inside these structures demand the same degree of competence and professionalism that went into building them? And OCPS and CTA teachers DO have those stinkin’ badges.

No Time for Talking

By Jerry Waxman

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The Orange County School Board meets on Tuesday afternoons and discusses its business supposedly in public. It has all the trappings of being public. The only thing missing is the public. Why, you ask? Simple…The board meets at times when most of the working public is either still working or in transit after a hard day at the office or the factory or school. School, you ask? Of course! Teachers don’t leave when the bell rings. Aside from those who coach, or tutor, or advise clubs there is still a lot of work to do getting ready for tomorrow’s classes, or brushing up on curriculum changes or any one of a thousand other things that teachers of past generations never had to experience. Today’s teachers are better educated, better prepared and better equipped than their predecessors, trained by mentors from my generation and my parents generation, yet they are treated by the system as domestic help or even worse. No other professionals such as lawyers, doctors or CPAs would put up with such treatment. Even bad financial advisors with lousy track records get better treatment and a lot more money. Most of the people who show up for board meetings are people directly connected to or working for the board or have proposals (use your imagination here) to present to the board. So, you get the picture; the real public is nowhere to be found. The people whose taxes actually pay the salaries of these officials are absent, and that’s completely by design. After all, why would a body elected by the people want to have anything to do with people? It interferes with business.

The School Board and the teachers have been in contract negotiations since early in the year and there is no resolution in sight. Back in September the Board’s negotiating team declared negotiations at an impasse, which means that a special magistrate has to resolve the dispute as part of the process. The process has been delayed partially because of the government shutdown and there has been no meaningful dialog to reach a settlement. Recently, the board sent a letter to CTA union president Diana Moore which urged the teachers to accept the offer on the table. Moore and the CTA felt that the suggestions and terms violated more NLRB rules than previously. The CTA official position is that they’ll wait for the magistrate’s decision. It’s as much a protest on their treatment and lack of respect as it is about the money.

At Tuesday night’s meeting the teachers held a rally outside the Board’s building on Amelia Street at 5:00. They had planned to register to speak, not on contract matters but on the teacher evaluation system which completely disrespects their professionalism, during the public comment period of the meeting.  After all, they may be OCPS employees, but they are also members of the public who have every right to speak at these meetings. The Board knew better and in their published agenda declared that there would be no public comment at this meeting. They did, however, deign to allow Moore to address them in their private meeting for a whole five minutes prior to the public meeting. Moore, showing her frustration, came out to the crowd and handed out adhesive bandages to the assembled to signify the silencing of teachers’ voices as well as the public’s voice. Teachers as taxpayers are asking to be heard. Sandy Stenoff, a parent commented on the fact that parents are not aware if what teachers are dealing with and asked them to share with parents, or taxpayers about the problems with this flawed system. This battle is far from being over and the taxpayer funded School Board has given itself yet another black eye. That’s what should be bandaged.

The Don’t Blame Us Game

By Jerry Waxman

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 “Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little: cheep, cheep, cheep talk a lot pick a little more.”

 

Meredith Willson’s delightful chorus number from The Music Man is an apropos way to start this conversation. The song, if you remember, features the School Board members in counterpoint (Good Night Ladies) telling the town’s ladies to go home and stop talking. Fast forward from River City circa 1905 to Orange County 2013 and see if this sounds familiar. Now obviously no one was told to shut up and go home, at least not blatantly but the tone was “Don’t bother us! We’re busy trying to adopt a workable budget, and besides we’re not the bad guys; blame your state legislators, or blame the sequester or blame the anemic tax base etc. You teachers need to work out a deal with our negotiators.”

The budget, as presented in a Power Point presentation showed mostly bullet points with a brief explanation by CFO Richard Collins on both revenues and expenditures. A brief explanation of a three billion dollar budget still takes quite a while but the outcome of the discussion is “We don’t have enough money to fully fund your raise.” The teachers countered with “Don’t cry poor all the way to the bank!” Diana Moore, President of the Classroom Teachers Association pointed out that the overage in the fund balance in 2012 was three hundred eighty million dollars and as of June 30 this year the overage was over four hundred thirteen million. The excuses that the Board is not in control of that money, and there are regulations and minimums fell on completely deaf ears as well it should. There’s no explainable excuse other than they don’t want to ruffle political feathers instead of finding a way to satisfy teachers. Two Board members weren’t even there for the most important meeting on the schedule. I don’t know why Nancy Robbinson was absent but former chairman, Joie Cadle, had an important meeting with some business people. Obviously that took priority over a three billion dollar budget and satisfying teacher concerns.

Once the budget explanations were finished, despite showing up over a half hour late the Board took a recess despite the very vocal objections of the over capacity room. Everyone on the teachers side, perhaps a hundred and fifty or more started shouting, er chanting “Vote Them Out!” a couple of dozen times.

After the break it was time for public comment. Some of this stuff is heartbreaking. The links will be at the end of the article. The board then voted unanimously to adopt the budget without even trying to accommodate the teachers. So much for advocacy for its chief asset that helped this board make a record number of A & B schools. A word to this board in particular-scorned lovers can wreak the kind of revenge you’ve never dreamed of. Sometimes it is definitely better to give than receive. If the teachers and their allied unions ever get their collaborative acts together they will control the election process in Orange County, although you couldn’t see it last evening. Only Steve Clelland from the Orlando Firefighters and a few people from Unite Here were there in support. Sure, the AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles was on, but a Central Labor Council with over 40,000 members that couldn’t scrape up thirty or forty members to show support for a sister union is tragic. The teachers and the public deserve better.

Round three of the contract talks will start Thursday morning. Let’s see what happens. Excuse me please while I egest my breakfast.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuvL9Ca0HsI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnvBi-pwEqs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLHLlM7Ym08

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ot83T632BE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAPwRb16v7Y

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cil_4YI3aYw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzRc8Ag29L8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPADweMXJ90

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HYpBtzCGXQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1fPVolMjk4

Stoonts…..First? Don’t Make Me Laugh!

 

By Jerry Waxman

You have to love Al Capp. He was one of the most outspoken social critics of the mid twentieth century; he made no bones about it, and he did it through his art-the comics. He was the creator of Li’l Abner, the proverbial fish out of water and his comic strip viewed the world through the lens of Dogpatch, Kentucky USA. He poked fun at everyone including other cartoonists with his parodies of Little Orphan Annie, Mary Worth and especially Dick Tracy. His Fearless Fosdick character ran intermittently  for over thirty years and other than the Shmoo, he was the most popular character excluding the Yokum family and the residents of Dogpatch. He also parodied real people such as Charles E. Wilson. Wilson was President of General Motors who became President Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense. Wilson made the famous statement “What was good for the country was good for General Motors and vice versa.” Capp parodied him as General Bullmoose (“What’s good for me is good for everybody.”) and he eventually became the symbol for corporate greed and the Military Industrial Complex. During the late 60’s he turned to the protest movement and created “Joanie Phonie”, a send up of singer Joan Baez, however he denied it was specifically Ms. Baez. He also commented on the student uprisings in 1968 and created the organization that encompassed SDS, SNCC and all of the others called SWINE (Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything). When SWINE took over the college campus, the MOB came to take over the school’s administration and addressed them in the mob vernacular as “stoonts.”  The only reason the mob got involved is because it was profitable. The mob did not and does not invest in losing propositions. And that’s where this story begins. Indulge me, dear reader, but you need to have some context about where we are and where we’re going. The mob referred to were the gangsters of the era. The new mob that has taken over is a combination of the Banksters, hedge fund managers and foundations who generously fund education reform for profit. If it weren’t profitable they wouldn’t be in it. These people don’t give money away-they demand their pound of flesh or its monetary equivalent in return.

With that in mind let’s look at the mob’s latest scheme, carefully coded and messaged into the words “choice, failing schools, great teachers, leadership and innovation.” It’s the same old story that’s been going on for years since Brown vs Board of Education spurred the voucher and privatization movement under the aegis of Milton and Rose Friedman ( yes, that Milton Friedman) whose ideas couldn’t gain any kind of foothold until the billionaires started up their think tanks in the late sixties and early seventies. The Reagan presidency gave those ideas potency, if not credibility and they’ve gone full steam ever since. Florida is ripe territory, especially because of former governor Jeb Bush who is part of the whole education reform process, and whose ghost still keeps this state in his grasp.

They tried it two years ago and it didn’t work out all that well. The Koch Brothers’ funded Americans For Prosperity sent Dick Morris and Ralph Reed among others to talk about school choice. Orlando was one of their stops and they met a tone of resistance from the community and protesters. Their coded message was simple-minorities don’t count. Get your kids into a more segregated atmosphere that you control. This time they changed the game plan and targeted the black audience through the Urban League. The message was absolutely the same-get your kids into a more segregated atmosphere that you control. So, under the sponsorship of the Urban League of Florida the “We Care” Traveling Circus was initiated to travel around the state in high minority urban areas disseminating their well-rehearsed and carefully coded propaganda.

They invaded Orlando on September 5 and settled into the Hope Church in the heart of the black community and were greeted by an audience of less than 50 people, many of whom were staff members who had to be there. Publicity was nil and no one would have known it save for a few activists who got wind of it and sent it out via social media. Allie Braswell, president of the Central Florida Urban League hosted the event and declared that his organization held no particular position on the matter, which is suspect for a couple of reasons. First, there was no differing point of view on the panel. No one on the panel stood up to extol the virtues of public schools. Secondly, these type of organizations depend on funding from many sources, including the Gates and Walton foundations and astroturf groups like Students First, whose Florida Executive Director, Troy Bell, was part of the panel. It’s very likely that the Urban League receives funding from one or more of these sources. You can find out by asking to examine their books, which they can’t refuse to do. Braswell is in a tough position because he is basically a good man and I like him. He recently filed to run for the office of Florida CFO but had to withdraw for reasons I’ll not go into because I completely disagree with them. He should have stayed in the race. It’s also possible that he had no control over this because it was mandated at the state level. Let’s give him a pass because he is definitely committed to better education, and he has to do his job. The rest of this cast of characters is a different story.

“It is better to look good than to feel good”- Fernando Lamas as portrayed by Billy Crystal

 

That sums up in a nutshell what’s going on. The people they are trying to reach don’t pay a lot of attention to politics and many of them are not registered voters. Lots of them don’t have computers or cable so their news intake is limited. They are prime victims for smooth talking con artists who sound like they know what they’re talking about. Make no mistake about it; this was a con of the first degree. Moderator Monica May kept on cheerleading the remarks as they spoke. Here’s how the con works:

  1. The Setup. USF Professor Dr. Bruce Jones talks about the disparity in the public schools and percentages of children who are failing. He’s got great credentials but I get the feeling that the statistics don’t tell the whole story. Only what he wants them to tell.
  2. The Bait. Dr. Ella Thompson of the Florida Dept of Education was supposed to address the Common Core, but all she did was to spout the state line. She knew nothing about budgets and couldn’t talk on any subject except her narrow focus. Interestingly enough, she came to the department at the same time that Rick Scott hired disgraced education boss Tony Bennett. She’s still pretty new at the game, but she reminds me of Rod Paige who never directly answered a question and kept referring everyone to No Child Left Behind without ever bothering to explain it.
  3. The Justification. Isha Haley of Black Floridians Care spoke about starting a whole slew of neighborhood schools with great teachers and fabulous leadership, without ever addressing the pitfalls of no money to start, staff and maintain them. She blamed Brown vs Board of Education for the miseries the kids are suffering today. So, in effect she’s advocating to restore segregation as our society is becoming (albeit slowly) more homogenous. But Boy! She sounded great!
  4. The Hook. As he introduced himself Troy Davis, Executive Director for Florida Students First never mentioned his boss Michelle Rhee, founder of the organization by name. Why? Don’t you think that he would be proud to serve under her? In that audience more than half the people probably never heard of her and have no idea of her cheating scandals and manipulated test scores in Washington D.C. The rest of his speech was all about him and his accomplishments. I’d like to know what connections he has to Tony Bennett since he spent a bunch of time in Indiana. Again, the rhetoric about no excuses and failure is not an option. No charter school child fails because they’re thrown out and the schools don’t give the taxpayers their money back.
  5. The Net. Glen Gilzean, of Step Up For Students cemented the hook and netted the fish by being a little more humble and a lot less arrogant than Davis. The result was the same.

During the Q & A period the questions were rather mundane. There was one charter school Nap Ford that boasted of gains due to tremendous leadership yet no other charters were present to tell their stories. There was one dissenting voice, however. Kathy Hettinger, a Democratic activist took the entire panel to task for their hypocrisy. Hettinger spoke rapid fire and was sometimes hard to understand because as passionate as she is she’s not a good public speaker and many times she opens her mouth before her brain is fully engaged. So, what’s the verdict? Watch the videos and decide for yourselves. My only complaint about the entire evening was that by the time I got home I had missed the first 10 minutes of Vertigo and Bernard Hermann’s fabulous overture. Oh, one other question-what would Al Capp think of this fiasco?

Senior Power

Posted on

By Jerry Waxman

Allretamer

If you’re watching certain TV programs that treat grandma and gramps as doddering old folks then you need to read this. If the TV commercials that tout the new painless lubricated catheters via Chuck Woolery, or Joe Theismann hawking his new prostate pills, or Wilford Brimley with his sundry products, Fred Thompson or Robert Wagner begging you to reverse your mortgage are too much for you to endure, then this is also for you, if only to make you aware that seniors today are not as gullible as marketers would portray them. These new pitchmen are the next generation of senior snake oil salesmen after Art Linkletter and Arthur Godfrey, Joe Weider and Jack LaLanne. Just think what it will be like when Justin Bieber and Angelina Jolie start doing it in 50 years. The pitch won’t change a lot, but the products and their paid shills will. Seniors have always been ripe prey for swindlers and charlatans. Fortunately, there is a cure for this. It’s called factual information.

 The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans is located in Wellington, Florida. Its president, Tony Fransetta has built the organization’s membership to 200,000 over the years, and no grass grows under his feet. Fransetta, at age 78, keeps up a pace that people half his age would be envious of. The same goes for his board members, who attended the 2013 Annual Convention and Board meeting on June 3rd and 4th in Orlando. The Alliance is made up of mostly retired union members, so they have a united purpose.

 Just like any annual board meeting, the agenda called for reports from the president on down through officers, committees and clubs. Old business was discussed and future meetings planned. Since this was a convention of seniors and former union members and activists there were several guest speakers dealing with diverse issues that affect seniors. One of the event sponsors was Humana and their reps Barbara Wagner and Sherri Johnson spoke on health care. Many Central Florida state legislators spoke including State Representatives Linda Stewart Dist. 47, Randolph Bracy, Dist. 45, Victor Torres Dist 48 and Karen Castor Dentel Dist. 30. State Senators included, Darren Soto Dist. 14 and Geraldine Thompson Dist.12. Also speaking was Susannah Randolph, District Director from Congressman Alan Grayson’s office. Notably absent were any officials from either the City of Orlando or Orange County Government. Strange too, because the city operates several senior centers that would greatly benefit from an alliance with FLARA. Well, unrealistic soccer stadiums and creative villages are much more important than playing around with old people. It’s also strange that Property Appraiser Rick Singh didn’t attend either since he publicly announced a month ago at May’s County Watch meeting that he was aggressively reaching out to seniors to notify them of the tax breaks they qualify for and that there were employment positions open for just that purpose.

 Featured speakers covered a range of fields including health care management, Social Security and oddly enough, buying American products from American companies plus environmental concerns.

 

Buy! Oh noble buyer, buy your merchandise from me!

(Bazaar of the Caravans, from Kismet by Wright & Forrest)

 

Oh, if only it were that simple. Today there are hundreds of retail outlets and thousands of manufacturer brands available. Isn’t the free market wonderful? Sure, if you don’t care where your money goes. American retailers for the most part are not buying from American suppliers, so a large part of their buying power is going to businesses outside the USA. What’s worse is that many American made products are not owned by Americans, which means that the profits don’t stay in the USA; they go into the pockets of foreign owners, which means that those profits are not taxed here. It’s going to get even worse if The United States foolishly signs on to the Trans Pacific Partnership, but that’s another story.

 Roger Simmermaker has written two books, My Company ‘Tis of Thee and How Americans Can Buy American, on how to buy things that are made in this country. He regularly sends out e-mail alerts on products. His company is called Consumer Patriot Corporation. Here’s his website, www.howtobuyamerican.com, and you can sign up for his newsletter and buy his books through it. Roger actually is employed by a government contractor and this is not how he makes his living, however, he is passionate about buying American and this is his passion. In his books he cites over 2400 products that are made here and the list is growing. Even this informed audience was shocked to learn that soaps like Lever 2000 are owned by a British and Dutch consortium. Heinz has recently been bought in part by investor Warren Buffet, but 50% of Heinz is foreign owned. Who knows what will happen there. Do you like Budweiser, Coors or Miller beers? That’s nice. Busch Brewing, Miller and Coors are now owned by a Belgian Multinational and a couple of Brazilian billionaires. As Simmermaker explains, if all the foreign owned American companies were actually paying taxes on their profits we would not have the revenue and debt problems we now have.

When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn’t got time for the waiting game.

(September Song, from Knickerbocker Holiday by Kurt Weil and Maxwell Anderson)

 

 The most compelling speaker at the event was Laura J. Feldman, Grassroots Manager of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare. She has a great sense of humor and knows her subject intimately. It’s almost impossible to blurb or sound byte what she said, so here’s the video of her presentation. Unfortunately, people kept bumping into the tripod so the video is a little shaky. What Ms. Feldman pointed out is that what you don’t know can definitely hurt you.

The shadows sway and seem to say tonight we pray for water, Cool water. And way up there He’ll hear our prayer and show us where there’s water, Cool Water.

(Cool Water by Bob Nolan with the Sons of the Pioneers)

Adrienne Katz from the Orange County League of Women Voters gave a presentation on the water crisis that’s facing Florida. The League is right now working on a petition drive to preserve Florida’s water and land conservation heritage. Katz gave a brand new audio-visual presentation on how fragile our eco-system and especially water really is. Seniors need to know these things because the quality of our drinking water affects their health.

What came out during these presentations is that too many seniors pay too little attention to issues that affect them. They accept what the corporate media tells them and once these myths are in their minds it’s awfully hard to get them to see the truth. A group such as the Alliance, which has millions of members nationwide is constantly striving, through lobbying and information sharing, but they need to get more members who will be involved. After all, who is going to protect us from Pat Boone?

Darn That Dream-Awake the State

By Jerry Waxman

Back on March 8, 2011 Awake the State rallied in many of Florida’s communities including Orlando. The Orlando rally attracted hundreds of people and many speakers who all were all on the same page: Hey, Governor Scott and the legislature, we can’t afford your budget cuts that affect the middle class in order to pay for more tax breaks for large corporations. Guess what happened? Neither Scott nor his Republican allies listened to the people. Their campaign promises about bringing jobs to the state never materialized and the entire legislative focus was on austere budget cuts that actually lost jobs in the state along with voter suppression bills, restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, cutbacks in state employee pensions and anti-middle class measures that gave big corporations huge tax breaks at taxpayers’ expense.

 

Florida was by no means the only state to do this. At the same time that the Florida Lawmakers were having their way other states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey and Indiana were experiencing the same thing. Wisconsin did something about it as did Ohio. The results of the Wisconsin protests are that two Republican state senators lost their recall elections thereby almost restoring balance to the state. Governor Scott Walker is being recalled and the hope is that he will be defeated if he runs for re-election. The citizens of Ohio overturned anti-union laws in November. Democrats in Indiana are fighting anti-union legislation at the present time. The citizens of Florida are now gearing up to fight the repressive Republican initiatives and the movement is gaining strength.

 

At the same time last year as these radical measures were being tested in the US, resistance forces were awakening in the middle east and were successful in toppling governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, with major resistance still going on in Syria, Bahrain and Yemen. Other countries in the region are experiencing ongoing civil protests and unrest. The name given the uprisings is the Arab Spring or the Arab Awakening and it shows no signs of abatement.

 

In Florida the people at Organize Now, Florida Watch Action and other like minded groups sprang into action.  They organized rallies to “Pink Slip Rick”, a term to fire the current governor even though the Florida Constitution does not allow for recalls of state officials. Any time the governor speaks publicly within Central Florida there is always a crowd showing up with “Pink Slip Rick” signs, most notably at a donut shop in Tampa several months ago. “Pink Slip Rick” is catching on throughout the state and requests for t-shirts and bumper stickers are increasing every day. Susannah Randolph, wife of State Representative Scott Randolph has also drawn attention to the repression of women’s rights by mockingly announcing that she would incorporate her uterus because it has more rights as a corporation than she does as a woman. Her husband spoke about it on the house floor thereby arousing the ire of House Speaker Dean Cannon who attempted to ban the word in chambers. The incident drew national media exposure and MSNBC ran with it for a long time. It remains one of the funniest political inanities of the year yet it shows the house Republicans to be without humor, incredibly uptight and terribly sensitive to criticism.

 

At the same time on a national scale Tea Party influenced Republicans in Congress were doing whatever they could to tank the already fragile economy and restrict a robust recovery in any way possible strictly for political advantage. It was at this fateful moment in time that average people were beginning to realize that our system of government at all levels had been co-opted by powerful corporate interests who had the power to influence political outcomes detrimental to all save a powerful few. Thus, the Occupy Movement was born in this country. Occupy Wall Street led the way, and all of the Occupying movements are having their effect on their respective communities. The Occupations have shown that organizing and direct actions are having their effect.

 

According to the Press release issued Jan 10 all of these rallies coincided with the first day of the Florida legislative session where there were also major demonstrations taking place by concerned citizens who want legislators to focus on protecting and expanding Florida’s middle class. Florida’s taxing structure places a much higher burden on working families than on major corporations who barely pay any taxes at all. “That’s not fair” said Amy Ritter of Florida Watch Action. Sheena Rolle of Organize Now said “We will continue to fight extreme Tallahassee Republicans, led by Rick Scott, until we see these anti-middle class policies changed and the middle class and job creation is the focus in Florida once again. The fight for the future of Florida has begun. As a part of the protests these groups are handing out flyers with the names of the Republican legislators who have acted like Scott puppets and a list of “Dirty Dozen” businesses that financially supported Scott’s 2010 campaign. The flyers have been distributed around the state as part of the protests. More information can be found at www.pinksliprick.com/dirtythirty.

 

So, Awake the State was blessed with nineteen actions from around the state, and Orlando’s rally was a resounding success. It is not always easy to get a crowd of people downtown at 4:00 PM on a workday, but there was a crowd of over 100 people charged up and ready to demonstrate outside of the Progressive Center. Other cities reported similar crowds with similar agendas. This was not a crowd of fringe people. This was a crowd of working people, college students, recently laid off professionals looking to get back to work and political activists. There were many “Pink Slip Rick” shirts in attendance. Several candidates for local offices were there in support, most notably Jeff Ashton, who has announced that he will be running for State Attorney against his former boss, Lawson Lamar, and Mayoral hopeful Michael Cantone, who is looking to unseat current mayor Buddy Dyer. Before the actual rally there were a series of chants to warm up the crowd.

 

Sheena Rolle acted as emcee and welcomed the crowd. She introduced Steve Clelland, head of the Orlando Firefighters who pointed out the hypocrisy of his representative, Fred Costello, when he was mayor of Ormond Beach opted for a defined benefit plan, yet introduced an anti defined benefit plan as soon as he went to the legislature. He also spoke about Rep. Chris Dorworth who accepted union money and then filed legislation to restrict union dues from being deducted from their paychecks because they were giving money to politicians. He also blasted the Orlando Chamber of Commerce who pays a dollar a year rent for over 40 years on the property yet sponsored ads that blame public employees for the current crisis. Clelland intimates that public employees are going to be changing their registrations and start campaigning against these particular legislators.

 

Sisters Ana and Ida Eskimani are two pint sized powerhouses active in the College Democrats at UCF who complained about the voter suppression bills that have restricted registration by college students. Diana Moore with the Classroom Teachers of America spoke about the need for legislators and parents to be more accountable and responsible in order to bring education to the forefront again. She spoke about the need for proper funding of public education in order to achieve first rate goals.

 

Booker Perry, a retired firefighter who made headlines recently when he was evicted in a foreclosure action spoke about the trials of people who have to leave their homes. The new voter suppression laws have made it extremely difficult for people to reregister to vote. For many people this is a hardship that will prevent them from voting in the next election. Andy Dominguez, head of Latino Leadership is heavily invested in voter registration for minorities. He spoke against the repressive voter suppression laws.

 

Once the speakers were done it was time to march. Chanting and sign waving were the order of the day and based on the number of approving horn honks from rush hour traffic it was a very successful rally.