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Hayden: Lawmakers to "dismantle" public education

26

March

Democrat Nina Hayden, a School Board member and a candidate to replace state Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St. Petersburg, says lawmakers are putting the public educations system at risk in a statement sent by the Pinellas County Democratic Party on Friday morning.

"The majority party in Tallahassee speaks out of both sides of its mouth.  The party touts education reform yet continually legislates unfunded mandates, deprives public funds due to its public schools, and continues to reach its arm into every facet of the educational system to impose its ill-advised beliefs about education reform. My solution, attach our legislators performance to their salaries," said Hayden, who faces former Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican, in the Senate contest in District 16 this year.

Full statement below.

Nina Hayden: My view on pending Education legislation

Lawmakers seek to dismantle Florida's public educational system

Through a series of proposed laws and budget cuts, leading lawmakers seek to create a "better" public school system in the State of Florida by cutting funding to programs, expanding public designated funds to private schools and destroying teacher morale.  These systematic efforts will negatively impact the public school system in the State of Florida for years to come.

First, a proposed measure seeks to increase the student ration of Pre-K classrooms.  This measure would create an environment with less personal instructional time essential for low-income children to compete successfully in higher grades.  Studies show the higher a student progresses in education the wider the knowledge gap becomes and the more difficult it is to make educational gains.  Often children who act out in middle school grades do so because they feel they are too far behind and will never catch up.  Their poor performance and loss of interest cycles them into bad behavior which disrupts students who want to learn.  Since this knowledge gap presents itself in Pre-K programs instead of budget cuts we need to set higher standards and accountability measures to ensure our Pre-K programs yield the necessary results to prepare our children for kindergarten and beyond. As a school board member and an attorney who works with juveniles I am absolutely convinced the education gap must be addressed at the Pre-K level to ensure a better educated student population.

Another proposed measure seeks to expand the school voucher program by taking more tax paying dollars from public school districts and diverting it to private schools.  Studies have shown that private students in voucher programs perform no better than those who choose to stay in public school.  Using public funds for private education deters the urgent resources school districts need to reform schools that are low performing.   Also, voucher programs use public dollars to educate students who are not graded by the same standards as public school students.  Public money designated for public schools should only be used to preserve the quality and confidence in the educational system where most children in the State of Florida attend.

Finally, reports say SB-6 seeks to base half of a teachers' pay on their evaluations and half on learning gains based on test results.  Second, bonuses given to teachers by the National Board certification would be eliminated in 2014 but districts could give incentives to work in low-income areas.  Third, SB-6 would penalize districts that don't comply and make effect contract provisions on any teacher hired after July.
Problems that arise from this bill are numerous and negative.  First, the best of teachers learning gains fluctuate from year to year.  The inability to be guaranteed a stable income in these financial times will undermine teacher morale and deter many individuals from entering the teaching profession already struggling to hire good quality teachers.  Second, this bill will deter quality teachers from working in low income schools.  Districts could pay for incentives to teach in low-income schools but with continual budget cuts that is more than likely not to happen.   Third, if this bill passes and takes effect as early as July of this year, it will put school district contracts already bargained with teachers for the next year in jeopardy.  It will force districts to break these contracts or suffer the results of funding cuts and forced mandates for districts to set aside 5% of district revenue.  Teacher accountability is important, but measures can be implemented through contracts clearly delineating the expectation for student success.  If these measures are not attained, a dismissal should result with clear documentation of the teacher's deficiencies.

The State legislature has consistently over the past few years shifted the burden of funding the public school system from its constitutional duty to adequately fund education to the backs of every tax payer in this county.  Unfunded mandates from the State have continued to escalate.  It is time to hold our legislators accountable. The majority party in Tallahassee speaks out of both sides of its mouth.  The party touts education reform yet continually legislates unfunded mandates, deprives public funds due to its public schools, and continues to reach its arm into every facet of the educational system to impose its ill-advised beliefs about education reform. My solution, attach our legislators performance to their salaries.

Call your Representative and Senator today.  Tell them to vote NO on these initiatives!

Nina Hayden

Pinellas County School Board Member    

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:30pm]

    

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