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Friday, August 19, 2011

Senate president Mike Haridopolis disrespects teachers again


Senate President Mike Haridopolos made an interesting comment to the Tiger Bay Club of Polk County Monday: "Every teacher should not have a guaranteed, lifetime job."

It is an interesting comment because teachers never have had a guaranteed life time job.

What they have had until the Legislature changed the law this year is a form of tenure. Under that system, a teacher with a continuing contract could be fired for cause, such as incompetency, criminal behavior or a number of other reasons.

A teacher could not be fired because a principal did not like that teacher or had a friend who wanted that teacher's job.

But a principal could have a teacher removed from a school for a broad category of reasons - such as not meeting the principal's vision of what the school's mission should be.

A tenured teacher who is removed from a school is then placed on a list to be available for hiring at another school.

Haridopolos' comment is also interesting because it was made just before the school year starts - a year in which state funding for education has been cut, and as a number of service clubs and charitable individuals noted, teachers are still digging into their own pockets to buy supplies for children whose families cannot afford them.

These are teachers who have effectively had their pay cut this year because of another law passed by the Legislature requiring them to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their retirement system.

There are teachers who should not be in front of the classroom. And, perhaps, the system for removing those teachers should be made easier.

But to imply that job insecurity and lower pay for teachers is the answer is absurd. Such moves can only hurt morale and deter otherwise qualified people from entering the profession.

Unfortunately, this is only one of the blows Haridopolos and the other leaders in Tallahassee dealt education this year, offset by the vague promise of more funding as the economy improves.

The unfunded mandates include a merit salary schedule for teachers and tests at the end of all courses that will demonstrate that students have made learning gains by 2014.

The state provides such tests for only six courses. That leaves the Polk County School District to find the money to buy or develop end-of-the-course exams for 170 classes.

If our leaders in Tallahassee are really concerned about education, and by extension the future of the state and its people, they should match their rhetoric with the funding needed to implement their plans, help teacher morale, and provide students and teachers with the tools they need.

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