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Posted at 3:54 PM ET, 04/ 2/2010

Florida school reform: Worse than you thought

By Valerie Strauss

It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

Look at the way the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature handles important issues, and it becomes easier to understand the lack of serious thought that has gone into its deeply misguided school reform plans.

The Florida House just passed a $67.2 billion spending bill that was supposed to cut legislator’s salaries by 3 percent.

Somehow, the wording of the amendment written by House Majority Leader Adam Hasner of Delray Beach wound up giving them a 4 percent raise. Nobody figured out the mistake before the vote. Now, it is going to have to be resolved in negotiations between the House and Senate.

“It was a mistake,” Hasner was quoted as saying by the Palm Beach Post. “Things happen in this process.”

Such bumbling helps explain the march to pass legislation that teachers rightly see as an assault on their profession and public education.

The bill would make student test scores the primary measure for teacher pay, require all new teachers to work on one-year contracts after being on probation for five years and call for the creation of a slew of new standardized tests to cover subjects that do not already have their own dedicated testing regime.

All of these are awful ideas, guaranteed to degrade a public school system that has already been harmed in eight years of high-stakes standardized testing under the No Child Left Behind law.

If the legislators are so inept that they vote to give themselves more money when they mean to do the opposite, how much hope is there of thoughtful analysis on other topics?

Some suggest that Florida’s lawmakers should be put on one-year contracts, and have their own pay tied to student test scores. It is tempting. But that makes as much sense as having teachers work under those conditions, which is to say that it makes no sense at all.

Funny how teachers understand that, but legislators don’t. Actually, it’s not funny at all.

Many of Florida’s teachers, parents and even administrators have taken to the streets to express their opposition, but the Legislature seems intent on pushing it through. The Senate has already approved its version, and the House is expected to pass it early next week.

It’s not only teachers who think this legislation is disastrous. So do some school administrators, who often have their own issues with teachers unions.

Jim Notter, superintendent of Broward County Public Schools, spent time in Tallahasee watching the legislative debate. He had this to say:

"It’s crazy. .The teachers I’ve spoken to are one step away from a heart attack. They can’t believe what’s happening."

He also called implementation a “logistical nightmare.”

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has suggested he would sign it into law. There would likely spring up a range of lawsuits to question its constitutionality.

Educator Sherman Dorn raises a number of these isues on his blogpost, here, including the issue of whether the state Board of Education has the authority to direct the actions of local school boards, as the legislation would require.

Still, lawsuits are not the answer to this--certainly not in the short term. The damage done to the public schools will be incalculable, literally. A state analysis of the legislation says it is impossible to estimate the financial impact of the bill on the state budget.

That’s thinking ahead for you, isn’t it?

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By Valerie Strauss  | April 2, 2010; 3:54 PM ET
Categories:  No Child Left Behind  | Tags:  Florida, NCLB, school reform  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Why Obama's education reform plan can't work
Next: The illusion of ever-lower college acceptance rates


Maybe Jay Leno could say something about those Florida clowns that call themselves legislators.

If the legislature doen't wise up, it seems likely that teachers could start striking, and then a whole lot of people may have the opportunity to see what an 'easy' job it is to teach under current conditions.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | April 2, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse


Thanks for linking to one of my blog entries about the Florida teacher legislation. The specific entry you pointed to is a little obsolete, since Senate Bill 6 was amended to address some of the constitutionality questions. I have two more recent entries on the current version, one on the bill's overreaching ( and another on the ugly history of teacher evaluation in Florida (

Posted by: ShermanDorn | April 2, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

In some undetermined future time an anthropologist in search of pure crystalline stupidity will stumble over the record of the Florida Legislature. The search will end there.

The US Senate has now terminated the voucher program that helped cripple the public schools in D.C. but in Florida legislators are rushing to extend and enhance voucher funding to the tune of $31 million. And Valerie you should have heard the one idiot legislator argue that some of the people's tax money should be given to private schools because it's private money? "His money" (the taxes he pays) he said is his private money!

Then because these boobs are incapable of addressing the State's budget deficit in the only way it can be addressed (by raising the taxes of the wealthy and the developers and corporations that have raped this state) they are ready to take a stand on the budget of the United States of America. They need to hide from Florida's emergency behind a meaningless call for a balanced federal budget.

Their pea-brains are unable to fathom that the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency and the deficit spending it allows for is responsible for the rise of the US to the planet's single and unrivaled superpower. It's the reason they have lived in the lap of luxury until now. Their beloved US military could never be deployed from Japan to Afghanistan to Germany without the unique right of this country to run budget deficits.

All of these mental defectives were elected in an era when nothing was required of public officials except a pulse. Serious people were actually running things and these blowhards were supposed to make an occasional speech and then run off to a banquet where they take turns giving awards to each other. They were rewarded for their service by getting a chance to feed at the public trough. You know, get your hair cut for $135 or travel to Europe with a few friends.

These pathetic souls are incapable of grasping how drastically things have changed now. The economy of the US has been mortally wounded and is on life support. The only thing that stands between us and total shutdown today is the FED's printing presses. But the day when the plug must be pulled is nearing.

When the end comes for the economy and the social order it generates, it will be dangerous to have been a Florida legislator. People in the deepest pain of deprivation will go looking for those who fiddled while Florida burned and those who cowered from real leadership in this crisis. They won't even know what hit them but for sure the arrogance of ignorance will be gone.

"The taxes I pay are my own private money." There you have it, one of the legislature's rocket scientists.

Posted by: natturner | April 2, 2010 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Ha! My relatives wonder why I don't want to move to Florida when I retire in 6 years after 40 years of teaching in the DC suburbs! There is no way I could stand to have my tax dollars support this type of ineptitude! How can the citizens of Florida allow this to happen? It just boggles my mind!

Posted by: musiclady | April 2, 2010 7:59 PM | Report abuse

When I picked up my income tax information from the accountant today, they informed me that if SB6 passes, teachers will not be getting loans, their credit ratings will drop, and the credit card companies will have a field day with us.

Thanks, Jeb! AKA.. The gift that keeps on giving. Can't wait until he runs for national office.

Required reading for interested parties:
Go to FB..Stop Senate Bill 6...discussions..Is this the true agenda for Florida's Attack on Education

The dots have now been connected..we understand. Wait until they want tenure gone at the colleges...tie their state $$ to it, question their views...and expect allegiance. Are we still in America?

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 2, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

I love teaching, I am a high school math teacher in Sarasota, FL and I work long hours and so do many of the teachers around me. I believe I do a good job for a good cause, I thought everybody believed that the majority of the teachers are doing the right thing.
Boy, did I have that wrong. I am still in disbelief that politicians that we elect could destabilize our schools and our incomes and then expect us to have faith and believe that they will do the right thing when it comes to merit pay. They have the potential to significantly decrease the districts' budget and increase the state budget. They have the potential to make the standards so high that all of our teachers will be taking a 25% pay cut or more and a second job, second mortgage. There are no checks and balances.
What's more appalling is that The Race to the Top is part of what started this bill. Thank Obama, Duncan, Jeb Bush and Thrasher
for this toxic legislation. At least the Democrats in FL voted against SB 6 and 4 Republicans. I appreciate their votes.
Also, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is behind the bill so drop them a line while you are at the computer.
The demise of education is bipartisan

Posted by: ananna | April 2, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

One more thing .... a huge thank you for your excellent coverage of Florida school reform.

Posted by: ananna | April 2, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

Oh, dear God! Jeb is on the move to Alabama!

Wants the same thing for Alabama! Someone warn them!

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 2, 2010 11:01 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm....I don't mind them getting rid of tenure -- like it actually as it welcomes teachers to the real world. By the way college professors take roughly 10 years not 3 - 5 years to get tenure and then they have to publish, do research, bring in grant dollars, etc...nothing like this has to be done by K-12 teachers. Once the K-12 teachers get tenure even if they are no good the tax-payer and students are stuck with the tenure part to me is good.

The teacher evaluation part...isn't part of the solution having the FCAT results (or whatever the EOC exam is) tied to the students grades and if they do not pass the test they do not pass the grade? The question then becomes what happens to the test -- how good will it really be if this happens.

On the lending piece -- I think that is hogwash. No one other than teachers have tenure..very few people have mutliple year employment contracts...they ALL gets loans, credit cards, etc.

Calm down and think through what you are hearing and writing. Talk to your banks...check the facts. Just because your have tenure or an employment contract does NOT mean you are credit worthy...don't believe the accountant has a clue about how consumer lending works...

Good luck!

Posted by: knoxelcomcastnet | April 3, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

All they are doing is, following the lead from the Obama Adm. Nice way to avoid who is dangling the carrot/$$$
You have federal involvement in education, this is the result. Obama thinks they should dictate local policies now. They pressure or rather BRIBE states to conform to federal ideology, removing the local control.
For so long Conservatives (not the fake Republicans in FL) called upon removing the feds from education. Where were you championing that cause?

Until you give the power back to the parents, you will see more of these centralized govt. ideas flowing from the top.

I would suggest looking closely at Marc Tucker and his plan for reforming education. So much of what I'm seeing come from the Feds. comes straight from his Marxist beliefs.

Posted by: MOMwithAbrain | April 3, 2010 7:51 AM | Report abuse

To knoxelcomcastnet:

Brand new teachers already live at home because pay is low. Cut their pay in half "on paper" and they would make a little over $15,000.

No one is "stuck" with a tenured teacher. There are procedures in place to get rid of them. We see it all the time. It takes an administrator to do their job. All we are guaranteed is due process.

I think the general public knows how our wonderful consumer lending works. The horror stories are in the papers everyday.

They are already cutting back on parts of the FCAT because the state can't afford it. So we are going to spend millions on new tests when school districts can't, literally,
afford toilet paper. I have never seen teachers, superintendents, school boards, administrators, and , oh, the dreaded union, on the same page.

In an era of almost depression, we should all be on the same page to survive. This is about "bustin' the unions" which is laughable in our state. It is a right to work state, no strikes, and they are there to bargain our salaries (per the state constitution) and provide due process.

"If you don't stand up for something, you stand for nothing." Can't remember who said it, I am tired from grading papers.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 3, 2010 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Here you go...I don't know about anyone else, I have never known the "union", really "association" to go into a classroom.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 3, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Diane Ravitch, professor, historian and former original supporter of No Child Left Behind and charter schools later became "disillusioned" and wrote, "I no longer believe that either approach will produce the quantum improvement in American education that we all hope for." In the major national evaluation, 17% of charters got higher scores, 46% were no different, and 37% were significantly worse than public schools, she said. High-stakes testing, "utopian" goals, "draconian" penalties, school closings, privatization, and charter schools didn't work, she concluded. "The best predictor of low academic performance is poverty—not bad teachers." The bottom line is that Obama's Race to the Top funding is driving this terrible plan in Florida. Read her commentary titled Obama's Terrible Education Plan here

Posted by: jbrabham1 | April 3, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

To knoxelcomcastnet:

Talked to someone in banking today. His words, "You're screwed."

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 3, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Florida has elected people who are ruining their education system. The kids are the ones who will suffer.

to knoxelcomcastnet:
k-12 teachers teach 8 hours a day with a small break for lunch and planning. On top of that they plan for classes. College profs do not put in the classroom hours, nor do they deal with behavior problems. I know profs have to plan a lot, research, and publish, but at the university level much less is expected as far as teaching. The college profs do not have anything near the responsibility for learning that K-12 teachers in the US have.

Posted by: celestun100 | April 3, 2010 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Please take a moment to view this powerful video indictment of the anti-teacher legislation, Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 7189, now working its way through the Florida Legislature toward Gov. Charlie Crist's desk. The three extraordinary women who appear in the video are part of Fund Education Now and the shame is that they are not representing the people of Florida in the Legislature in place of Jeb Bush's minions.

Posted by: natturner | April 3, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

This is a quote from the
website of Bradley Byrne, Republican that Jeb Bush just endorsed for governor of Alabama:
"Jeb Bush was Florida’s 43rd Governor, serving from 1999-2007. He is the Chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which is championing a movement of reform, state by state, across America to transform education for the 21st century economy."

Yes, education for the Bush family economy. Read:

He is setting the groundwork to run for president in 2012. By the time they get through labeling Obama a communist, alien, antichrist, leper, etc, he will be a shoe-in.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 4, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Why Florida Schools Were Left Behind in Race to the Top By Jason Flom
(FloridaThinks: The Forum for Civil Debate)
The current FCAT battery, given in some form or another to students in grades 3 through 11, costs taxpayers around $40 million per year. Under SB 6, this number would rocket beyond $150 million in order to develop, administer, score and report both pre-tests and post-tests for every teacher at every grade from kindergarten through 12th grade.

So, who would pay for it all? Cash-strapped districts.

The final report evaluating Florida’s application states, “The allocated resources for this element do not appear adequate for the timeline of the grant period and insufficient to support a large scale initiative comparable to the resources request.”

Additionally, “A substantial amount of the resources requested are target(ed) to external vendors and contracted services as opposed to a systemic integration of the work into key functional units of the state department of education as well as other state agencies.”


Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 4, 2010 7:47 AM | Report abuse

Florida Chamber launches negative TV spot vs. Teachers.

Posted by: saintpetersblog | April 4, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Considering the National Teachers Association Union priority is reading Alinsky's Rules For Radicals instead of teaching children, I applaud the action the Florida Legislators.

I also love the idea of merit pay.

Posted by: imakecents | April 4, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse


I'm just curious as to whether or not you were aware that Florida's minority students, both Hispanics and African Americans, outscored many statewide averages for ALL students on the 2009 NAEP exam:

Whether or not "the system" has been "harmed" it is very clear that Florida's students are learning much more than they did 8 years ago.

Posted by: Ladner665 | April 5, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

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