Florida's top teachers seek voice on state issues
Florida teachers often talk about how they wish their counsel were more frequently sought and heard in the state's myriad debates over education issues.
Yet on many key issues, such as evaluations and pay, many express frustration that their views get little respect from political leaders. They suggest Gov. Rick Scott doesn't want teacher opinions aired, either, noting that he passed over the applications of some past state teachers of the year to appoint a former Jeb Bush operative, a charter school enthusiast and two health care executives to the Florida Board of Education.
The Florida Teacher of the Year Network hopes to change all that.
The group, which organized over the fall, has begun by setting forth some goals such as sharing their expertise with decision makers and improving the climate of the teaching profession. It also has set its first objective of getting a teacher on the State Board. That's a personal priority for 2010 Florida Teacher of the Year Megan Allen.
"I applied along with a colleague from south Florida. The Gov's office didn't even ask for my resume," Allen said in an e-mail to the Gradebook. "They were nice enough to call every time someone was appointed and let me know it wasn't me...I appreciated that. I think there were 5 people appointed...ouch!"
Plan B, as it were, is to work with lawmakers to have the Teacher of the Year serve for two years advising the board in an ex officio, non-voting role.
"It would be a foot in the door," said Allen, who also was a 2010 finalist for national Teacher of the Year. "There would also then be 2 teachers at all times working to serve on it. The Florida Education Foundation has the ToYs doing this and I learned so much ... It only makes logical sense to have a teacher advise the State Board and work with them."
The group has been talking with select lawmakers, as well as education commissioner Gerard Robinson, about how they can offer more to the ongoing debate. They're hoping for some action with the coming legislative session. One can't help but wonder what the reaction by other teachers might be if one or two educators has the opportunity to advise the board and others. Would it be support or criticism that "they don't speak for me"?