THE BLOG

Scorecard of Latest Education Deforms in the Sunshine State

04/13/2011 06:40 pm ET | Updated Jun 13, 2011

In case you haven't kept score of how many times Florida's teachers and school children have been suckered punch by its out-of-control legislature, here's a recap of just the past four weeks of laws enacted and bills proposed. Jaw, meet floor.

SB 736 ENACTED:

1) 50 percent of teacher evaluations will be based on student's standardized test scores.

This will impact every teacher regardless of subject they teach now. Every teacher and the school will receive a score based upon a calculation of the other's performances until such time as tests are developed for the tests they teach. Where's the money coming to develop all those tests? Pffft, not the State's problem. They just mandated it and shoved it off to the districts.

To recap: teacher's salaries, their ability to be re-hired for one more year, their colleagues' jobs and the closing of the school itself all fall on the shoulders of that unpredictable child taking that one test, that one day. How's that for "high stakes for the teachers?"

2) The Moneyless Merit Pay law should be dubbed the David Copperfield law. While the law was promoted to "reward our effective teachers," there is no money for it.

All the punitive sanctions are there -- just not the reward. (Now you see it, now you don't!)

3) New tests must be created for every course taught -- another unfunded mandate.

One thousand new tests estimated conservatively at $1.8 billion must be created. The legislature neglected to set aside money for this, too. They expect school districts, I suppose, to duke it out with their taxpayers. Or, the state will saddle everyone with this tax burden.

4) All new teachers, hired after July, will go on a one-year contract to 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 as well.

5) In 2014, all Florida teachers will have two choices.

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

(Important to note: Do not confuse this with the Charter School's new ability to by-pass the School Districts entirely and receive a 15-year contract in order to ensure stability in their relationship with the Dept of Education!)

How's that for job security for public school teachers who teach 95.5 percent of our children?

6) Teachers will no longer be paid at a higher rate for a Masters Degree.

Nothing tells children you value education like this rule!

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 newbies driven by data and solely focused on retaining their underpaid jobs.

I hasten to add that Florida teachers already receive $5,700 less per year than the national average. Florida had a difficult time recruiting teachers for the past five (5) years already. Again, pfft, not a factor to consider for this legislature. After all, they want to "reward effective teachers." Can you hear the stampede of teachers flocking to Florida now? But, I digress.

But Wait, There's More...

8) Unions will not be permitted to collect teacher's dues from their paychecks

9) Another proposed bill requires State employees (teachers, of course!) to endure
random blood tests for drugs. Florida's Governor turned over his ownership of Solantic Clinics to his wife. Apparently he does not see this as a conflict of interest and to date has not exempted Solantic from benefiting from this heinous proposal.

10) A new bill advanced which will split the FL Supreme Court into two and give the
Governor sole power to name Justices.

Here's an intentional pause to pick your jaw up off the floor. Breathe in, then out....

11) Governor proposed putting all FL Judges on merit pay--the more cases the take and clear, the more money they will make. Imagine the dynamic this will set up? We could run fire-sales of fast judgments on certain days! Did I mention that FL Judges also earn approx $12K less than the national average too?

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.)

13) A bill expanding the Charter School program. This allows Charter Schools to have fewer restrictions, can grant them 15-year contracts, and ability to by-pass the School Districts entirely to become approved. This also allows establishment of 100 percent Virtual Charters.

(Will there be any oversight of our public dollars going to private businesses?)

14) A new Class Size amendment to redefine classes and call nearly 850 classes "electives".

This now allows for reduction in class sizes and in many classes will enable "unlimited" class sizes. Yes, voters spoke on this issue twice, but that doesn't matter to these lawmakers. They evidentally represent the people from Pearsonstan.

15) New bill proposed to strip School Boards of their salaries -- pay then a stipend of $2,400. Here's yet another method of grabbing the reins of local control.

I'm confused. Isn't it supposed to be the Republican party who dislikes big government control? Yet, they are reaching right down to the School District level and making every decision. I'm getting the popcorn to watch the results of the 2012 elections now! No party can count on the support they thought they once had.

RECAP: Moneyless merit pay, no tenure, strip collective bargaining rights, strip higher rate of pay for Masters Degrees, pull any security out from under the public school teachers who teach 95.5 percent of Florida's children. What's not to like?

HOW DOES ANY OF THIS IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF PUBLIC EDUCATION?