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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly

By John Louis Meeks, Jr.
Guest Writer

Note: The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, a non-profit organization, hosted a community discussion about the "Waiting for Superman" documentary. In my opinion, it was a balanced effort to hear from all stakeholders in the education community. Before attending, I drafted a quick note and gave it to State Senator Steve Wise. Please see below for the note that I passed to Senator Wise.

The good: Duval County is the only school district in the state to have had some form of performance pay since 2004. For the past six years, the school board and the teachers union have collaborated to innovate the way that teachers are paid. Prior to the current Merit Award Plan (MAP), Florida’s Department of Education commended Duval County Schools for having one of the best performance pay plans in the state. Today, Duval County is still on the forefront of merit pay. Teachers have endorsed MAP each year it has been up for a vote. It is totally inaccurate to claim that Jacksonville educators are against progress. We are moving forward right now.

The bad: The state wants to impose yet another performance pay plan regardless of what is already working in districts like Duval. Instead of celebrating the counties that are rewarding good teachers, the state chooses to punish all 67 counties. This is a bad approach because the best innovation can come from the communities that are served by our public schools. To centralize and micromanage does not leave any room for positive experimentation because the politicians and the business community tend to focus more on punitive rather than productive measures.

The ugly: In their efforts to marginalize the teachers unions, Tallahassee politicians forget that Florida is a right-to-work state. Unlike closed shop states in which the unions have a strangle hold, Florida has many non-union teachers who stand to be affected by education policy that seems to be aimed more at union busting than reform. That said, regardless of union membership, there are many teachers who work hard every day for their respective communities and resent being bashed for the sake of politics.

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