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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Teachers in Florida are living in some kind of Shakespherean tragedy

It’s a GD Shakespearean tragedy that teachers are about to start living in.” These were the words a colleague said to me when talking about senate bill 736 about to be signed at a Charter school by the way. Among many other devestating problems if ends home rule for school districts by enacting statewide merit pay for teachers. In case you missed it wants to end teachers protections and tie half their pay to student performance. I shook my head and hoped people wouldn’t get distracted, which is what I think the state governemnt wants to happen, from the real issue which is the states continued bungling of education and the states desire to make public schools for profit even if it hurts the states teachers and children along the way.

The republican legislature wants to roll back the class size amendment and teachers oppose this, is it just coincidence that the legislature has attacked teacher’s right to due process? In that scenario everyone loses, the teachers and the citizens and children of Florida too.

Steve Wise, John Thrasher and Rick Scott yell blame the teacher while simultaneously hoping the citizens of Florida ignore the mismanagement of education by our state government. Slashing funds to education, creating the unmanageable f-cat, baiting the people with the promise of more money for education through the lottery then switching the money out and then requiring teachers to waste their time with whatever boondoggle solution that any mid level staffer or higher comes up with are hurting education far more than the “bad teachers”.

I loved Mark Pudlow of the Florida Education Associations quote, “I think the whole bill has just got so, so many problems that it’s very difficult to single out one of them.” Well if it didn’t it wouldn’t be from our legislation now would it.

Spending just five minutes on my own, I came up with the following.
How are teachers that teach history, electives, special education, middle school science or other subjects whose children aren’t measured by standardized tests going to be measured?

What incentive are teachers going to have to work on masters’ degrees or higher if having them gives them know tangible benefit. Education is now the only place where more education doesn’t matter.

How are school districts going to find teachers to work with special education students or at struggling schools, why would anybody want to work with them or there or in any places where gains are low and the likelihood of you getting paid less is high.

Are there going to be degrees of difficulty assigned to schools, because a 3 percent gain at some schools deserves a parade where a three percent
again at another school might deserve a shrug.
What about degrees of difficulty for parental involvement? If a student’s parents are uninvolved can teachers document that and get credited for it?

Are teachers going to be responsible for students that transfer in after the year begins, how are they going to be factored into a teacher’s pay?
It’s the nature of the beast that many first year teachers struggle and it takes them a few years to get going full speed. Are they going to be in the same merit pay system or are we going to give them a draw like many sales companies give to their employees until they get going?
Will teachers have the option of playing it safe with better kids or doubling down hoping for a bigger bonus by taking on the more troubled children?

Is the state going to compare teachers all across the state or just from county to county, would teachers in poorer counties who have to do more with less get bigger bonuses for gains?

Here in Jacksonville how are they going to manage the differences between teachers at the academic magnet schools and the neighborhood schools, the playing fields aren’t exactly fair.

Are teachers that have ESOL and/or special education children in their classes going to get extra points for level of difficulty?
How are teachers to be paid because the legislature has not funded the bill? They are hoping the economy turns around but until the the bill is all stick and no carrot. Then are they going to cut teachers’ salaries in half during the year and then give them a big bonus at the end? And if it’s at the end how are they going to tax the big lump sum because my bonus this year was taxed at forty percent?

Is the school board going to end social promotions? I would hate to be a ninth grade English teacher with a half dozen kids socially promoted for years into their class.

Are school districts going to remove or get help for the five percent of kids who corrupt the learning environment or are kids that miss a certain amount of days going to be exempt from influencing a teacher’s grade?
And finally good luck finding teachers to teach at challenged schools, working at the mall is less stressful and if substantial gains determine teachers pay, it’s just as lucrative.

Five minutes later. The teachers I know are fine with being held accountable for the job they do, they are comfortable with assessments and more than a few even like the idea of merit pay. What frustrates them are the almost insurmountable odds stacked against them and they know, unlike our legislature, that unfortunately teaching is just one of the variables in education.

Teaching depends on so many things. Do you have the resources and support from the school to adequately do so, does the child attend and have involved parents and then you add what all their previous teachers taught them to the mix. These are just a few factors that come before an individual’s ability to teach. The bottom line is trying to put all teachers into the same merit pay box hampers not helps education.

One of the biggest problems education has is the legislature. The body has few former teachers or the ones that did, did so long ago, yet despite this they think they know it all. Some mettle and tinker and throw out half baked ideas like senate bill 736. Merit pay, pay the best fire the rest sounds seductive. Others just don’t like unions though there’s no evidence that I have seen that unions protect bad teachers and since teachers in Florida can’t strike nor or are they particularly well paid; it’s hard to understand why. Then there are a few more that think vouchers and charter schools are the solution and that the days of public education should come to an end but what they either don’t realize or just don’t care is that they bring just as many problems with them.

If you want to see education improve get rid of the Florida Department of Education and bar the legislature from interfering with local school districts other than approving each individual counties standardized test and procedures for which they hire teachers. If we believe in home rule isn’t that all they should be doing anyways?

I just hope the people can see that this is another attempt by the government to pull the wool over their eyes, to distract them from the real problem which is them.

This bill, the blatant disregard for the hard work and commitment that so many teachers put in, is disheartening, unfair and just plain wrong.

Chris Guerrieri
School teacher

1 comment:

  1. There is a proposition (HJR 785 and HB 787) that is currently underway, in which it empowers Floridians to start a petition to recall Governor Scott. Here are the steps:

    STEP 1: Locate your local representatives: and

    STEP 2: Here is a formatted letter if you wish to use, in which you can copy/paste to email your representative:

    Honorable Representative [NAME HERE]

    I am writing you because I only recently have become aware that the State of Florida does not have a provision in the Constitution that allows voters to initiate a recall of a state elected official. I am shocked that Floridians do not have this right, but at the same time encouraged to see that HJR 785 and HB787 have been proposed to the legislature to empower Floridians to take back what only we have the right to give. I impress upon you that supporting HJR 785 and HB 787 is imperative to ensure that politicians are accountable and acting in good faith of the public at all times. Any representative or senator that does not support this bill is not on the side of the people and does not deserve my vote. If you believe in American democracy there is no valid argument against supporting the right to recall. I implore you to do the right thing. Support HJR 785 and HB 787.

    Most Respectfully,