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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Florida teacher lawsuit over SB 736 moves slowly

From's Gradebook

by Jeff Solochek

Looks like the GOP-dominated Florida government is hunkering down to fight for Gov. Rick Scott's first signed law, Senate Bill 736, which changed evaluations, pay provisions, contract terms and other key components of teachers' employment.

In suing the state back in September, a group of teachers claimed the law violates their right to collectively bargain. In its recently filed response, the state has denied virtually all of their contentions that are not purely fact based.

Ron Meyer, lawyer for the teachers, tells the Gradebook that he doesn't believe the issue will go to trial. Whatever occurs isn't likely to happen for a few months at least, he added.

"We have begun work on a motion for summary judgment," Meyer said via e-mail. "In all likelihood, that motion won’t be filed and heard until sometime in early 2012. Since we believe that the case can be resolved on legal (as opposed to factual) issues, we do not anticipate the need for a 'trial' but instead will have a hearing to argue the law."

In the meantime, the fight continues. Districts have begun to implement new evaluation models and the state has adopted a value-added equation to help determine how much benefit students have received from their teachers' instruction. Each step has incurred the spite of many teachers who do not trust the system will work as planned.

Even if the lawsuit proves successful, it appears likely that it would be a minor setback for those who support changes to teacher evaluations and pay structures, as they've said they're intent on making those stick somehow. Lawmakers have suggested that their upcoming session won't bring anything drastically new to the table on this issue, to give time for the dust to settle.

Perhaps the lawsuit outcome will shake things up yet again.

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