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Posted at 5:00 AM ET, 04/12/2010

The governor and the teachers

By Valerie Strauss

You can’t make up this stuff.

It happened in Florida, where teachers up and down the state are protesting a bill passed by the legislature that would tie teacher pay to standardized tests and do some other things that educators say will harm public schools.

Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, is weighing whether to sign the bill into law, as the Republican majority in the state legislature wants him to; veto it; or send it to an ad hoc committee to be reworked.

He must decide by Friday, and until then, teachers are planning protests around the state. In Miami-Dade County schools, for example, a teacher “sickout” is expected on Monday. Teachers can’t legally strike in Florida, so, apparently, some are planning to call in sick en masse as a protest.

And protesters plan to show up at every public event Crist attends.

In Tavares on Saturday, as protesters shouted “veto veto,” a retired teacher collapsed in the heat. The governor rushed to his side, grabbed a sign that said, “Veto” and began to fan him, staying there until the man was taken to a hospital, according to

Crist was applauded by people in the crowd who had just been yelling at him to veto the legislation, known as Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 7189, which would require:

*School systems to evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores. (Testing experts say this is unfair and unworkable.)

*School systems to ignore a teacher’s experience, advanced degrees or professional credentials in any evaluation or pay.

*School systems to put newly hired teachers on probation for five years and then give them annual contracts for the rest of their careers.

*The creation of more standardized tests for students, to cover subjects not already assessed.

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By Valerie Strauss  | April 12, 2010; 5:00 AM ET
Tags:  Florida, Florida teacher pay, Florida teacher tenure, Florida teachers, teacher pay, teacher tenure bill, teachers  
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Next: Even Megan Fox knows Calif. has an education crisis


When politics and education collide! Back in the mid-80's in Bloomington,Ind. under the Reagan Adm. great educational minds and politicians gathered to improve the educational system. From this mariage,came goals 2000, the answer to the problem. Immediately colleges adopted these programs and new teahers taught to forget phoenixs, in lieu of whole language, the 3r's took a beating. A little over a decade later came NCLB under Busch adm. Programs and curriculum were written to take teaching out of the hands of teachers, and make them facillitaters of these of these programs. Complete with inspectors to watch schools so everyone was following the same predescribed programs. Now, more than a decade later,comes Arnie Duncan and Obama. The new plan is to kill the messengers,holding teachers responsible for failed curriculum, which they are forced to teach. Between Arnie Duncan's race to the top, and Floridas senate bill 6, politics and education collide. When will we just let teachers teach the 3r'

Posted by: roosboys | April 12, 2010 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Public school teachers in Florida, 168,000 of them, have been frightened and confused by Jeb Bush’s success in the Legislature. They have had to ponder over how ideas so clearly absurd and destructive could win the votes of legislators. They have asked why rationality seems to hold no sway in this matter. The short answer is, of course, that money trumps reason in the Legislature. In fact, money trumps all! What Jeb Bush and the Chamber of Commerce and the builders and the developers want they get in the Florida Legislature.

But the teacher’s initial fear is giving way to something else. They are calling in sick in Miami-Dade. Their student allies are walking out of classrooms and into the streets in protest. Their parent allies have conducted a hunger strike and marched up and down the state on their behalf. Even if Gov. Crist fails to muster the courage to veto the teachers will stop whatever legislation Bush wins in the implementation phase. I know from a quarter century of teaching experience that we run the schools in practice and while we are deferential to authority we’re not suicidal. We will see to our survival and feed our families.

A sleeping giant has been roused.

Posted by: natturner | April 12, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

I teach in Florida, and I assure you that teachers are not opposed to accountability nor teaching to high standards. We are opposed to a law that was hastily shoved through the process in three weeks, with NO amendments allowed, and with no public discussion nor town hall meetings. We are opposed to legislation that requires a five percent cut from each district in a state that falls dead last in per-pupil spending. We are opposed to legislation that will inadvertently cause talented teachers to fall by the wayside since there is no way to evaluate learning gains for top performers. Case in point; me. I teach AP and Gifted English, and have rocked a 100% pass rate for the past several years due to good talent sitting in my classroom. Look, I think I'm really good at what I do (and have awards out the yingyang to back it up) but the reality is that the scores belong to the students, not to me. I have them for fifty minutes a day, and those tests assess a lifetime of learning. Connecting my pay to learning gains (and I did get a letter some years back warning me that zero growth was a problem; nowhere in that memo did it tell me how to go higher than 100%) is terrifying and wrong-headed. Most of us in Florida who oppose this bill see it as a measure to break apart our teaching union, which is no union at all in a right-to-work state but a professional association. The anti-public education rhetoric in our state is appalling.

In the meantime, here is something to contemplate: In 2007, I earned just under 66,000 to teach 119 students, and I taught them well. This year, my tax return showed that I earned 52,000, and I have 171 students. Please tell me what the incentive is for anyone who wants to start a family in this state to become a teacher with these numbers. Starting pay is around 39,000, but then it stays there, and if this bill passes, I'll lose my masters pay AND my National Board Certification bonus as well. Any extra monies that I have earned will be gone. Private industry is starting to look better and better, because even though I am passionately committed to my craft, I have bills to pay and a life to plan.

Much love and luck to everyone fighting the good fight here. In the meantime, I have lessons to plan for tomorrow and kids to teach. Later.

Posted by: jhill2 | April 12, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

From reading what is going on in Florida, this is way more than a curriculum debate on how to teach reading or what the standards will be. It sounds like they are trying to take from the public schools, specifically low performing schools (which will most likely have some correlation with poverty) and give the money to private schools. The sad thing is, the kids at the low performing schools will not benefit. So it is not reform at all.

But even though this is very serious, I cannot help chuckling at the thought that Florida is going to come up with state wide tests for subjects like Band, Chorus, Art, and P.E. Maybe Florida public schools doesn't have those subjects?

Posted by: celestun100 | April 12, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

To Natturner:
You bet your life we will survive and feed our families. When the parents discover what this really means, little preK kids getting tested, programs dropped because of lack of $$$$, no teachers being trained in colleges, they will suddenly ask, "Why didn't someone tell us?" All they can see is "tenure" of which we do not have, and get rid of the bad teachers. In an era when the districts barely have enough $$ to buy toilet paper and gas for the buses, the public is willing to spend $900 million for this monstrosity? Really, really stupid.

Posted by: veteranteacher1 | April 12, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Remember the Cecil Golden Statute driving universities across the state to revamp their principal prep programs to increase the quality of their administrators and increase student achievement (says the FL DOE..even though the majority of ed leader prep program had already been NCATE accredidated, many with distinction, and two had been serving as national internship models...yes, sounds like they needed some revamping, hah)? This was known as State Statue 6A or the Cecil Golden leadership standard which has now been implemented into all leadership programs across the state. Why? Failure to comply would result in loss of a college's state approval to grant leadership licensure to its students, and in such a case, the dept would likely fold. So, in order to survive and continue to produce new leaders for the many schools in Florida, most dept of leadership across all SUS universities had to seriously watered down their curriculum, having to void theory in place of almost laughable skills and tasks, 132 to be exact, the state expected to see in the new state leadership development programs in all of its SUS universites. Even though many of FL's educational leadership programs had marks of dinstinction, NCATE accredited, many UCEA members, the state carried on with these mandates to ensure that its aspring leaders would have the curriculum it necessary to pass the state leader exam, the FELE...($250 for students to take it, money to state) so, not surprisingly, guess what the new mandated leadership curriculum was composed of? No, not ISLLC or NPBEA or ELLC, tried, true leadership for social justice standards used internationally and the core foundation of reputuable ed leadership programs across the world, but no, management and operational drivel consisting of 132 compentencies and standardes that the state and a select group of yes men and a cadre of "good ole boys" mainly from private U's if any professors were involved at all (our research says less than 4% of professors of educational leadership were involved in the new mandated leadership curriculum development) yet fully responsible to completely re-"form?" their existant NCATE accredited programs in order to conform to the government garbage curriculum jammed down the throats of educational leadership professors, many years further in thinking and research then the state officials dreaming up Cecil Golden" standards for leadership Prep. Anyway, the result. A mass exodus of some of the finest faculty in leadership development across the state and country. The best faculty saw the writing on the wall and simply left. When a faculty member (now teachers) lose any sense of professional identity or autonomy, those truly called to the profession simply can't or won't abide.

Posted by: sikacoruptpoltikn | April 13, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

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