Florida Senate bill is attack on teachers

FloridaTeachers

According to a proposed bill in the Florida state Senate, teachers will no longer have tenure in the upcoming school year, and it would introduce so-called merit pay.

According to the bill, SB 6, "Classroom teachers hired in a Florida school district on or after July 1, 2010, would be employed under the revised probationary and annual contracts. In effect, professional service contracts would not be given to any classroom teacher hired on or after July 1, 2010. This gives school districts greater flexibility in meeting student instructional needs by retaining effective teachers and removing poor performing teachers more quickly and cost-effectively."

What does that mean? Well, beginning July 1, 2010, each new classroom teacher would be hired under a probationary contract that may not extend for over 1 year. The teacher may be dismissed without cause or can resign without violating the contract, leaving the teacher with no legal recourse. After the probationary period, the teacher would then be offered a one year contract under which dismissal or renewal can be with OR without cause.

The bill goes on to state "An annual contract may only be granted for the sixth year of teaching and thereafter to a state-certified classroom teacher who was approved by the school board for a contract and whose performance is rated effective or highly effective in at least two of the preceding three years by the performance appraisal, based on objective student learning gains and Florida's Educator Accomplished Practices. In effect, the school district would make the determination whether to renew an annual contract in its discretion, rather than the contract automatically renewing."

The bill may sound hunky-dory, but the effect of this bill will be devastating to teacher morale and hiring. What makes the matter critical is that pay will be constituted by greater than 50% on student learning gains. In other words, the teacher will be paid based upon how each individual student in that teacher's class performs, instead of at a school wide gain or performance.

As the bill itself states "Districts may not use time-served or degrees-held in setting pay schedules. Instead, student outcomes would have a potentially significant effect on compensation. Effective teachers would be paid more, while those that are unsatisfactory or in need of improvement would be paid less. The State Board of Education would define student learning gains in rule."

In practice this will set teacher against teacher, classroom against classroom and will have the possibility of minorities and lower income classes given to poorer performing teachers.

According to this bill, beginning in 2014-2015, more than 50 percent of a classroom teacher's performance would be based on learning gains of students assigned to the teacher. For other instructional personnel and school-based administrators, more than 50 percent of their performance must be based on the learning gains of students assigned to the school. "Student learning gain thresholds would be set in State Board of  Education rule. Personnel may not be rated as effective or highly effective if students fail to demonstrate learning gains."

This bill should be seen for what it is; a union busting bill. A teacher would not get an annual renewing contract until the sixth year, but the school districts make the determination whether to renew at its discretion.

The implications of this bill are clear. Tenure will no longer be an accepted part of the Florida school system and pay practices. Any collective bargaining agreement could be denied. Florida public employee statutes don't seem to help public workers. It "authorizes the public employer to unilaterally control" under collective bargaining: wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment, because of "managerial" consideration.

We must gather together and stand with the Florida teachers and demand withdrawal of this language from the bill and insert positive and affirmative collective bargaining guidelines that can lift up both teachers and students.

Photo: Florida teachers discuss changes that need to be made to improve education during 2008 presidential campaign. http://www.flickr.com/photos/barackobamadotcom/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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  • This bill will cause teachers' pay to be affected by how well a parent is raising their children also... no one seems to notice that when a student doesn't give a shit about school, there's nothing that even the finest teacher could do to inspire them to learn, to inspire them to test well, etc. This also punishes any ESE teachers, how well do you expect an SLD student to perform on the FCAT? How well do you expect an OCD student to learn in a classroom with so much distraction? You really expect to punish teachers, take away their benefits (which was pretty much the only reason to become a teacher), who already have low pay as it is... just because some of you parents decided to smoke/do drugs/ drink while you were pregnant, or just had bad luck with the genetic matching, causing your kids to have handicaps or deformities? How cruel... how simply cruel... I am not a teacher, I do not speak for a teacher, I am currently a student at the University of Florida, and I feel you guys need to reevaluate your views, consider all sides before you start saying "this bill is exactly what we need".

    In an ideological sense, yes this bill would be effective, but in the real world, it most certainly would be hurting some of your most prized teachers and hurting the already diminishing teacher workforce out there.

    Posted by Jonathon Renaud, 04/06/2010 10:17am (5 years ago)

  • 27 years in education, mostly with drop out prevention students. If it passes, I think its time to let some poor new student right out of school give it a try.

    To the people that have thought of this slap to teachers, I feel we should tie your pay to the ecomomy of the state, that must be your fault.

    Posted by Dennis Bolan, 03/23/2010 6:26pm (5 years ago)

  • Teachers are the most under paid and unappreciated professions. I guess if this bill passes then NO one will want to teach the kids that are not in the advanced classes. Who would want to teach a child that may not do well on a test , if their pay is based on that alone? I moved from the north when I was in 2nd grade, 1977, and Florida was way behind compared to what I had been learning in my previous classes. I now have 3 children in Florida schools and I hate to think of the crappy education they will receive if this passes. Do you really think any GOOD teachers will stay and teach here after you slap them in their faces? No they are going to leave Florida and teach some where else. So who will teach my kids...these pathetic senators that will soon be out of a job if this passes? I hope they are looking at the amount of teachers, spouses, and family of those teachers who will vote them OUT first chance we get.

    Posted by Doreen Long, 03/21/2010 7:58pm (5 years ago)

  • How sad...I have given my life to education,
    going over and above for students! My
    contribution, and those of many caring individuals
    will be swept away...sending us into foreclosure,
    never being able to retire, and being disrespected
    in general. Teaching is the profession that creates
    all others...shame on the legislators---how cruel
    you are who will vote for this mockery of a bill!!!

    Posted by Toni, 03/19/2010 1:14pm (5 years ago)

  • Unions too need democratisation.
    We can no longer afford out-dated fear-mongering McCarthyist fronttrade-unionism in the US.

    Policy-based mugging of professionals and total disregard for the basic right of teachers
    to defend their conditions of employment against
    the state as employer,
    needs to end.

    Posted by Vince, 03/18/2010 1:07pm (5 years ago)

  • This just amazes me. Florida teachers brought Florida up to 8th best state for education; previously they were in the bottom 10. Yet, they are 32nd in line for funding education and are still trying to cut school funding. So, if we are one of the worst educationally funded states in the USA, but were able to see our kids increase so much to now be 8th in the nation for education, what does that say about our teaches? It tells me that they must be pretty darn good and devoted to our youth for putting more and more in, when schools kept getting less and less. I don't know, but if I were a lawmaker, I'd be kissing the ground that these teachers walk on, instead of punishing them in a way that demeans the integrity of the profession and the teachers passion for teaching. Kudos to Florida teachers!!! Lawmakers, you need to open your eyes and start living in the real world!

    Posted by Jamie, 03/17/2010 8:19pm (5 years ago)

  • In a perfect world, perhaps it would not be quite so ludicrous to assume that student performance on standardized tests could be directly linked to teacher effectiveness alone. As we all know, however, the real world is far from perfect and student performance on standardized tests is routinely influenced by a myriad of factors, many of which are well beyond the teacher’s realm of control. The fact that legislators are even entertaining the notion of basing a large portion of a teacher’s salary on outcomes that are not entirely within a teacher’s power to control is, in my opinion, a direct insult to educational professionals like myself who regularly go above and beyond the call of duty in an effort to help struggling students find success both in and out of the classroom. Tying teachers’ salaries directly to student performance on standardized tests would be like tying the salaries of medical professionals to the number of patients that they successfully heal rather than to the services rendered to all patients. Doctors are expected to provide all patients with the best possible care regardless of the potential for a successful outcome. Why should any less be expected of educational professionals?

    While I wholeheartedly agree that an overhaul is needed in order to improve the current educational system, I do not believe that the proposed legislation is the right way to go. Any piece of legislation that focuses on student performance as a primary measure of teacher effectiveness will only serve to further cripple our educational system by driving all of the quality teachers away from the struggling students who need them the most.

    Posted by Kristina, 03/17/2010 2:22pm (5 years ago)

  • As the parent of grade-school child, I'm outraged by this trend of attacking teachers and their unions. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is joining in this attack. Parents—and others—need to speak up loud and clear against this!

    Posted by Hank Millstein, 03/17/2010 8:52am (5 years ago)

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