Thursday, March 24, 2011

Doomsday in Florida

Backstory: In November 2010, 45% of people who showed their faces at the polls in Florida voted for Republican (Tea-Partier) Rick Scott. He did not win the majority vote however he now governs all of Florida. He campaigned that he would cut taxes, save Florida's education system by ending public schools and replacing them with charter schools and voucher, and create 700,000 jobs. Did I mention he is a criminal---accused of fraud? But Flori-duh-ians voted for him anyway. And now we're stuck with him for 4 years.

So what has he proposed:
1. cut education budget 1.7 billion dollars
2. enact Merit Pay for Teachers bill
3. dismantle unions

I could go on...

#1...So far his budget has not yet passed and even Republican congressmen view his proposal as irresponsible. How can you cut the education budget and provide an educated workforce for all the business that he want to draw to Florida?

#3 (I know I skipped #2...I'll get back to it.) He wants to take bargaining power away from unions without 51% membership. My county is currently under 51% membership. I know, people say unions are power and money hungry. Our little teacher association (CCEA) while being backed by not at all power or money hungry. They are an essential entity to protect teachers from unfair when a student and her parents went to the media (not the teacher or administration) over a ridiculous issue over cough drops. Or when an administrator took a computer from a classroom and hid it to make the teacher think it was stolen because the teacher's door was unlocked one time too many. Our "union" provides members $1,000,000 legal costs in the event of legal action against a teacher. Our "union" bargains our contract...not only salaries, insurance benefits, but also work day issues such as planning time, duty time, etc., etc.

So without union protection, what happens? Ask teachers in GA and other states without a teacher's union. Furlough days. Planning days taken with no pay. Sure, you can go to work and plan, but you're working for free. 7 day work week...Saturday tutoring with no additional pay. Ask the teachers in Providence, RI...all 1500 were fired without cause.

#2 Today, March 24, 2011 Governor Voldemort....I mean, Scott...signed into law the Merit Pay for Teachers Act (SB 736) at a CHARTER school in Jacksonville, FL. What a coward. Couldn't show his face at a public school.

Now I have to say I am fortunate to work in the school I affluent area where most parents volunteer, are involved in their students' lives, and support teachers. Who will be willing to work in the at risk schools? with learning disabled kids?

Oh, it'll get rid of the lazy teachers you say? Really? Lazy teachers? Lazy teachers are few and far between. The job we do is a calling. If you are not meant for this job you will not last. Attrition rates for teachers are high because the job is difficult and continues to get more challenging. The ones who stick around are the ones who enjoy it and are there to make a difference. The ones who stick around are the ones who continually improve themselves by attending training. The ones who stick around gain the most experience and therefore are better teachers.

So lazy teachers? How about lazy parents and lazy students? How about students who come to school unprepared--no preschool, no breakfast, no homework, no reading practice, no dinner, not support, no desire, no motivation. As hard as a teacher works, these gaps cannot be filled by good teaching alone. What about the kids who meet the state standards in the classroom but don't test well. Come to schol sick on test day? Or the kids who are dealing with issues at home or in the neighborhood who come to school distracted and unable to do their best on the test. So we are going to judge, and pay, teachers on human elements beyond their control.

As I mentioned in point #1...RS is slashing the education budget. This is an unfunded mandate. How do you reward "the good teachers" and there are so many without funding merit pay?

Finally, teaching is a collaborative profession. Working together and sharing ideas is paramount. This legislation pits teacher against teacher and discourages professional collaboration. Each teacher for his/herself. Now how does that benefit students? How does that improve education?