Wednesday, June 28, 2017


If it wasn't so serious, we would mock it as an overhyped pro wrestling card for a local event: Who's gonna get the smackdown? We know who: those relying on Medicaid for health care coverage.

Progressives, don't get excited and don't get discouraged, Conservatives. We are watching a negotiation and chances are good something will pass Congress for the president's signature.

Analysis of what has happened to date mixed with predictions and a read on the key players:

1. Donald Trump will sign whatever is put before him. He is not interested in the details as long as he can tweet that Obamacare is repealed and he has kept a campaign promise. Any Republican legislation that overturns the additional taxes of the ACA and ends the individual mandate will be seen as the repeal promised for six and a half years.

2. Depending on the final version, the overhaul of federal law governing health care coverage will cause 22 to 26 million people to be uninsured, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

3. The failure of the Senate to have enough votes to pass a 'motion to proceed' to debate mirrors the difficult process the House had in passing legislation. As in the House, moderate Republicans and hard-line Republicans have conflicting goals: preserve expanded Medicaid coverage for the former and curtail Medicaid costs for the latter. We cannot have both.

4. When it comes to Medicaid, the hardliners are pushing for more than repeal of expanded eligibility. They seek to enact, for the first time, limits on how much the federal government will reimburse states for Medicaid expenditures. They seek to provide something akin to a block grant and to disclaim responsibility for the consequences--they want to say the states decided how to cut back on coverage.

5. Key senators who were in the group that drafted the Senate legislation have refused the current version; this is why the Majority Leader had to delay the procedural vote. The legislation has to be revised.

Thus, it is far from certain that the bill is doomed. It is far more likely that the Senate will go the House route by changing the draft to accommodate the hardliners and attempt to force the moderates to go along.

The strategy is far from certainty of success. The Senate majority is far slimmer than the House. But to date, only two Senators have said they will not support a bill that drastically curtails Medicaid coverage.

6. Expect hard bargaining to go on throughout the holiday weekend and the Senate to proceed to debate and a vote the second week of July.

7. Something will pass.

8. And the 2018 campaign will commence. Democrats are in retreat from their losses, but they take heart in this: in our era, every attempt to pass great change in American's access to health care has resulted in a change of power in Congress.

9. The end of the individual mandate is the most problematic part of the Republican effort to overhaul the nation's health care law. Neither the 30% extra charge of the House nor the 6 month wait period of the Senate (they almost didn't do anything to penalize those who will wait until they are sick to sign up for coverage) are great enough to disincentivize the healthy from being uninsured until they are sick and dropping insurance if they become well.

It will be the end of health care insurance, period. No private enterprise will be able to sustain a profitable business model under these circumstances.

10. So in the end, the Republicans may be achieving the goal of progressives (unintentionally) of course. For when the health care insurance market dies, there will be no alternative but for the federal government to provide single-payer coverage.

Friday, June 23, 2017


We are on CONTENT, why HB 7069 is the educational equivalent of the Titanic pulling out of Southhampton, England on her maiden voyage.

3. People will argue that the bill did provide a fund for struggling schools to tap to implement the changes needed to get them out of failing status.

Yes, the bill allocated $2,000 per student for 25 struggling traditional public schools. But the list of schools that must close under this bill is over 100. Winners and losers, dog eat dog world, competition is the end all and be all of human existence, the Darwinian struggle for survival, that is how our legislative leaders, with the complicity of the governor, view the world and structure our civilization.

Thus, 100 or more schools need extra resources, we'll toss out scraps for no more than 25, let the dogs fight.

Hmm, if this analogy was real, these legislators would be put in jail because dog fighting is illegal.

But we're only talking about human children.





(the above blank space is to let that last thought sink in.)

There is more to talk about, always more, but we need to be brief; let's move on to EFFECT.

Charter schools are resegregating our schools and by implication, our society.

Don't tell me charter schools are giving African-American children a chance to escape failing schools in poor neighborhoods when they arrive in charter schools that are almost all black. White children are leaving public schools for schools that are almost all white. 'Choice,' when aggregated in its totality, is resulting in a bad choice.

Separate but equal is inherently unequal. Read it here:

While you have tired of the baby boom generation and wish us to pass into retirement and silence, here is where we must speak up.

We are the generation of desegregation.

We are the generation of federal troops ordered to protect the access of non-white children to the desegregated schools to which they were assigned.

We are the generation of forced busing to move children around cities and school districts to achieve the goal of desegregation and equality of education for all.

Here is our testimony: IT WORKED.

We learned how to relate to people not like us. We learned to form friendships, to play together, to learn together, and, as time moved on, to work together. We learned to live together. Some of us learned how to love one another.

But the legacy charter schools are forming is that they are a vehicle to overturn that. We can go back to the pre-1954 society under the illusion of school choice.

The fact that charter school advocates are being used as proxies in the real undoing of integration through the promotion of school vouchers and the privatization of all schools ought to give everyone pause.


The third category of protest by educational advocates about the new law known as HB 7069 (Florida) is CONTENT.

Despite some good provisions, such as the proviso that mandates 20 minutes of recess for elementary students (well, not if you're in a charter school, those 'public schools' are free to ignore child development needs for movement, free play, and socialization in favor of drills to get that last math answer correct on the TEST ...)

Don't argue that traditional public schools and charter schools are on an equal playing field. They are not.

Even though state tests do not begin until 3rd grade, even kindergarten students face standardized tests from districts, who feel they cannot wait for 3rd grade to train the little buggers how to get them the scores they need ... thus the disappearance of recess ...

It is not a victory, but a condemnation, that a state law is needed to force administrators to meet the needs of children. It should cause you to question what has gone wrong with the system.

Not the system of public schools, but state legislators who act out of ideology and ignorance.

The system of adults who now seek to serve their survival interests by preserving their positions, influence, and salary, rather than doing what's right for children.

Yes, good people, we are dealing with a systemic problem that goes beyond individuals, neighborhoods, and schools. (Hold that thought.)

Back to the CONTENT.

1. School districts now have to share capital dollars, raised through local property taxes, with charter schools. For a district like Duval, where most of the buildings are 50 to 100 years old, the loss of capital dollars to repair and replace these buildings is a challenge. We do not want to become like Detroit, which did not have the money to replace broken windows and the birds flew in and <ahem>ed on the floors and walls. They became so deficient of funds they could not pay a janitorial crew to clean it up. Roofs leaked. Mold grew. Health was imperiled.

The promise of charters has been that they are so much better that they can do it for less and get better results. Why now are they demanding every single dollar they can suck away from traditional public schools? They can't do it for less and they are not doing it better. More or less, the charter sector as a whole only matches the results of public schools. For every charter you can produce that excels, there is one that does much worse. Studies that are not produced by self-serving bodies, and that includes the Florida Department of Education, show that.

That's before we begin the debate over judging schools by one narrow measure: standardized testing.

Suffice it to recognize that school systems have less capital dollars to maintain their facilities.

That is one HUGE problem with charter operations and states. What states are trying to do is establish and run multiple school systems with the resources sufficient for only one.

2. Schools of Hope. In a few paragraphs, I will argue that you cannot conclude these schools are failing from a flawed, once a year test. We have many more expectations of our schools than test performance. This is one of the many ways the public is being bamboozled by billionnaires, hedge funds, and politicians.

What hope do these schools offer? The legislation specifies charter chains like KIPP or (if not intended specifically) Eva Muscowitz's New York Success Academies.

But how do these schools achieve their 'success?' Is it through 'Got To Go' lists such as the Success Academies were  caught keeping?

Is it through 'Teach Like a Champion' techniques and rigid student control methods such as demanding that students keep their eyes on the teacher at all times (tracking) or that they must rigidly sit in their chairs (SLANT)?

Will these Schools of Hope offer hope by counseling out troublesome students as charter schools are known to do?

Will they offer hope by addressing the trauma of violent households and neighborhoods that these students experience every day--so much so that they consider that the normal human experience?

Will they offer hope by arranging for wrap-around student services? Will they provide the support as IEPs demand? Or will they put these students on a Got-To-Go list?

And what makes people think schools are failing because of a flawed, once-a-year test? Florida does not measure student learning and growth. The state only provides a determination of proficiency as defined by debatable standards that ignore child development principles. Any growth measure from the state is really a proficiency standard in disguise.

Who will take on these Schools of Hope? Only those who can pick and choose students and watch the rest of them get on buses to go elsewhere in the school district. Charters know better. That is why they offer the same excuses <ahem> reasons as public schools for why they don't get better results in impoverished neighborhoods.

---Intermission-- I am keenly aware of the internet attention span and it is time to close this post. Enough words. I will carry on in the next.


Preamble: A FB friend was debating with a FB friend and tagged me, like a pro wrestling match, to take over. I make it a point to stay out of FB arguments, as the space for comments, and readers' internet attention spans, are not sufficient for a full and respectful exchange of views. Thus, the dreary tendency of social media debates to descend into arguments and then name-calling. (Not saying that would happen here.)

Disclosure: I teach secondary mathematics in a traditional public school system, currently assigned to a magnet high school. I am an advocate for public schools (and that does not include charter schools, however much they want to call themselves public schools--because they are not) and belong to several advocacy groups.

Full disclosure: 7069 is a prime number. And with that math geekiness moment out of the way, I will not use snark in this post. Many bloggers do. It seems to be expected of the medium but, unfortunately, that at times gets in the way of a respectful exchange of views.

HB 7069 was passed in the overtime portion of the Florida legislative session in Spring 2017. Although it incorporated the carefully crafted compromise between the chambers and parties, the compromise did not include the legislative priorities of the House Speaker, Richard Corcoran (R--Land of Lakes). Speaker Corcoran took the compromise bill on the last day of the regular session (the last day it could be passed) and put out a new and unexpected budget bill (HB 7069) that incorporated the compromise but also put in his demand for a new charter sector called 'Schools of Hope.'

Because he made it a budget bill, the chambers were able to consider it during the overtime days and pass it.

Thus, as we consider why education advocates and professionals denounce the bill, we arrive at the first category of protest: PROCEDURE.

The Florida legislature is notorious for spending 58 or 59 days of its regular session, first in committee, considering draft legislation, and then in session, debating and voting on legislation that passed through all relevant committees, allowing bad bills to die, only to find that in the secret budget negotiations of the final days that REJECTED BILLS show up, bad policy as considered by almost all, in a budget that must have an up or down vote.

Thus, bad legislation bypasses the democratic process to be enacted into law by a few, key leaders including the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.

This is what happened with HB 7069. The provisions insisted upon by Corcoran had already been rejected. His tyrannical move at the end of the regular session to put those rejected policies into a budget bill and force its passage is an abuse of the democratic process.

(As a matter of recent historical note, that is how Florida also got the Best and Brightest bonus program. Rejected by committees, its backer, Eric Fresen, got it put into the final budget.)

The second category of protest is CONFLICT OF INTEREST. (I am being nice by not labeling this category corruption.)

Richard Corcoran's wife is the founder of a charter school: Classical Prepatory School. His ally, Manny Diaz (R--Miami), collects a six-figure salary as the Chief Operating Officer of a charter: Doral College. Michael Bileca (R--Miami, also Chair of the House Education Committee) is listed as the founder and Executive Director of a charter: True North Classical Academy.

Thus, even before we can begin to debate the merits of the bill, we have to recognize the self-serving interests of the men who forced it through.

Maybe I should label this category 'CORRUPTION.'

In better days, such men would recuse themselves from the vote and argue that it passed on merit.

But they don't bother with those niceties anymore. Not in Florida, anyway.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Are You More than a Test Score?

It is a traditional practice of mine to ask my students to reflect on their learning, their struggles, and their experience in my classroom at the end of the year, including questions about what I did well and what I did poorly. Of course, I disguise those questions to keep it constructive: What would you keep? What would you change?

This year, I also asked my Algebra 2 students if they were more than a test score. Here are some of their responses:

  • Yes, not just a test score, but more than a GPA.
  • I know that I am more than a test score, but I still struggle with accepting a bad score as I've been raised to strive for the highest grade and that a bad grade isn't acceptable.
  • Yes, I am more than a test score; test scores don't define who I am.
  • I am more than a test score because a test can only measure your ability to follow directions and comprehend. It doesn't measure your knowledge or the ability to learn.
  • Yes, because mostly tests are just pieces of paper. Education is mostly just how well a person uses their knowledge. Not how high of a number they got.
  • Not at this point.
  • Probably not.
  • I think test scores define and show what you know, so if you do poorly on the test, you most likely are doing poorly in the class.
  • Yes, I am someone who wants to learn.
  • Yeah, of course, but some teachers don't see it that way.
  • Yes. I think tests should be informational because students have bad days on test days. That goes with any ACT, SAT, or final. I am an intelligent young man who can study hard and learn.
  • No.
  • Test scores don't really define anything but the information that you remember.
  • Yes, I am not a good test taker.
  • Yes! I am myself. A number will not determine who I really am ...
  • Yes, I am more than one test score. I tend to go blank on tests when in reality, I know the info and have paid attention in class and have done all the classwork and homework. A test score is just a number. It tells nothing of a true person's personality, work ethic, intelligence, and more. Therefore, it should not define us.
  • Everyone has varying abilities, and some abilities cannot be measured by filling in bubbles on an answer sheet.
  • Throughout my years of hardships in school, nothing and I mean nothing has brought me down more than having low test scores. I truly believe I am much more than a test score. It does not define who I really am.
  • Yes, I'm a student whose mental ability shouldn't be determined based off of a test from two years ago. But the school board only sees us as test scores. They see us as that because they want their schools to be seen as the ones that can help your child succeed in life, but the truth is that they only care about your test scores, not if you have the skills to make it in life.
  • Yes, I am more than a test score. A test score does not define my worth.
  • I do think I am more than a test score. I typically fail most of my in-class tests but I do well in other areas like homework and projects that show my skill level. Some people aren't good test takers and blank on exams, but they're still smart.
  • I don't like taking tests because you can practice one thing and get it, but when you get the test, it's way more difficult and nothing like what you studied, and test scores are how we are judged.
  • Yes, I am, I believe that I do my best work when I'm not under pressure and I make better scores on assignments.
  • Yes, I am more than a test score. I am someone who would like to receive a great education so later in life I can go on to get a great job that I like and will support my family.
  • I would like to say yes but unfortunately, that's not realistic.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

HB 7069

# 1 in a series:

June 15, 2017

The Honorable Rick Scott
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Governor Scott:

In terms of golf, you muffed it. Topped the ball and it dribbled off the tee. And no, Governor, I’m very, very sorry, but you will get no mulligan.

You are signing one of the worst education bills in Florida history, and that’s saying something.

Do you believe in the tyrannical power of government to tell citizens what they will or will not do? Or do you support the democratic right of citizens to determine how much to tax themselves and what they will do with it?

If the latter, why are you signing a bill that forces Floridians to tax themselves and hand the money over to private corporations that operate charter schools? If those schools fail and the corporations vamoose, they own the assets for which they used those capital dollars. The taxpayers lose; they receive no reimbursement.

But it’s worse.

For the ‘Jobs’ governor, you really don’t seem to understand where the jobs are needed.

The action you took today to sign HB 7069 will further destabilize the very neighborhoods where people are desperate for jobs, for hope, and for a better future.

I applaud your fight with Florida’s legislative leaders to wrest budget money for economic development to attract industries to our state and for tourism promotions to bring people for a visit and spending in our tourism areas: beaches, Orlando, the Keys, and more. That is a good move.

But no tourist wants to visit our most impoverished urban neighborhoods. But that’s where our greatest need lies.

What are you doing, Governor Scott, to bring jobs to the places that need them most so their young men won’t conclude that their entrepreneurial instincts have no outlet but in a street corner job, one that brings violence, heartbreak, and misery?

What are you doing, Governor Scott, to bring jobs to the places that need them most so their young women do not turn to the oldest profession in the world?

What are you doing to bring jobs to our urban, impoverished neighborhoods?

The challenge is just and you must answer—or you must stop calling yourself the ‘Jobs’ Governor.

Very truly yours,

Gregory Sampson

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Role of a School Board Member

This morning brings news from California that a school board member is surveying students via Google docs to ask them which of their teachers should be fired.

I'm not making this up:

Check the survey out for yourself.

School board members are elected officials. As such, there are no requirements, no qualifications, no certifications they have to hold to enter office other than receiving a majority of the vote in the election in which they ran.

Thus, it is not surprising that too many don't understand their role.

School board members are the representatives elected to oversee the public school system that is taxpayer funded. As such, they set policy, hire and supervise a superintendent who leads and manages the schools on a daily basis, and fulfill legal responsibilities to approve contracts that legally bind the institution to debt and payments of tax dollars, that govern the employees of the school system, and that fulfill the laws of their state. They work with the superintendent on strategic plans to increase student achievement, meet the growing need for seats in rapidly developing areas, and funding the capital (building, furniture, and equipment) needs of the system.

They are a strategic and important link for constituents, that is, voters and parents, who voice their praise and concerns about their schools.

They have a responsibility to advocate for and defend the community's schools against the forces that would decimate them, often for private profit.

Lastly, school board members serve as the guiding force for the democratic institution that the public schools of America have been and should always be.

School board members are not elected to micromanage schools. They have no say in who is appointed principal, who teaches at the school, and what discipline they think an individual teacher should receive other than to approve sanctions recommended by the superintendent as their legal responsibility.

School board members are not elected to hand over taxpayer-bought assets to private corporations.

School board members are not elected to implement policy hostile to the schools, parents, students, and employees that they represent. They should not be advocating via voice or print that public schools should be closed in favor of 'choice', a buzz word that means privatization. They were not elected to destroy the institution. If that's what they believe in and have any integrity at all, they would resign.

If not, they will find themselves voting to rob taxpayers of their tax dollars. First the taxpayers paid to construct the school, then they have to pay a third party to buy the school, then when the school fails, they can watch the third party sell the property but they won't see the dollars return to the school system. In that event, the word 'thief' is not too harsh to describe those who give their approval.

School board members advocate for their schools. They don't ask students what teachers should be fired. That reveals an ignorance of what takes place in their schools that can only be remedied by actual experience.

They understand and work against the idea that they can run parallel school systems (public, charter, and voucher) on the resources sufficient for only one school system.

They understand that a grading system of schools that relies upon one measure--testing--is insufficient to evaluate the excellence of a school that must also provide meals, counseling, and other support systems to students in desperate need of help.

They are vocal in expressing their appreciation for all their hard-working employees, not only once a year when the calendar arrives in the first week of May, but throughout the year.

It's not easy being a school board member, but these days, no job in education is easy.

School board members are pivotal in easing that burden or making it harder.

On this Sunday in June, I ask every school board member to reflect and consider, then answer the question: am I making it easier or harder?