What's happened in Florida in the past three weeks; read it and weep!

by Rita Solnet

As promised, here’s what happened in the past three, sad, never-to-be-forgotten weeks in Florida as it relates to public education.

SB 736 ENACTED:

1)  Teachers will have 50% of their evaluations based on student’s standardized test scores (FCATs).

This is effective immediately and impacts every teacher.  Anyone who does not teach Reading or Math will receive a score based upon a calculation of all the teachers.  So, to be clear,  teacher’s salaries, their ability to be re-hired for one more year, their colleagues’ jobs and the opening or closing of your school itself all fall on the shoulders of that child taking that one test, that one day.   How’s that for high stakes for the teachers?

2)  This Merit Pay Bill was a moneyless bill.

Legislature admitted they have no money to fund the merit pay.  (Yet they still claim they are ‘rewarding effective teachers!’)

3)  New standardized tests will be created for every course taught- bill states 1,000 new tests to be created.

Important to note:  The State does not fund the creation of these new tests.  Each new test is estimated to be between $1M – $1.5M. Taxpayers will be burdened with this mandate.

4)  All new teachers, hired after July, will be placed on a one-year contract which must be renewed annually.

Teachers must earn the right to be re-hired every year.  This goes for seasoned, veteran teachers who move from one FL District to another FL District as well.  They will fall under this rule.

5)  In 2014, all Florida teachers will have two choices.  Lethal injection or bullet (couldn’t resist!)

All FL teachers must choose either to:   A) stay with their current contracts and accept the high probability of never receiving another raise again; or,  B) opt to go on the one year contract which must be renewed every year contract.

How’s that for job security?

6)  Effective July, teachers will no longer be paid at a higher rate for a Masters Degree even if it is earned in the subject they teach.

7)  Effective July, teacher seniority is eliminated.  This will be important when layoffs occur. No more Last In, First Out with layoffs.  Soon, we’ll have armies of underpaid newbies driven by data in order to retain their underpaid job.

I hasten to add a few more important points.  Most of FL’s 67 School Districts have already discussed a longer workday for teachers.  Pay will remain the same.  Florida teachers already receive $5,700 less per year than the national average; and $6,300 less than its neighboring state, Georgia.  Florida has had a difficult time recruiting teachers for the past five (5) years already.

Can you hear the stampede of teachers flocking to Florida now?  All of this will really solve the recruiting problem, won’t it?  But, I digress.

OTHER EGREGIOUS FL LEGISLATION IMPACTING OUR CHILDREN, OUR SCHOOLS

8)  Unions are not permitted, now by Florida law, to collect teacher’s dues from their paychecks.

9)  Governor Scott proposed a bill which will order 105,000 state employees (including teachers) to endure mandated urine/blood drug tests. Guess he found money for that. Note: FL Governor owns Solantic Clinics.

10)Governor and the Republican legislature advanced another bill which will attempt to split the Florida Supreme Court into two courts and give the Governor the sole power of appointing FL Justices.

11)  Governor last week proposed putting all FL Judges on merit pay–the more cases they take and clear, the more money they will make.  (Imagine the dynamic this will set up? )

12)  FL Governor invoked his emergency powers to order an immediate rollback of payment for the developmentally disabled. (Autistic, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, all developmentally disabled — impacting an estimated 40K individuals minimally.) This is sickening–he invoked an emergency order Friday to stop payments and reduce theiralready insufficient funds another 15%.

13)  FL Gov informed the State he is expanding the Charter School program.  The new bill will allow Charter Schools far fewer restrictions to become a charter.  They can bypass the School Districts/School Boards entirely and they can be given a 15 year contract.

At the same time they take away job security, seniority and bargaining rights from teachers, this Governor and legislature crafts 15 year “stability” contracts for charter schools along with our tax dollars.

Merit Pay with no money attached.  Strip seniority, bargaining rights, security for public school teachers who teach 95.5% of the children in this state.  HOW DOES ANY OF THIS IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF PUBLIC EDUCATION?

Welcome to the Sunshine State!   Sorry to say I wept as I typed this.

Posted on by admin Posted in News & Updates

24 Responses to What's happened in Florida in the past three weeks; read it and weep!

  1. D

    One factor left out is the new law requiring teachers to pay 3-5% of their salary into their retirement. This will dramatically decrease teacher pay beginning in July. Yet, another hit! Not only are many teachers leaving the profession, but also the state. The economy will suffer tremendously when teachers have less money to pay bills (including mortgages – if you think the housing problem is bad now, just wait until teachers can no longer make monthly mortgage payments.) Teachers will also have less money to contribute to the economy and won’t be able to buy supplies for their classrooms – like so many do regularly.
    Thanks for the information and updates.

    • A Concerned Student

      I had heard about this bill from one of my teachers, and after reading the details of it, I am astonished. From the point of view as a student, I know the majority of kids do not take FCAT testing seriously, and it reflects in the scores. We simply have to pass to make our principal happy so she’ll stop trying to inspire us with annoying quotes and carnivals so we’ll try harder on one of the dumbest, easiest, useless tests that I have ever taken. So to base teacher’s salaries on the test results of FCAT is not only screwing over the teachers, but the students as well. Nothing that we learn from FCAT testing and tutoring helps us in our real education, and from now on, teachers will only be concerned with FCAT. Teachers themselves only follow the FCAT curriculum because they’ll get in trouble if they don’t. I am fortunate that I’m going to college this year, but I am so sorry that this is happening to my beloved teachers.

      • zizabella

        Thank you, concerned student for your remarks. They are right on target. I used to love teaching until the FCAT began. Every year the test has been in place, it has gotten worse. I have seen more and more children decide by the age of 9 or 10 that they hate school and that they are failures.
        I used to do all kinds of creative projects that integrated reading, writing, art, drama and music. I taught writing in a way that inspired students to want to write. I learned these techniques at Columbia University from a brilliant woman name Lucy Calkins. I read aloud regularly to my students and I chose reading material for lessons based on my students’ interests and ability levels. I taught math in a way that didn’t make students anxious. Math is a natural ability that all of us are born with. It just needs to be recognized, supported and connected to real life. When I began teaching more than 20 years ago, I was allowed to be creative and innovative. I was unique and I was able to encourage my students to express their own uniqueness. Today’s system is about stuffing teachers and students into a cookie cutter.
        Now there is a prescribed program and a pre-ordained script that consumes every moment of every day. Science and social studies have been pushed into a corner because the only thing that counts is the FCAT. It is appalling that most students don’t know if London is a city or a country. We live in a global community and many classrooms either do not have maps and globes, or they are just there as a decoration.
        Computers in the schools are used largely to drill students on reading passages and math problems that might show up on the FCAT. Technology deserves to be utilized in a variety of other ways that will help students develop the kinds of skills needed for the job market.
        I applaud the teachers that are walking out of the classroom this year. I walked out a few years back. I was miserable in a job that I used to love, and it wasn’t because of the students. It was because I couldn’t stand to shove any more of this mindless, repetitive drill and practice down students’ throats anymore. I couldn’t stand to sit and listen to a child read as fast as they could (they call that “fluency”) and write down a number. The student usually didn’t have a clue about what they’d just read, nor did they care. I couldn’t stand to see another 3rd grader crying because he was being retained based on the results of a one hour test.
        Public schools have never been further from teaching young people how to live in the real world. In the real world, people find happiness doing many different things. So why is everyone in school supposed to do exactly the same thing all the time? When I hear that they are going to create 1000 more tests for every subject, I realize that the government hasn’t the faintest idea what teaching and learning is all about. I am also sure that there are some very conniving and connected people making loads of money on those tests. I’d like them to spend a month in the classroom. Maybe then, they’d wake up.

    • Chris

      That 3-5% taken out for retirement is called 401K. Most of corporate America has 401K’s. Just FYI>

      • Alisha

        I understand that most people have a 401k, but corporate America makes a lot more money than all teachers, for jobs that are half as meaningful!

    • misty

      I see no reason for teachers to be responsible for parental stupidity. Instead of handing there child a cell phone or telling them to do as they please, they should make sure that the studies the teacher sends home….are actually being studied. It is not the teachers fault that the child fails. Why take money from the teacher for the parent not caring rather or not there child is smart or dumb.? A teacher has the child 8 hors per day 5 days per week. A child care giver makes more money than a teacher. How is this possible? Well the parents spend money for expensive cloths, shoes and bling for there child to be popular but has yet to think to buy them a book. Back in my day we were sat at the table and not let to leave every day after school. 2 hours of study then dinner then bed, furthermore there were no cell phones game cubes x-box. wii games computer games facebook friends and texting. Sure kids are failing but it is not the teachers. Just take not that a good ass whipping and a smak in the head with a dictionary will get the kids to study. Weak parenting skills is the game and the money the industries are making is how it is played. Stop cheating the children!!!!!!

      • misty

        Mis-spelled words r to typing to fast. Anger set in.

  2. Florida teacher

    Having taught in both private and public schools in NYC for most of my 35+ year career, I am disappointed that it has come to this in FL. I’m looking at a pay cut of approximately 10%. I’ll be retiring in 2014. How very sad for those folks just starting out.

  3. Jean

    Walker in Wisconsin really started a mess, didn’t he? Watch out for these Republican politicians who keep giving tax breaks to the very wealthy and then say, “Oh, no, we have a budget problem. We will have to cut support for education, health care, the environment, the disadvantaged, the poor, and anyone else who didn’t contribute big bucks to my campaign.”

  4. Nancy

    Thought that I had it all planned. I spent 25 years working toward DROP since I am single and seem to never have money left in my paycheck after paying all the bills. Now I have to look for a comfortable box to call home when I retire the week before I die…without DROP there will be no ‘nest egg’, no security, and no retirement (until forced out for 2 out of 3 years of bad evaluations….hopeufully not). We need someone to turn this all around. This is NOT good for KIDS and definitely not good for teachers.

    • Chris

      Tax cuts to the VERY wealthy???? $250,000 a year is the starting point where Obama wants to tax the so called “wealthy”. In many parts of this country $250,000 is NOT wealthy. Since when is being wealthy bad? Do you want to be wealthy? I sure do. If I ever am I don’t want to be penalized for it.

  5. Jan

    With tenure, only new teachers were judged according to how little they could be paid; successful teaching for 3 years earned tenure. In economically low times, applicants were sometimes advised to ‘forget’ to mention prior years of teaching in another state or a degree in their field.

    After tenure is eliminated, as before it began, teachers will be dropped for whatever excuse is available or creatable; often the truth will be simply that a new teacher can replace an experienced one for less pay.

  6. Char

    Do not take this lying down! Get out there and start recalling your Republican representatives. Take a lesson from WI. Get mobilized! Get mad! Get busy! Some of our representatives are seeing the results of the recall efforts and are starting to sing another tune. Too little, too late, but another tune. Their jobs can be affected too. Above all, stay organized and stay positive. Wishing you the best and praying for a turn-around in Florida. WI is doing it!

    • Chris

      Where in corporate America can you have job security FOREVER. We all know or have had a bad teacher. It is a shame to our children they must experience a bad teacher because of tenure. I don’t care how long you have been in your job if you are not effective then it is time to fish or cut bait.

  7. Floridian for 35 years

    I am so sorry this is happening. Very bizarre laws being passed in Tallahassee. Democrats and other progressives didn’t go to the polls for the last election and look what has happened. I am not a teacher, but I have so much respect for you and your profession. Please think of this as YOUR PROFESSION that you are fighting to maintain a high standard for so Florida’s children will be able to compete in the 21st century workplace and be responsible citizens with a sense of self and purpose. Hang in there. Stay informed. Stay connected.

  8. sandi

    If you want to make money, try to get a job in the private sector like the rest of us. Living off the taxpayer’s money and expecting to get more money, more benefits, and more job security is not going to cut it anymore.

    • CitizensArrest

      Sandy, your comment is abysmally stupid. If all teachers quit to go work in the private sector, who will teacher Florida’s kids? Do you really think punishing the ENTIRE profession is the way to get great teachers to work in FL? Is there some reason that teachers have no right to a decent pay package? Do you really think that teaching makes you rich? Your idiot, criminal governor is nuking your state across the board, and this makes you happy? If you were any more of a moron, you’d forget to breathe.

    • Chuck

      Sandi, you obviously don’t think very well. You implicitly admit that we teachers don’t make as much as people in the private sector. That’s inconsistent with the usual anti-teacher rhetoric. I wonder if you can see that.

    • Andrew

      Sandi…

      Teachers in America work hard and get paid little. It’s not their fault that the current system is paid for by the government and dictated by the government.

      I think it is time that the entire system changes. Teachers and parents should be the ones deciding what is good for the kids, not politicians…

      Schools can also start to generate their own revenue if the model is adjusted. Something to think about.

    • Meg

      Actually, that’s exactly what the government is proposing. Teachers should quit public schools and go private! — translation, charters. Which do NOT pay as well as the already underpaid public school. So wait, how is working in the private sector supposed to make teachers more money?

  9. Jenny

    Really, Sandy- I don’t live off taxpayer money! I live to teach young minds in the best way possible! I live to make a difference! Do you?

  10. Becca

    Sandy-

    I appreciate that you work hard for your money, but so do I. I don’t “live off” taxpayer’s money. I work FOR the taxpayers of this state. I work for them by educating their children. Even to those who don’t have children currently attending I school, my work is still accountable. For them, I help to create future generations of responsible adults who will shape our society with informed decisions. (One example would be decisions regarding how the government fairly regulates all your hard-earned money.)

    “The rest of you” (as you put it) are just as invested in your children as I am. But unless you want every private sector parent to homeschool their children after an extremely long day of working hard at work, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect approximately $1.42 per hour per child… a cost which is shared by every person in the state of Florida.

    What do you think? Is the well-being of YOUR child’s future worth $10.65 per day?

    • Jessica

      To paraphrase, I believe Becca said “booyah!”. Thank you, Florida public school teachers for helping make me who I am and getting me where I want to be in life. Not everyone has the money to send their children to private schools or the time/expertise to homeschool their children, so public school teachers provide an extremely valuable service to parents as well as to society as a whole.

  11. Bojangles

    Ha, that’s just one area that they’re messing with. Check out all of the deregulation that’s happening. The Republicans can shove through anything even if it’s an unfunded mandate due to their super majority. Over these next four years, they’re going to continue to privatize public education. It’s going to take a bit of work, but they’ll get it done unless people wake up.

    I hope you started saving up for your kids/grandkids K – 12 education. The public schools are going to get worse and worse until they’re the option of last resort, thanks to the voucher system or “educations savings account.” I wonder what will be on the chopping block as the corporations plunder the state… Hmm, I think I have a good guess, do you?

    Remember, it’s not just the governor, the legislature is bought by private interest that’s pushing everything. The legislature and governor may agree on some things, but these next couple of years are going to be a republican dick waving contest to see who has more power. It’s lovely. People need to actually vote for their state senators. They have a much larger impact on our day to day lives than the federal government.

    I feel sorry for anyone with Citizens Insurance right now, or as it’s going to soon be known, “Taxpayer Funded Property Insurance Corporation.” Also, good luck if you’re in sinkhole alley, I hope you’re selling your homes now before they deny your coverage on foundation damage. As long as it doesn’t open up, they’ll be able to deny your claim. Have fun with slanted houses, Florida.

    Please take the time and vote for your state reps.