JOHN LEGG: CHARTER SCHOOL OWNER, TESTING TYRANT AND CHIEF ARCHITECT OF FLORIDA’S WAR ON PUBLIC EDUCATION
A Definitive Account of Fast Johnny’s Misadventures in the Florida Legislature
Ol’ Johnny Legg sure has been in the news a whole lot lately. That is fitting. He’s the one lawmaker most responsible for Florida’s precipitous plunge to national laughingstock status in education over the past year. Legg and his crooked capital cohorts have been engaged in an obscene attempt to destroy public schools by testing them out of business for some time now, and in the process, they have opened the floodgates of opposition to their public education-ending manifesto. Johnny is truly an adroit dancer, and is awe-inspiring in his ability to twist facts and speak around the truth. Up until very recently, he’s been able to somehow keep the bloody stain of the near destruction of millions of kids’ K-12 academic careers off his hands. I love ol’ Johnnyboy. He, more than any of the other swindlers and bamboozlers in Florida government, presents me with a veritable bounty of opportunities to rectify the pure, unadulterated dishonesty that has become the foundation of the Florida Legislature’s War on Public Education. I feel as though I have done a terrible job of capitalizing on his greathearted gift of decrepitude. I hope to fix that.
To pursue any other course would be derelict.
Johnny the Sanctimonious Sage
Johnny is quick to invoke the concepts of right versus wrong and good versus bad while elucidating his otherwise vacuous opinions on issues of importance. He often finds himself in the unenviable position of have absolutely zero logical grounding for his views; thus he often resorts to the tired and trampled old arguments of “It’s the right thing to do,” or, “It’s good for the kids,” ad infinitum; ad nauseam.
Back in July of 2014, the chronically complicit Florida School Boards Association actually tried to bestow an award upon Johnny (That definitely says something about them.) in a futile attempt to appease him after getting a rare case of fortitude and joining with the FEA in a lawsuit seeking to have a tax credit-for-cash state charter-voucher scheme, euphemistically termed the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, declared unconstitutional.
In an outburst of selfless altruism on behalf of disadvantaged kids everywhere, he declared that he wouldn’t accept the FSBA’s award because of its participation in the lawsuit.
In a letter to then-FSBA Executive Director Wayne Blanton, Legg wrote,
Thank you for the recent honor of being selected the Florida School Board Association’s 2014 Legislator of the Year. However, in light of the FSBA’s recent litigation opposing the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, I must respectfully decline the award. It is now apparent to me that the Association’s stance on educating low income students and access to choice in education is too conflicting with my own. It saddens me that the FSBA would take a position that looks to eliminate customization in education, an approach which is widely viewed to be essential to improving student learning.
It is my sincere hope that the FSBA will abandon this hostile view toward low income students and customization. While in the past, we may not have agreed on every issue, we nevertheless maintained a healthy respect while working to resolve our differences for the betterment of all students. I hope the FSBA will redirect its efforts for the advancement of all our students and I look forward to working with you to that end.
Please know having grown up in a very low income household, my position will always be to advocate for access, quality, and customization for all students, but especially for those who don’t have the resources to access a quality education.
Almost a year later, Johnny went through no small amount of very personal effort to object to a resolution by the Florida Senate honoring outgoing Florida Education Association (FEA) President Andy Ford’s considerable contributions to public education. According to Tampa Bay Times Gradebook blogger and perennial corporate reform lapdog Jeff Solochek, Johnny “took particular umbrage” at language in the resolution that would have honored Ford for having “focused his efforts on high-quality public schools for every student, dignity and justice for all workers, equal opportunities regardless of race or gender, and furthering of education as a means for individuals to achieve the great American dream.” That passage would seem fit and proper to most folks, but not to ol’ Johnnyboy.
Referring to the FEA’s filing of the aforementioned suit, Legg said, “The bottom line is they’re suing a program that is helping kids. I have nothing against Andy personally.”
Of course he doesn’t. We all know he’s just trying to register his principled sentiments for a principled purpose. Apparently, while he was enjoying his meteoric rise through the Florida legislature, someone along the way told him that he is the authority on what helps kids.
Nonetheless, his eloquently stated distortion of reality does nothing to abate my determination that he is a lousy, spuriously counterfeit, public education-destroying worm.
And there’s that selfless altruism again. This asshole should be buried next to Mother Teresa. Seriously, I wish Johnny would just please spare us the bullshit. If he cared at all about educating low income kids, he’d allocate money to the public schools that serve the communities where the poor kids live. He could do that. Then again, if he did that, he would have to forego the opportunity that supporting voucher programs gives him to rake untold amounts of public money right into his and his wife’s own bank accounts.
The truth is, if he and and the other liars and scammers up in Tallahassee actually funded public schools at a level that is demonstrative of a true concern for the quality thereof, students would already “have resources to access a quality education.” Instead, they come up with a convoluted scheme that swaps cash for tax credits and strains credulity, and then Johnny looks at those who question their motives with that smug, just trust us look on his face. It certainly doesn’t convince me.
The Truth About the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program
The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program is a classic shell game routine wherein “donations” made by businesses are then matched by the state, dollar for dollar, in the form of tax credits. Ultimately, such a scheme is no different than just funding those same schools with taxpayer money, since the tax credits deprive the treasury of the exact same amount of money that would have been collected and allocated to the public in the absence of such a scheme. In fact, it’s worse, because through the proxy of such a scheme, companies get to decide exactly where their tax money goes. That’s just not fair to the rest of Florida. Regular folks have zero control over where their taxes go. In the end, the result is the desolation of public education, and in its stead a new model of corporate schools that are hardly, if at all accountable to the communities they are located in, and serve primarily to line the pockets of their owners and officers.
John Legg, Legislator in Absentia
It’s entirely reasonable to wonder if Johnny even lives in the district that he claims to represent. Legg “represents” Florida Senate district 17, which is comprised of the northwestern portion of Hillsborough County as well as nearly the entire southern half of Pasco. A 2012 investigation by Tampa Bay’s CBS affiliate WTSP 10 News all but proved that Johnny’s claim to live within the boundaries of the district he wants us to believe that he gives a shit about was pure fraud. It’s classic Johnnyboy. If you’ve been on the fence about this guy, it’ll pull you over to the he’s a complete asshole side for sure. 10 News investigative reporter Mike Deeson backed Johnny into a corner quite handily, but an undeterred Johnny just issued an arrogant, stock-in-trade, “I have no idea what you’re talking about” sort of answer. His dance around the facts of the matter were truly impressive moves, but still fell well short of being able to avoid the definitive label of rotten liar.
Oh Johnnyboy, wherefore dost the bullshit springeth from thy mouth?
WTSP did a follow-up story in July 2013 about how Legg’s Republican Party brethren had decided that enough was enough, and that it was finally time to really put some teeth into the residency rule. Quite conveniently, Legg had by then left the Florida House, and had moved on to wreak havoc on Florida from a seat in the Senate chamber. Equally telling was that Johnny readily admitted to not living in the house he claimed to live in while he was a house representative. You see, as a senator, his new district includes his “wife’s house,” which is the one he admits to living in now, but claimed not to live in back when he was a house rep. Now, that’s what I call creative crookedness. As Mike Deeson put it so succinctly, “There is no doubt politics come into play because all the legislators targeted so far happen to be Democrats and the lawmaker we discovered living outside his district is a Republican who was part of the leadership.”
So much for Johnny standing on principle. By nature, abject liars cannot be principled people, and principled people cannot be abject liars.
Another aspect of this is Jack Latvala’s audacious disdain for the truth. Latvala told Deeson that he’s fed up with lawmakers living outside the district they represent, but when Deeson asked him about Legg’s undeniable violation of the same rule that Latvala suddenly wants to enforce, he told Deeson, “I can’t go back two years and say we should have done this then. What we have to deal with what we’re doing now.” Okay; let’s dissect that last statement: “What we have to deal with what we’re doing now.” What does he mean by that? The statement truly makes no logical sense at all. Does he mean, “What we possess to deal with…?” Or does he mean, “What we are required to deal with..?” In the case of the former, Deeson definitely gave them all they needed on Legg to “deal with” it. In the case of the latter, are they not required to “deal with” all cases of rule breaking by members of the legislature? His response to Deeson is really troubling. It makes me wonder if these guys attend classes, workshops or something akin just to learn how to confuse and befuddle the shit out of people they don’t want to talk to. In any case, when Deeson went to the legislature with his investigation proving Legg was a liar, they weren’t interested a bit, but now that they’ve got Democrats allegedly lying about where they live, all of a sudden the Republican leadership gives a shit. For that alone, Latvala is now a charter member of Florida’s Big Asshole Club. He’s in great company. Welcome aboard, Jack. Let me introduce you to the founder, Jeb Bush.
John Legg, Profligate Pillager of Public Trust
Good ol’ Johnny has an equally impressive track record of sponsoring and voting on bills throughout his storied tenure as a Tallahassee Terrorist. With his latest (FSA) clusterfuck in full bloom, Johnny’s career in the Florida legislature is beginning to look like the aftermath of a mile-wide, F5 tornado rampaging through a trailer park. Nothing he has done in Florida Education has had one iota of proven, positive results. Yet he marches on, shoulder to shoulder with equally degenerate political hustlers and liars like Steve Crisifulli (I’m coming Stevie), Richard Corcoran (I have a cork for your bottle; just wait), Erik Fresen, the baffling bogus-bonus backer, and lousy Jack Latvala, the forenamed cowardly crony from Clearwater. It’s a difficult task to rise head and shoulders above a shameless bunch of bandits like them when it comes to plundering your own state, but ol’ Johnnyboy does it all quite handily.
Interestingly, in the 2008 elections, our crooked, profiteering purveyor of perfidy was endorsed by the Tampa Bay Times. With all the trouble this pickpocket has caused since then, along with his constantly changing, kind-of-but-not-really-but-maybe-oh-shit-I-don’t-know-wait-a-minute-I-have-another-idea-never-mind-just-leave-me-alone philosophy of government, perhaps the Times will consider getting out of the business of recommending candidates to voters.
A Wolf Guarding Sheep: Johnny Legg’s Perfect Hustle via the Florida Legislature
Johnny’s rise through the ranks of the Florida Legislature has been swift. After losing his first bid for the Florida House in 2002, he learned quite quickly that the way to power is often paved by first kissing the asses of those already in power. Thus, he went to work for Heather the Scarf Lady Fiorentino while she was still a Florida House representative, and still a couple of years away from nearly destroying any semblance of teacher morale in the course of becoming the most-hated superintendent of schools in the history of Fiasco (oops) Pasco County. He must’ve learned a great deal from her. She was certainly no friend of public schools, much less teachers. Alas, I’ll have to save that diatribe for another day. I think I’m starting to get on a roll here with Johnny.
In 2004, ol’ Scarf n’ Barf Fiorentino left the Florida House, and ran for Pasco Superintendent of Schools, which led to Johnnyboy’s rapid ascension through the ethical abyss otherwise known as the Florida Legislature. What I don’t understand about this is how anyone can watch him react to tough questions about his misdeeds and other asinine antics and initiatives, and then, having seen and heard the words flow from his mouth like dung from the backside of a bull, still go and vote for him. What the hell is wrong with us? There I go again. Apologies. I digress.
By 2004, when Johnny first became a member of the Florida House, his charter school, Dayspring Academy was already on the map. The last available data I could find in a cursory web search shows that between JohnnyBoy and his wife, Suzanne, they raked in $115,000 as administrators for the school. As of April of this year, they were both still administrators at Dayspring.
Legg has orchestrated the perfect paradigm for a lawless lawmaker. In addition to being an owner of a growing (with taxpayer dollars) charter school company, he sits as chair of the all powerful Education Pre-K – 12 Committee, as well as the vice-chair of the Ethics and Elections Committee. Add to that noxious mixture his membership on the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and we’ve got a big asshole with immense power. It doesn’t stop there. He’s also on the Fiscal Policy Committee, the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee, and the Higher Education Committee.
During the legislature’s 2013 session, Legg sponsored a bill that was supposed to crack down on nepotism in charter schools. Last I checked, his wife was still an administrator at his charter outfit. What gives with that? It seems that Johnny’s bills are only meant to appear to make a difference. Johnny told the Tampa Tribune, “For education, this has been one of the best years for both funding and policy. We’ve acted on flexibility in instructional materials, violence and bullying in the schools, teacher evaluation, charter school accountability and making our schools more relevant to what employers need.” “Relevant to what employers need?” What happened to what kids need? What happened to what schools need? By now we should all know what Johnny needs: He needs to be tarred and feathered and sent running back to “his wife’s house” with his tail between his legs.
Another Insincere Initiative from Johnny
Remember last spring when everyone in education started raising hell over so much instructional time being chewed up by Johnny’s testing terrorism? That was late February of 2015. I posted a well-warranted castigation of Johnny titled, The Truth About John Legg in which I described some of the many problems his education manifesto had caused public education in the state of Florida, and how his SB 616 wasn’t going to make a difference. Well, as it turns out, it didn’t. The bill was hyped as a sincere attempt by Johnny to rescue Florida’s public schools from an antipathetic legislature. Johnny claimed to have our backs and said he was going to fix things. It was pretty obvious from the outset that his real intention was to appear to have our backs and to appear to fix things, so we would be soothed into complacency and then leave the hen house wide-ass open once again so Johnny and Co. could get back to the business of fleecing Florida. For example, one of the provisions in his bill was to presumably limit total testing time in schools to no more than 45 hours during the school year. The problem with his “idea,” like everything else he’s ever come up with, is that it’s predicated on duplicity. The limit his bill set, 45 hours, is actually just above what most experts agree to be the uppermost limit of time spent in testing by Florida public school students at the time Johnny and Co. wrote the bill. Thus the bill would have absolutely no effect in alleviating testing time problems. So there you have it: Just another bunch of snake oil from a professional snake oil peddler, Senator John Legg.
What on Earth is going on here in Florida? Is this the sort of representation that we want? Is this the type of legislator that we deserve? Here’s a guy who gets to have his cake and eat it too, all while starving the dog piss out of traditional public schools, those pesky institutions that until Johnny and his colluding cronies showed up have provided the underpinning of American society itself.
Ultimately (and as usual) all of this corrupt, family-business-goes-to-Tallahassee, “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine while we hoodwink the taxpayers and loot the treasury” public schools shakedown gets paid for by the common, hardworking people of Florida, who are more often than not way too busy trying to eke out a living in this brave new, free market, “global economy” that these same rotten bastards we call legislators imposed on us in the first place. Do not delude yourselves. These guys are all in cahoots with one another, and have no other intention than to drive true decency from the realm of American government in pursuit of a tyrannical corporatocracy.
Charter Performance Bullshit
Johnny and his banal-brained bunch of co-conspirators are quick to point out that his Dayspring Academy is a top performing school when it comes to high-stakes tests, but that’s a very deceitful claim. What else can we expect from a collection of swindlers? Charters are largely able to cherry-pick their student bodies. They are known to avoid students with severe, low-prevalence disabilities, and the socioeconomic status of their clientele is almost always significantly higher than that of nearby public schools. Also, charters are not subject to the same testing requirements or administrative protocols as traditional public schools. Comparing public schools with charters is like starving someone for three weeks and then making him run a marathon against a well-fed, well-trained triathlete. The claim that his charter “outperforms” public schools is pure disinformation.
Twisting the Arms of Superintendents
Funny. Back in early September, before ol’ Johnny was willing to so much as briefly listen to opponents of his signature testing terror campaign, he quite brashly warned Leon County Superintendent of Schools Jackie Ponz that he’d better drink the FSA/Teacher Eval Kool-Aid or his district would be defunded. Ponz had indicated that he would not use the results of last spring’s disastrous FSA administration in determinating teacher evaluation scores. Basically, Johnnyboy can get laws enacted through his nefarious network of fellow corporatizers; laws that for many are all but organizationally and institutionally suicidal to follow, and if someone like Ponz dares to speak out, Johnnyboy has the legislative wherewithal to strangle that person’s institution financially, and has no compunction about issuing him a very public threat that he will do so. It’s funny how Johnny cherry-picks what laws he wants to follow. He certainly didn’t care about the law that said he was supposed to live within the boundaries of the house district he was elected to represent. An interesting note about the Legg Warns Ponz incident is that it never made it into Solochek’s blog. Just sayin.’
Back to the Legg-Solochek Partnership
Legg just wouldn’t be true to his own character if he didn’t get with Solochek and try to do some weaseling in an effort to save whatever’s left of his treacherous term in office. In another act of his trademark charity to chickenshit politicians, Solochek ran a post just last Monday in which Johnny pulls an abrupt about-face and offers up the possibility that Florida “might have wiggling room” in the FSA clusterfuck that he orchestrated. Just a couple of weeks ago this same disreputable urchin was claiming that the legislature had no power whatsoever to save Florida’s public schools from the disaster that it created itself, and that it wasn’t even worth his time to try to figure out a solution to a mess that has its very origin in his own political miscalculations. Remember that? Now, with nearly the entire state of Florida ready to drop his rotten ass from the roof of the capital building, he’s suddenly trying to help us find “wiggling room.” He frames it quite disingenuously, forever faithful to the imaginary separation of powers between him and his fellow racketeers in the legislature, and ol’ Twisty Face Stewart and her minions in the DOE.
According to messenger boy Solochek, Legg said, “I will ask (Stewart) if there is room to pull in some of the superintendents’ recommendations while still issuing letter grades. I don’t know if she’ll be receptive.”
Here we go again.
This guy just never seems to give up. We all (including Solochek) know beyond the most remotely possible doubt that Johnny already knows the answer to the question he says he’s going to “ask” Stewart. He also knows whether or not she’ll “be receptive.” Why does he persist in treating us like a bunch of idiots? Why does Solochek persist in giving the Conch to frauds like Legg, without so much as asking one awkward question? Where are Legg’s opponents and detractors in piece after piece designed to make this cheating, lying, piece of political elephant dung look like a stand-up guy?
Go ask Solochek.
John Legg: Analogously Challenged
In Solochek’s post, Johnny makes another one of his absurdly defective attempts to analogize. Johnny compares the FSA school accountability meltdown to a car with a flat tire. Johnny has to be seriously flawed in terms of intellectual prowess to submit an analogy between an obviously labyrinthine morass like top-down accountability and a car with a flat tire. Otherwise, he is simply speaking to his constituents in a manner that he has become accustomed to: unadulterated condescension. Said Johnnyboy to his buddy Solochek, “If you have a car, you don’t blow it up because you have a flat tire. You change the tire.”
That’s the worst analogy I’ve ever heard. It’s one more of many venal attempts to fool the peasants into believing that Johnny has a handle on things. He doesn’t.
Florida’s public education system is not a car; nor is it analogous to one. Likewise, the confounding quagmire of chaos that he calls “accountability” is way worse in relation to public education than a flat tire is in relation to a car. The only way we can make the FSA clusterfuck analogous to a flat tire is if we assume that we got the flat tire on the front driver’s side, with heavy oncoming traffic, at 120 miles per hour. Now there’s an appropriate flat tire-FSA/Accountability analogy.
Of Course It’s About the Money. It Always Is.
What about all that money? An in-depth investigation into contracts and all other transactions that have taken place between Johnnyboy’s outfit and anyone else whatsoever is the least the FDLE should do. It’s fair to say, that after the disgraceful FSA catastrophe, a lead balloon mandated by none other than you guessed it, Florida voters have finally grown both more aware and more intolerant of being hustled by wannabe leaders whose only aspiration in life seems to be to purloin public cash.
Owners of charters like Johnny love to point out that they’re nonprofit organizations, but that’s just another deceitful ploy designed to placate dis-informed voters and perpetuate the hornswoggling. As I pointed out months ago in another post, nonprofits of the sort operated by revenue raiders like Legg and his capital cronies serve first and foremost as salary vehicles. That is their primary purpose, and they needn’t be designated for-profit to serve that purpose well. There is no comparison between a nonprofit whose officers rake in executive level salaries and a for-profit small business whereby the owner simply makes a middle class living. The distinction is dishonest, and is expressly intended to allow crooked assholes like Johnny Legg to fleece the common people.
It’s the Parent’s, Stupid.
If you’re a resident (and particularly a parent) in Johnnyboy’s Senate District 17 (see interactive map), you owe it to your kids and/or yourself to get this rotten apple out of our government. He’s done way too much damage already. Please make sure that you are properly registered to vote, and go do it, rain or shine. Legg is still eligible to run for another term of public education destruction in the Florida Senate. It is up to the regular, hardworking people of Florida to run this crook out of Tallahassee.
To do that we all need to stand up and be counted, on election day.
In the meantime email Johnny at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him what you think of him. Tweet him at @SenatorJohnLegg and let him know that we’re onto him!
A Short Note to Johnny
You really should avoid opening your mouth as much as possible. The voters are on to you. They are hungry for truth, and they understand that you aren’t interested in that at all. I’m onto you as well, and I intend to stay on you as much as my stomach can stand it. You are truly one of the absolute worst American politicians that I have ever seen. You are the Joe McCarthy of public education. Most of us know what happened to him. Perhaps you don’t.