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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Bill to prevent Florida annual teacher contract added protections gets companion

Teachers protested when Florida lawmakers first proposed doing away with continuing contracts.

Times file photo

Teachers protested when Florida lawmakers first proposed doing away with continuing contracts.



A legislative pushback against Florida school districts' attempts to offer added job protections to teachers on annual contract got a boost Friday.

State Sen. Doug Broxson, a Pensacola Republican who sits on the PreK-12 Appropriations committee, filed a bill [SB 856] that would prohibit school boards from adopting any conditions or terms altering the term of a teacher's one-year contract.

Several dozen boards, including in Pinellas County, have negotiated deals with their employee unions to guarantee renewal of annual contracts for teachers who receive an "effective" or "highly effective" performance review. Others, such as Pasco County, have rejected such appeals, contending that lawmakers did not intend anything other than one-year contracts with the controversial SB 736, signed into law in 2011 and fought ever since.

Broxson, who voted for SB 736 while in the House, joins Rep. Michael Grant, a Port Charlotte Republican in aiming to rein in the district actions. His legislation is identical to Grant's, which already has been assigned to two committees for review. While having a companion is no promise of ultimate adoption, not having one makes it all but impossible to become law.

Teachers union leaders and lawyers, who generally oppose the bills, have argued that lawmakers wanted to reward top educators and not hurt them.

"Nothing prevents a school district, when negotiating the 'wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment,' which the Constitution requires to be negotiated (Article I, Section 6, Constitution of Florida), and in the exercise of its constitutional duty to 'operate, control and supervise' district schools [Article IX, Section 4(b), Constitution of Florida], to agree to a contractual provision which recognizes successful performance in this manner," Tallahassee attorney Ron Meyer, who frequently represents the Florida Education Association, told the Gradebook in October, when the issue previously arose.

"It is surprising, with the zeal the Legislature has had to tie continued employment to successful performance, that anyone would argue against the use of successful performance as the standard to be used by a school district in determining to award a new annual contract."

He and others also have suggested that job protections could help improve morale, especially at a time when schools face so many vacancies.

No hearings have yet been scheduled on either the Senate or House measure.

[Last modified: Friday, February 10, 2017 11:12am]


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