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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Local teacher thanks union for suing Florida over SB736

I am grateful that the Florida Education Association is taking legal action with regard to Senate Bill 736 (SB 736), popularly known as the "Student Success Act." I believe that the courts will find SB 736 to be unconstitutional because it is less about education than it is a political ploy to compromise collective bargaining rights and to punish educators.

Firstly, the state legislature overstepped its bounds by seeking to limit the rights of public workers to negotiate basic working conditions with their employer. If politicians disapprove of collective bargaining, they should amend the state constitution to make the necessary changes. Instead, they chose to use statute to chip away at the relationship between management (school districts) and their personnel (educators) who entered into a good faith contract to handle matters such a Professional Services Contracts, wages and evaluations.

Furthermore, our state's leaders employed fear tactics to advance their agenda when passing SB 736. They brought out the old 'bad teacher' straw man to justify their efforts to eliminate existing pay schedules and to overhaul the contract renewal process. They would have us believe that 'bad teachers' are why they opted to create a new system that presumes that educators are a corrupt group whose job security should be tied to standardized tests. They ignore research that indicates that basing teacher pay on student performance is ineffective.

Ultimately, SB 736 is legislation that contradicts the rule of law. The State of Florida decided to abridge constitutionally protected rights of educators for the sake of satisfying a political mood. This mood, fed by a faltering economy raised emotional stakes at the expense of an entire class of Floridians. Merely arguing that most workers 'do not have tenure' is a weak justification for dismantling home rule in school districts and participating in the wholesale punishment of others. Even worse is when state politicians craft this kind of policy as a means of balancing their books. And, while we all agree that the state's financial house should be in order, we should not make an end run around our state's constitution by dramatically altering pay schedules in our 67 school districts as a means to plug holes in a deficit.

Our state's leaders behaved irresponsibly when they passed SB 736 and it was an error to pass this bill into law. I believe that it should be struck down as unconstitutional.


John Louis Meeks, Jr.

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