National Board teachers seek to keep program alive in Florida
Florida's National Board-certified teachers worry for the future of the program as state lawmakers cut off financial support for the educators who go through it.
So they're planning to fight back.
"National Board-certified teachers are recognized as teacher leaders. They need to educate the politicians," Craig Thibaudeau, executive director of the organization's mobilization and outreach division, told the Gradebook.
"We are asking teachers to talk to every legislator," added Karen Garr, the group's regional outreach director for Florida. Some of those meetings are taking place this week.
The organization does not argue that the assistance to National Board teachers should remain untouched, Garr said. But she contends that the cuts have been disproportionate. While lawmakers are cutting school districts by 2 percent during this special session, they're slashing National Board bonuses by 20 percent, and that's after even bigger cuts last year.
One suggestion on tap: If Florida can't pay for the teachers' $2,500 application fee anymore, perhaps it can give teachers a loan to get the process started, as South Carolina does.
Pinellas National Board teacher Wendy Paser worried that the lawmakers currently in Tallahassee don't understand the program's value, as they weren't involved in setting up the support mechanism. "To them, it's just one of those lines" in the budget, she said.
Senate Education Appropriations chairman Stephen Wise, who has led the charge to reduce funding for National Board teachers, sympathized -- but only to a point.
"They are good teachers, there is no doubt," Wise told the Gradebook. "But the definitive issue is, did (the certification) make a difference?"
He noted that research is mixed on whether National Board teachers get better results from their students than other teachers, and suggested that getting a master's degree in education has the same general benefit.
"We don't pay for people to go get their master's degrees either," he said.
"If you want to do it bad enough, you'll do it," Wise said. "Sometimes you have to make sacrifices to get what you need."