Thursday, April 08, 2010

A reality check on the Legislature's attack on the teaching profession



You might have been contacted by the Florida Department of Education teacher liaison, who recently wrote to teachers about legislation that is currently being considered at the Florida Capitol.

We found her letter on the legislation - designated Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 7189 - to be misleading and inaccurate. Make no mistake, the DOE is using their email access to manipulate and/or ignore the facts, certainly not to enlighten you. This is clearly a misuse of their mission, their access to you... and the teacher liaison position. Taxpayer dollars are being used to mislead us on this bill and to get parents and teachers to pipe down about their opposition to this bad legislation.

Here is a "reality check" on the DOE rhetoric on SB 6/HB 7189:
  • This legislation would require the development of scores of end-of-course exams, which would be used to determine if students made learning gains. These tests are not currently developed and how they would measure those learning gains have not been developed either.
  • It is clear that there are tremendous costs that are associated with the passage of this legislation. The analysis of the bill by those who developed this legislation says that the actual price tag is "indeterminate," which means they don't know what it will cost. Yet the Legislature has allocated no money for this purpose.
  • In fact, the legislation seeks to pay for these costs by holding back 5 percent of each district's budget. Yes, the same budget that has been cut for the past few years and that each district is struggling with every year. That means there will be even less money available for salaries, programs and school operations. All of this while districts seek to comply with this legislation and other costly mandates that are currently being considered by the Legislature.
  • The legislation states, without equivocation: "A district school board may not use length of service or degrees held as a factor in setting a salary schedule." So experience and knowledge are no longer important in the classroom?
  • The salary schedule would not be subject to collective bargaining and the state will decide what categories of differentiated pay will be provided for.
  • Probationary contracts are issued for up to five years, after which a teacher could get an annual contract if they are rated effective or highly effective, which will be defined by the DOE, not the school district. The state will have a much greater hand in appraisals.
  • The bill would abolish the Dale Hickam Excellent Teacher program, which rewards teachers who have attained National Board Certification.
We know you are busy, but if you find the time, we've provided three links to PDF documents for your use. The Facts Side by Side sheet examines what proponents have been saying about this legislation, information that proponents aren't talking about, and what the bill actually does. We've also included a link to a letter by nationally known education expert Diane Ravitch, who was an education official during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, and is strongly opposed to the approach this legislation takes. We've also included a sample letter you can use as a starter should you wish to write to the teacher liaison.


I guess the DOE hopes to lull you into inaction on this legislation, which impacts the teaching profession and local control of our public schools. Using tax dollars to manipulate practicing educators and blatantly promote dangerously flawed legislation is outrageous! A reprimand from the governor is in order.

Andy Ford
President, Florida Education Association

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