All posts by Richard Thripp

Ph.D. graduate of UCF studying financial education, husband, father, Age 28.

Q&A on My Activism and Our Goals for Volusia Democrats

Here is a questionnaire I completed about my new role as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party, my activism and volunteer efforts over recent years, and our plans for 2021 and beyond to engage in our community and fight for people who have been marginalized.


Tell us about your main professional accomplishments at your workplace:

I was just elected Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party on December 8th, 2020. One of our big accomplishments has been getting young people to be politically engaged. I ran for Congress earlier this year garnering 28,661 (48.5%) in the August 18th Democratic primary. The same volunteer base as well as many new volunteers are joining us to engage with voters in Volusia County. Our overall mission is to help marginalized people, particularly by electing candidates who represent and advocate for everyone.


Tell us about your volunteer efforts in the community in the past two years:

Right now we have a prominent local Democrat matching donations to food banks, so we’re hoping to hit over $2,500 donated with that. People are really hurting right now. I was not politically involved before this year and in fact grew up as a conservative Republican. There was a series of things that transformed my perspective, such as studying financial literacy and the marginalization of teachers, women, and people of color during my PhD dissertation. I’ve become a Black Lives Matter advocate, attending many marches and protests, writing public statements and letters, and so forth. I’ve also become a strong advocate for climate justice and a Green New Deal, having learned the enormity of the greenhouse gases dilemma. What we are fighting for requires political action, because embracing the intersectionality of politics and volunteering provides much more leverage than trying to volunteer while avoiding politics. The causes we are fighting for are as real as ever even though they may have receded in public view recently.

As a teacher educator at the University of Central Florida for over 2 years, I worked to instill a love of learning and of innovative pedagogical practices in our next generation of teachers. Presently I am teaching social studies at New Smyrna Beach High School where I endeavor to bring history alive and meet students where they are at. I have one at-risk student who is showing up to class again, getting excited about U.S. history for the first time, and turning in work. His father is thrilled. In July 2020 I co-chaired the International Conference on Humanities, Social and Education Sciences which brought together researchers from all over the globe in a digital format. Although it may seem a bit unusual, I really love to volunteer as a personal finance educator and want to incorporate this into my role as party chair by holding free events. I have had an enduring interest in this topic having made it the focus of my Master’s degree capstone project in 2016 and Education PhD dissertation in 2019.


Tell us anything else you’ve done to make Volusia and Flagler counties a better place.

I lived in the Holly Hill / Ormond Beach area most of my life and now on the west side of Volusia in Orange City. As a teenager I volunteered (and at age 15 was paid) at the Holly Hill Public Library where I helped put together children’s programs, taught computer classes to senior citizens, and so on. I also worked as a tutor and newspaper editor at Daytona State College, and in 2014–2017 was involved in the Toastmasters nonprofit to help myself and others become better public speakers, as the President of Port Orange Toastmasters for one year and Treasurer for the year after, but I had to give it up to focus on my PhD program.

I am continuing to work now to have a greater impact in this new role as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party. What we are putting together is a team effort of enormous scope. Volusia has been left behind in so many ways, and our neighbors to the north in Flagler too. Cost of living is high, people struggle to get by and often end up having to leave due to lack of opportunity. We need to get more federal dollars flowing in by expanding Medicaid, and we need to push for jobs, industries, laws, and policies that help the people at large instead of a select few. You can expect that our local elected officials will be feeling that pressure under my tenure.


Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I’m half Chinese, my mother having escaped Communist China after the Tiananmen Square massacre. I was born at Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach and before you ask, no, did not learn the language.

My wife Kristy and I have a son named Jonah, who is turning 2 on February 27th. He is our world!


New year’s statement from the Volusia County Democratic Party:

We know 2020 has been a terrible year for so many of us. The people of Volusia have lost their homes, their jobs, and their loved ones, and the long winter is not yet over. Here is to a brighter 2021. We are here fighting for you.

Here's to a Bright 2021 from Volusia Democrats

Endorsement of Ione Townsend for Florida Democratic Party Chair

Preface: On December 8th, 2020, I was elected to a 4-year term as Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party and took office that evening. These past few weeks have been some of the busiest in my life. As Chair, I am tasked with working on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party to support and elect Democrats in Volusia County, one of the larger counties in Florida with 436,954 registered voters of which 144,154 are registered Democrats, six chartered Democratic clubs, 150 elected precinct chairs, and numerous caucuses. To these ends, it is vital that we have an experienced and effective progressive leader at the helm of the Florida Democratic Party. I have gotten to know Ms. Ione Townsend, Chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, and believe she is our best choice. If you are a party elector, please vote for her at the Florida Democratic Party reorganizational meeting that will take place on Saturday, January 9th, 2021.


Saturday, December 26th, 2020

I am so impressed with Ione Townsend. She is exactly who we need to lead the Florida Democratic Party. Her success as Chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party is exactly what we hope to replicate here on the other end of the I-4 corridor in Volusia County. She is a grassroots organizing powerhouse, a selfless public servant, and running for precisely the right reasons. Determined, competent, and transparent are her key words and she delivers on these promises in spades. She is fierce and fearless, an accomplished equestrian, nurse practitioner, and progressive leader who will deliver winning results for Democrats throughout Florida.

This isn’t a game. This is life or death. Ione will listen and include all Democrats as stakeholders and as valued voices, not just in our highly populated blue counties but also in red, rural counties that have for too long been de-emphasized. We must get rid of DeSantis in 2022 and win down-ballot races by being visible community leaders. We must organize and show up everywhere, year-round — not just parachuting in people who can’t pronounce “Volusia” weeks before an election. Ione Townsend will help make the Florida Democratic Party transparent, inclusive, and efficiently coordinated with our local parties. Please vote Ione Townsend for FDP Chair.

Sincerely,
Dr. Richard Thripp
Chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party


Please also read Ms. Townsend’s endorsement from the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida and follow her on Twitter @Townsend4FDP.

I have also posted this to FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Instagram. Please share.

Florida Schools Should Be Mostly Online

Florida Schools Should Be Mostly Online

Monday, November 30, 2020

Dear reader,

Many of you may not be aware that Florida has long been a leader and pioneer in online learning with the founding of Florida Virtual School (FLVS) in 1997 and our continued focus on providing online learning opportunities to students of all ages. We are global leaders in e-learning, simulation, and remote technologies, home to the Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference (I/ITSEC) in Orlando as well as the Institute for Simulation and Training, the Center for Research in Education Simulation Technology (CREST), TeachLivE™, and more at the University of Central Florida, and the Florida High Tech Corridor cooperative with University of Florida and University of South Florida. We have even gone so far as to pass a state law requiring most high school students to take at least one virtual course!

Why, now, do we find ourselves hamstrung during an unprecedented pandemic that should be Florida’s time to shine—a unique opportunity to demonstrate our expertise in remote instruction and e-learning from our homes, while preventing community spread of a deadly virus which repeatedly and indubitably spreads in our schools? We have an estimated 21,596,068 residents as of this year, and already 18,441 have died of COVID-19—over six times the deaths that occurred in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That’s one of every 1,171 Floridians who have perished.

These are not just meaningless numbers. Even a small city like New Smyrna Beach has lost 24 souls at this rate, and the worst may in fact lie ahead of us. Sources tell me that nine out of 10 schools in Volusia County have had a COVID-19 infection, and in my four weeks as a Social Studies Core Teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, I have seen numerous students and administrators quarantined for potential exposure, as well as accounts from students who have recovered from COVID-19 that it was the sickest they have ever felt. There are reports that two paraprofessional educators in Volusia County have died of COVID-19, although these are discussed anonymously and in hushed voices for fear of reprisal—an unfortunate sentiment given that transparency is essential toward combating this crisis.

I have heard my fellow citizens explain that their children must be in school in order for them to work at their jobs and make ends meet. This is a legitimate concern, and is a reason I have advocated for comprehensive federal relief directed chiefly to the American people at large. This pandemic is on track to exceed the 420,000 total deaths our nation endured in World War II, in less than one-fourth of the time. We must not give up, nor consign ourselves to accepting the ongoing conflagration while waving the white flag of surrender on the basis of inevitability and small-minded group think. The importance of learning in a face-to-face, in-person setting is overwhelmingly superseded by the importance of not dying and not causing others to die—deaths which are senseless, preventable, and presently occurring, and should not be permitted to continue to occur.

While waiting for federal relief, we must take decisive action at the state, district, and school levels. My friend on the Volusia County School Board tells me that Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is calling the shots. Well, Mr. Corcoran, where are you? You pride yourself as a public servant, a husband and father to six, and the son of World War II veterans. You say you are a “passionate advocate for improving the education system in Florida” who “fully believes every child can learn and that all children deserve the opportunity to receive a world-class education.” There is a mountain of evidence emerging of the benefits of masking and of avoiding prolonged exposure in indoor spaces to people from outside one’s household. We haven’t even begun to educate our teachers on the science of COVID-19 epidemiology—some of my colleagues believe it is safe to put students in a “mask-free zone” of the classroom with desks precisely six feet apart, and our students and staff regularly flout masking and social distancing guidelines. It is quite difficult to provide a world-class education to a dead child, and furthermore it is best that their siblings, parents, grandparents, extended family, and teachers remain among the living.

As a co-editor of the 2019 academic anthology, Handbook of Research on Emerging Practices and Methods for K–12 Online and Blended Learning, I saw that many states, universities, and school districts across the United States are implementing blended and fully online learning with positive results. Consistency, training, administrative support, instructional design and planning, and ample technology and funding are key to successful e-learning initiatives. Unfortunately, we haven’t done well with these in Florida in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This needs to change. Although it is impossible to deliver a perfect solution on short notice, we just need something workable. Teachers should not be having to simultaneously broadcast to students at home—in fact teaching fully online would be more sensible. We should also be drawing on the expertise and technological resources of our public institutions including Florida Virtual School and the Center for Distributed Learning at University of Central Florida.

Presently, Volusia County schools are going back in-session for 3 weeks, which will undoubtedly be deadly for some and hazardous for many. Then, we have a winter break in excess of two weeks. Most districts follow a similar schedule. The rest of the school year should be fully or mostly online. Florida is about to surpass one million COVID-19 infections. Fortunately, there is a light at the end of the tunnel with three promising vaccines on the horizon, but in the interim the suffering and deaths of my fellow Floridians is only intensifying. Recent, large-scale research shows that children are super spreaders of coronavirus. There is value in even occasional in-person instruction, but do it outdoors on a cool day, or at 20% capacity for the teachers, students, and parents who want it. Right now, we are sending previously online students back to school. I have 111 students and 105 of them are face-to-face. We already have blood on our hands. We should not seek to fully drench ourselves in blood.

During my Education PhD coursework at the University of Central Florida, I specialized in instructional design, teaching over 300 future teachers about educational technology in blended and fully online settings, working on e-learning projects at national, interdisciplinary, local, and collaborative levels, and working alongside in-service educators and administrators in doctoral courses. Some were assistant principals for schools who funded satellite Internet connections via USB dongles for students to work from home, on their school-provided laptops, in households that did not have reliable Internet connections (Spectrum cable Internet has now gone up to $69.99 per month here). We can provide remote instruction even for disadvantaged and marginalized students with the proper technology and funding. When there’s a hurricane, why is it that we are able to mobilize massive evacuations, cancel school, cancel football games, and suspend tolls on toll roads, for a disaster that kills so few people in comparison? Let’s give coronavirus the hurricane treatment.

Veteran teachers are retiring specifically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are being forced to make a choice: Your money or your life? I started as a Social Studies Core Teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School on October 26, 2020 because the prior teacher resigned mid-year after more than two decades of service. My dissertation was on the Florida Retirement System. She and other teachers are giving up well over $100,000 each, because to receive a full pension you must work 30 years or wait until age 62. Although making way for new teachers is nice, and new teachers are much cheaper thanks to a decimation of retirement benefits orchestrated by the Florida legislature in 2011, the circumstances under which we are doing so are abhorrent. Our schools are in widespread upheaval, and it is clear that the teaching and learning that is occurring is severely diminished. Our classes are being disrupted with standardized testing make-ups and levels of truancy that are unprecedented in recent memory. We are losing veteran educators and bleeding institutional knowledge. Various people are haphazardly being confined to quarantine, and our teaching schedules continue to morph like Jell-O. At this point, it is clear to all who judiciously weigh the totality of the situation that Florida schools should turn to remote learning for the remainder of the 2020–2021 school year.

Sincerely,
Dr. Richard Thripp
Social Studies Core Teacher
New Smyrna Beach High School

On American Financial Disenfranchisement: No Gift of Moral Hazard for the People

When will the American people enjoy the moral hazards conferred upon wealthy individuals and corporations?

It is so common to hear self-righteous commentary about the dangers of moral hazards that we scarcely notice it. A moral hazard occurs when someone is protected against risk, typically by the imposition of negative externalities. Typically we hear about unemployment benefits and other welfare payments imposing a moral hazard on society by enabling and encouraging freeloaders who are stealing your tax dollars. The evidence undergirding such rhetoric is dubious at best, and yet these purported moral hazards receive infinitely greater attention than enormous aid and safety nets provided to those who need and deserve them the least.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many American corporations came close to insolvency in March 2020, before being propped up by an unlimited firehose of aid from the Federal Reserve. Our central bank began to do something unprecedented, even during the Great Depression: To directly purchase corporate debt. This program is being conducted in addition to many other gifts that serve corporate interests and our nation’s arrogant, parasitic elites. The present disconnect between the American stock markets and Americans’ lived economic experiences is a product of this regime.

Typical, hard-working Americans have no mechanism by which to secure interest-free loans. They don’t have access to virtually unlimited credit lines that can be paid back whenever, with no imposition of interest or penalties. Their feet are held to the fire, if they are lucky enough to be issued credit at all.

In March, when the Federal Reserve stepped in, corporations that would otherwise have had to take loans at 15% interest, if they were lucky enough to be offered a loan at all, suddenly could secure much larger credit lines at half the interest or less. Nationwide, the value of this gift soared into the trillions, as can be seen in corporate valuations and the increase in wealth for the top 1% of Americans, the top 0.1% in particular, and the top 0.01% especially.

This gift is barely recognized. Most Americans do not even understand it. We don’t have laws to tax or regulate it. It’s a quintessential moral hazard, allowing firms to operate in a sandbox where profits are privatized but risk and losses are borne by the people. Similar, smaller moral hazards are conferred regularly upon wealthy and privileged Americans.

One is left asking: When will we confer a gift of moral hazard to the people at large?

The oppression of people of color in the United States of America is as much encapsulated by a knee on George Floyd’s neck as it is explicated in our regime of economic oppression and financial disenfranchisement. The mechanisms and tautologies of these deprivations are sweeping and manifold. One manifestation of this is the proliferation of alternative financial services—payday lenders, check cashing fees, and more. There are many others, and they affect the vast majority of Americans to varying degrees. Student loans and credit cards come to mind. Credit reports and their ramifications are part of this oppression. Bankruptcy is socioeconomically stigmatized and harshly penalized for individuals, but celebrated and rewarded for big business and American elites.

During my congressional campaign, I came to support a universal basic income of $1,000 per month to each American adult, universal healthcare (Medicare for All) for all Americans guaranteed and paid by the federal government, and assumption and forgiveness of all student loan debts public and private. Even these proposals do not nearly approach parity with the value of the benefits, gifts, and privileges afforded to those at or near the top of our economy. The American people are being economically murdered. We are being killed, put in danger, marginalized and derided, having to suffer for no just cause, and having our lives shortened by inequality, inequity, disenfranchisement, and oppression. Meanwhile, those who reap the rewards of this unjust regime have the gumption and obliviousness to believe they earned it in full.

What is the #1 predictor of entrepreneurial success? Not ingenuity, grit, or tenacity. It’s access to pre-existing wealth, such as your family’s money and connections. The United States of America isn’t a meritocracy. In fact, it is similar to aristocratic regimes we overthrew and rebuked.

American financial disenfranchisement is only getting worse, and nothing has been solved. To add insult to injury, the climate crisis has been disproportionately caused by plutocrats—and yet the brunt of the ramifications are borne by disadvantaged people. In 2020, this has become clearer than ever before. We must speak up, speak out, march, lobby, protest—and yes, run for elected office and win.

Letter of Recommendation for Jonathan Hadley, Volunteer Coordinator for Richard Thripp for Congress

Here is a letter of recommendation I wrote for our terrific volunteer coordinator, Jonathan Hadley, shared with permission.


September 3, 2020

To whom it may concern,

Jonathan Hadley was the Volunteer Coordinator for the Richard Thripp for Congress Democratic campaign from June to August 2020 in Florida’s 6th congressional district, among numerous other roles. He was an incredible volunteer who put in tons of work on various projects as well as triaging and spearheading several important initiatives. He sent tens of thousands of text messages to voters and answered hundreds of questions. He created campaign plans, organizational structures, spreadsheets, Google Docs, and more. Jonathan helped keep our volunteers focused. He was our point person across Volusia, Flagler, and St. Johns counties. I tasked him with reaching out to various contacts and he could always be counted on to follow up.

In addition, Jonathan was a friend who gave me feedback and guidance when I needed it most. His experience as an emergency medical technician gives him a unique edge in politics, which he is a newcomer to, like me and dozens of other campaign volunteers. We were disappointed to lose the August 18th, 2020 Democratic primary with 28,661 votes (48.5%), but at the same time we are immensely proud of what we accomplished for Democratic values and progressivism in this district and throughout the United States of America.

Like me, Jonathan looks forward to working on other campaigns that are making a difference and that he can believe in. I highly recommend Mr. Hadley for a paid position in a future campaign. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
Richard Thripp, PhD
Former Democratic Candidate for United States Representative
Florida’s 6th Congressional District