Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rick Scott: Enemy of the People's Education

Oh, Florida. Why can't you just let me love you?

I will wait right here while you get your "Florida is stupid" jokes out of the way so we can proceed.



... Okay. We good?

Cool. So, Florida recently elected this guy as governor. Aside from the fact that he is a candidate to star in the next Stephen King novel and reminds some of us of certain iconic cartoon characters, what does he have going for him?

First of all, he's a business guy, not a politician. In fact, he made his money in private health care and has faced allegations of corruption. He has promised to run Florida like a business and not a government. Sounds great, right? Because businesses are meant to do awesome things like look out for the poor and make sure that traditional minorities aren't being railroaded by capitalism! And also, I learned in school that governors are CEOs who don't have two other branches of government to provide checks on them! Remember that day in Mrs. Monahan's AP government class?


But he can't be universally reviled. At least the Republican leaders like him! What? No?

In fact, he is so disliked that there are calls for his impeachment (which are being taken very seriously) and multiple Facebook groups opposing him and supporting adding recall to the Florida state constitution so we can kick him to the curb.

I have lots of problems with ol' Rick - like his hatred for collective bargaining - but the biggest revolve around education (no surprise). Let's walk through them, shall we?

1. He wants to make big cuts to the state's education budget, which would be devastating to Florida students. When schools need help, cutting their funding is not a logical solution. Decreasing education spending while increasing spending for things like the military has always felt gendered, to me. It's like the "nanny state" idea - is education something we see as weak or effeminate (not that I correlate those two)? Is the military more "manly" while education is more "womanly"? I don't see it this way, but I think lots of people do, and I think it goes back, in part, to the idea that teaching is a woman's job.

2. He wants to increase charter schools to bring competition into the education. Right wingers seem to always want to privatize everything. Remember the Social Security debates? And if Blackwater (or Xe, as it is now known) isn't a stab at privatizing the military, I'm not sure what is. Furthermore, it can be problematic to let businessmen with no educational experience run schools - as Rothstein points out here, they're not always getting their facts right. And, apparently, we can afford to fund two wars of questionable legality and keep Goldman Sachs alive, but can't let our public schools survive. For an excellent look at how education is affected by what Naomi Klein calls The Shock Doctrine, look here. This might not explicitly link to feminism, but it's very troubling to me.

3. Scott wants to link teacher pay to performance. How, exactly, are we meant to evaluate teachers? Through standardized testing? Well that's neither fair nor accurate. In fact, standardized testing is just big business. Anyone have any other ideas? These people do! It starts with seeing teachers as professionals, because that is what is best for children. Seeing teachers as glorified babysitters is not in the students' best interest: why should we trust babysitters to prepare them to be good citizens? Teachers know this, and want to be held accountable. The idea going around that those opposed to linking performance to standardized test scores have no other ideas, don't care about children, or think that we should be prioritizing teacher jobs over student learning are either misguided or deliberately mischaracterizing our position.
3a. He also wants to get rid of tenure for teachers, which is a horrible idea that will result in instability in public education and mean that senior, experienced teachers will get fired because they have to be paid more. Again, I don't think we'd be having these conversations if teaching were a male-dominated profession.
3b. Where is the money going to come from?

4. Whether kids are in or out of schools, Scott clearly doesn't care about them - but he sure cares about having 91 more personal staffers. This isn't going to help kids in school at all.

It sure would be nice if Obama would say something about all this.


  1. I don't disagree with anything you said and the facts do speak for themselves...but didn't we always know this is how things were going to turn out with Rick Scott as governor? After all, I don't think he tried to hide his convictions on issues, particularly his views on education. Not that it makes things any better but if anyone is to blame for all this, it's the Floridian electorate. The reason geniuses like Scott get away with it is because we as an electorate do such a stellar job of holding our elected officials accountable. That and liberals cannot sell their vision if their lives depended on it...but that's a discussion for another day :-)

  2. I agree, Dheeraj, and thanks for your comment! But given that his approval rating is 18% right now, I think that many people didn't know how it was going to turn out with Rick Scott as governor. And he only beat Alex Sink by about 1%, if I recall correctly. He wasn't elected in an overwhelming majority or anything.

    And, yes, we need to hold our elected officials accountable, and liberals need to learn to sell a message, that's for sure.

  3. I think that people who voted against Scott certainly saw a lot of this coming. It's those who supported him who I think are feeling...hoodwinked.

  4. Also, the security word verification that ensured I was a human and not a robot was "crist". No joke.

  5. That's excellent. Now if only we could ensure that Crist is a human and not a robot.

  6. I especially like the combination of 1) and 3) in conjunction with taking away collective bargaining rights. So, we put an instrument in place for evaluating which teachers are deserving of a pay raise (and which ones aren't). Instead of giving them that merit pay, we take away the funds that would have been used for it. Then, we take away their rights to complain about it in a public forum. Brilliant!!! (It makes me highly suspicious of why they even want the merit pay system. Could it be that they're looking for documentation that would "justify" firing a veteran teacher? Hmmm...)

  7. Good points. As to "justifying" firing teachers, it makes me think of the Johns Committee sweeping through UF with the blessing of Reitz, who really wanted to get rid of some professors who were annoying him with all their academic freedoms.