Name: Jason Morris
Party Affiliation: Unaffiliated
Running For New London Board of Education
Why You're Running/What You Hope to Achieve:
As the election grew closer and the question lingered in my mind I felt like I didn't have a choice. I continuously feel frustrated with the lack of information the current Board is given and researches for themselves. At every meeting I'm on the edge of my seat wishing to be in the conversation so that I could lend my parent perspective and research so that all important factors are considered. I feel our Board would continue to be severely lacking if it did not include someone who keeps their thumb on the heartbeat of education at every level, Federal, State, and Local.
If elected I will bring a strong courageous parent voice to the Board, one who's kids are actually in New London public schools. One that spends hours of my personal time keeping up with the most advanced education topics, and every issue that New London faces. I will discuss respectfully each topic with other Board members at meetings and explain each vote so that the public knows why their representative voted in such a way. I will advocate for smaller class sizes, genuine instructional improvements, higher quality food, a better connection between home and the school to foster a team dynamic towards the benefit of each student, and the bridging of language barriers to better involve ALL of our community.
Along with those important initiatives, the largest issue facing not just New London, but the entire nation, is the overwhelming focus on standardization and the depersonalization of education in the interests of profit and politics. I will stand strong in the face of such programs and agendas that have proven themselves time and again to be detrimental to our students yet beneficial to their bottom line.
Previous Political and/or Volunteer Experience:
No previous publicly elected seat. Since Spring of 2012 I have attended nearly every Board of Education meeting providing feedback and advocacy on every issue facing New London. I am a Steering Committee member of the New London Parent Advocates taking on governance education issues at the country, state, and local levels. Helped organize and network local academics and intellectuals to help inform the public and the Board of Education on critical issues concerning our district. Participated and/or organized rallies for economic justice, civil rights, and ending the influence private money has on public policies. Including being instrumental in the consideration and passage of a New London City Council resolution calling for the end of "corporate personhood" and the idea that "money equals speech" in politics.
Professor of Information Technologies for the US Navy. I enlisted in the US Navy in 2001 and after ten years of active duty entered the Reserves in 2011. Four of my active duty years were spent teaching military students IT courses accredited by ACE. Currently working in the IT field within the Reserves. Numerous accredited military training courses throughout my Naval career including Information Technology (IT) and Master Training Specialist. A list of IT certifications and apprenticeships.
Proud parent of three children, two of which are attending New London public schools and my youngest will enter kindergarten in three years. I do not participate in partisan politics, and treat every issue based on it's merits and all the information I have available to me. I am prepared to find allies in any corner towards the best interests of our children. I spend countless hours researching, discussing, and advocating on the most challenging education issues facing us all. I do not believe it is the district administration's sole responsibility to inform me on education topics that I am charged with voting on. I value the input from the community and will look to include them in each decision as much as possible.
Most of my time reading books is with my children, some of our recent favorites are "Goodnight Moon", "The Hungry Worm", and "Captain Underpants". I am a strong believer that educational development begins in the home with something as simple as reading a book to your children.
As for my own personal development, the information and ideas from many books have helped shape my personal perspective including Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States", and incredible educational theory books like Ken Robinson's "The Element" and "Out of Our Minds". I also enjoy reading, writing, and participating in local poetry events in the southeastern CT area. I believe exposing our children to the arts in our schools and community is a critical element for a well rounded education.
Most Important Issues This Election
The largest issue facing not just New London, but the entire nation, is the overwhelming focus on standardization and depersonalization of education in the interests of profit and politics. From the infectious expansion of "one size fits all" standardized tests, to scripted curriculum devaluing professional educators, to computer programs given to students in the absence or even substitution of an education professional, to Teach for America abusing loophole "alternative certification" routes offering them to unqualified teacher candidates and placing them in the most struggling classrooms. The amount of influence Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton family have on the direction of education in this country is irrefutably created by their financial investments that benefit them as private profit interests. These corporate influences rarely use ethical research to support their initiatives, I will stand strong in the face of such programs that have proven themselves time and again to be detrimental to our students and call on fellow Board members, State, and Federal elected representatives to begin listening to unbiased academia and their constituency for the direction education should be going in every district.
Becoming the first district in the state to have each of its schools become magnet schools - is a big task. This major shift will likely result in our district receiving $9 Million in added funding from the state. An endeavor such as this comes with a lot of external attention on whether or not we succeed and how we get there. I understand the true reason we made this change, the entire state is struggling to equitably fund their district and for New London this is our chance to take advantage of state-backed programs typically designed to desegregate school demographics. I will ensure that those funds are used transparently, and towards programs and initiatives that will produce -genuine- improvements in our district. And that we don’t repeat the mistakes of districts all across the nation who have tried the endless ideas that have come from the top and private organizations - instead, we need to listen to our students, to our parents, and our community for how best to improve our schools.
Three fifths of what determines the academic achievement of a child is based on the “out-of-school” factors such as the food they eat, the sleep they get, the vocabulary used around them, the professional achievement of their parents, the enrichment activities they participate in, and largely the income of the household. These are all critical pieces to consider in the education of the “whole child”, some that the teacher could use to help tailor the instruction to best reach the child every day in the classroom. I will to strengthen the relationship between the parents and the school staff so they can feel more comfortable working together towards what’s best for the student. I also want to improve the ability for Non-English speaking parents and community members to participate in our schools, to attend open houses and teacher conferences, and to understand Board meetings so their voice can be heard at the governance level. We have a large amount of households that either speak only Spanish, or Spanish and partial English, we must take steps to bridge the language gap to improve the level of inclusion we have in our district.
Want to find out more about his views on education?
Here's how Morris answered specific questions that were posed to him on Facebook by Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh
Q. Jason, how do you feel about empowering parents through school vouchers? Common Core? Home Schooling?
A. Jason Morris for New London
I support Home Schooling as a very effective alternative to the often overwhelming structure of traditional public schooling, every student learns differently, and if that is an option available to a family then they should be given the opportunity to teach their own child.
As for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) currently being implemented in CT and in a shrinking number of states across the nation, it's a very complicated topic. The idea of having a common set of standards across the nation is a decent premise, that method is used in other successful countries such as Finland. But in the US, this plan was created by two Non-Government Organizations near DC operating on funding from private corporations and investors such as Bill Gates, Eli Broad, and the Walton Family (Walmart), and then after politician lobbying, the Dept of Education. The standards themselves seem to be designed surreptitiously well with my only issue being the pushing of standards down into the lower grades...creating an environment of more structured education when it's irrefutable fact that K-3 grades need more play to improve the quality of education in those years - not bubble sheets. But the most troubling part of CCSS is the implementation of them.
The huge push to privatize, standardize and depersonalize education is growing and proving to be detrimental to our entire nation, and their biggest interest is in using CCSS to strike the final blow to public education. Investors in charter schools, in education companies, in testing companies, etc. donate hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions to the cause of privatization and standardization. From the finger being pointed at teachers for the past two decades to divide the home from the school, to expensive scripted curriculum bought by districts to send the message to teachers that they don't value their years of college and training, to No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top successfully and wrongly diverting all "achievement" to be measured by Bush family prototyped standardized tests, to Pearson and McGraw-Hill monopolizing the school materials market, to the 3 fold expansion of standardized testing in the name of measuring the success of CCSS which currently has no research proving it works, and more. There is little doubt that the lobbied, and marketed form of CCSS must be paused or stopped in it's tracks before it destroys the creativity and fun of learning in every classroom.
Q. Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh
Thank you, Jason for taking the time to express your opinion. I am not sure how privatizing education depersonalizes it. Can you explain? Saint Bernard, for example is a private education institution, and 98% of the graduates go on to higher education. Would you be in favor of parents in New London receiving vouchers to send their children to a school like St Bernards instead of forcing students into home schooling or our failed public school system?
A. Jason Morris for New London
I would first like to clarify that our public schools are not failing. Since No Child Left Behind was enacted at the federal level, every state legislature was compelled to go along with using standardized tests to measure the academic achievement of our students in return for millions in federal education funds. Before this, only 15 states used standardized tests.
For decades, academics have been researching the measurement ability of these tests in which they always conclude the fact that the results are directly correlated with household income. Further, the ENTIRE school experience is only responsible for approx. 20% of a students performance. 60% has been proven to be sourced from "out of school" factors such as the food they eat, amount of sleep they get, their health, professional achievement of their parents, the vocabulary used around them, and as mentioned above, largely the income level of the household. This information leads us to rename the "achievement gap" to the "opportunity gap" and seriously shift our focus from the idea that it's any one person's (teacher, student, parent) "fault". And that our schools are not "failing", economic inequality is succeeding in accumulating more wealth at the top and lower academic opportunity for the majority of citizens in this country. 84% of our students qualify for free or reduced lunch based on Federal Poverty guidelines, this single piece of data combined with the above paints a clear picture as to why our scores are low, and why the public feel our schools are "failing".
When I talk about "privatization" of education, I am pointing at the for-profit companies that have and are growing exponentially since the enactment of No Child Left Behind. It is common practice for any corporation to attempt to reduce expense to increase profit, and supporting a common curriculum that is not culturally relevant to the students it's used on is just that method they are using. Plus, attempting to use "one size fits all", multiple choice, bubble filling in, standardized tests that include brand advertising and are completely proprietary and secret even from school administrators, parents, and legislators...this further pushes the profit motive agenda we've seen over the past two decades.
I do not support the use of "vouchers", as it has been ruled in multiple states that it is unconstitutional, and proven by multiple attempts and research studies to be ineffective and even detrimental to the education equity in a district. Every student is different, there is no moral or equitable way to assume that each one deserves a certain amount of money that should follow them to a different school. Also, using a "free market" approach as if schools and districts should be in competition is just reprehensible. Public education is for the benefit of all, and should be equal for every student.
I don't support public funds going to private schools, once you control for demographics (including household income) you find that public schools are actually academically superior to private. The reason such high amounts of students succeed out of private schools is because of their already huge advantage they have coming from a home that can afford it. Please take a look at this link for more explanation on that: http://www.theatlantic.com/.../280693/