More for Florida educators to be angry about
Florida’s teachers are already up in arms about the likelihood that state lawmakers are about to end teacher tenure, require the creation of standardized tests for every single grade, and link teacher pay to student test scores.
Now there’s another doozy of a bill that the Republican-led legislature is working on that has teachers, parent, and even school superintendents aghast.
It’s SB 2126, which would expand a program that allows corporations in Florida to contribute to a fund that provides scholarships, or vouchers, for private schools. The corporations can then deduct the amount from their corporate income and insurance premium taxes.
In other words, millions tax dollars that could go to the state to help out in this difficult financial downturn would instead go to send kids to private schools, most of them Christian, Muslim and Jewish.
[Added at 9 p.m.: This is an expansion of a program already in place, and there are varying estimates of how much money is involved. Supporters of the fund say it saves money for the state; opponents, and some school districts, say the opposite.]
Never mind that the state is cutting public education (and other) funding and raising tuition at public colleges and universities. Somehow, Florida has money to help corporations help kids go to private religious schools.
Broward County Schools Superintendent James Notter, in an interview with my colleague Nick Anderson said: "I’m adamantly opposed to it. It’s draining off dollars in the Great Recession that aren’t there."
Schools in Florida, he said, have enough trouble already getting funding for what they need, including in his 250,000-student system.
Sadly, big trouble is where the Florida public school system is headed.
Yesterday, the House Education Policy Council held an hours-long hearing about legislation that would end teacher tenure--which would make Florida the first state to do so--and tie teacher pay to standardized test scores. It would also negate the importance of teacher experience, credentials or advanced degrees, and require the creation of standardized tests for every grade in every subject already not assessed by the state’s accountability system.
In Florida, kids will first learn to walk, then talk and then jump right into test-prep.
The Senate has already passed its version, SB6, and the House is expected to pass HB7189 this week. Monday, teachers packed the chamber where the hearing was being held, hoping to get a chance to speak against it during time set aside for public speeches. Most of the people permitted to speak were, of course, supporters of the bill.
After one of a series of amendments to improve the bill was rejected by the council, a few teachers got up and left, sobbing.
There was nothing left for them to do, because the legislators seem intent on making this law, and Gov. Charlie Crist (R) has said he will sign it.
If you listen to the sponsor of the Senate version, new Florida Republican Party chief Sen. John Thrasher, which I did on a video that I can no longer find on YouTube, you learn that he doesn’t know some basics about the bill’s impact.
For example, when asked by a colleague how many tests would have to be created, he said he didn’t know. When asked how much it would cost, he said he didn’t know. When asked whether there was any marker in the bill that would show its true cost, he hedged.
I also listened to a video in which Thrasher introduced the bill, and some of the language seemed oddly familiar. Then I realized that I had read it before, in a position paper on the Web site of former governor Jeb Bush's Foundation for Florida’s Future.
Well, Bush was interested in education as governor; he pushed through the legislature the statewide assessment test known as FCAT. And Bush did strongly boost Thrasher’s ascension to the Republican party chairmanship in February, after Jim Greer was ousted from the post. Now Greer is suing the Republican Party of Florida, claiming it hasn’t abided by a secret pact that it made to get him out of office involving a job that would pay Greer tens of thousands of dollars plus health benefits until his tenure would have been up in 2011, according to this Florida Today story.
Oh. Wait. This is an education blog and that sounds a lot like politics, doesn’t it?
That’s what we’ve got: politicians telling educators what to do, even though the politicians have no idea what works in a classroom and what doesn’t.
It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that no teachers were involved in the drafting of this legislation. Anybody who knows the first thing about education knows that the measures in this bill will make it harder for Florida’s children to get a decent education. Effective teachers will bristle at working under these conditions.
Notter has said it would be harder to attract qualified teachers, which is something of supreme importance to a superintendent. Florida’s Republicans leaders, of course, don’t care. They don’t have to hire the teachers--or get paid according to student test scores.
All of this helps explain why teachers in Florida think public education is under attack, a reaction made quite clear at the Teaching is Not Testing Facebook Page. Parents and other nonpartisan Floridians are involved, too, at Fund Education Now.
They are all busy getting ready for the next offensive.
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| April 6, 2010; 4:37 PM ET
Categories: Teachers | Tags: Florida, Florida tax credits, Florida teacher tenure bill, Florida vouchers, Senate Bill 2126, Senate Bill 6, Standardized test, school voucher, standardized test, teacher tenure bill, teachers
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