Florida school reform: Worse than you thought
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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| April 2, 2010; 3:54 PM ET
Categories: No Child Left Behind | Tags: Florida, NCLB, school reform
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