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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Responses on SB 6 from GOP leaders "insulting," Pasco teacher says

2

April

Thousands of Florida school teachers have flooded lawmakers' e-mail boxes with blistering attacks on SB 6 / HB 7189, the measures designed to overhaul teacher contracts, pay, certificates and evaluation. Many teachers have complained they haven't gotten even a response blowing them off.

Those who have gotten answers haven't been impressed, either.

The following interchange illustrates how far off each side is from the other.

Pasco County teacher Kenny Blankenship wrote House Speaker Larry Cretul to say he is "adamantly opposed to what you and the Republican legislators are attempting to do to the teachers of our state. This legislation is punitive to teachers and will do nothing to aid in the recruitment and retention of good teachers in the state of Florida!"

Cretul sent back what amounts to the GOP's talking points, that appear in many members' answers on this controversial bill. (See below for Cretul's full letter.) An example:

"Be assured that the Florida House is aware that many teachers do a great job in helping prepare their students to achieve learning gains.  These are the exact teachers we must and should reward.  Currently, the only way these teachers can earn more money is by moving into administrative positions.  The Florida House wants to make certain that our best teachers are kept in the classroom where they are most valuable.  This can best be accomplished by placing a priority on and rewarding teachers for their work inside the classroom."

Blankenship fired back, taking issue with several points in Cretul's e-mail. His overarching message: What an insult.

"Your response to my previous email is condescending and insulting to my intelligence.  I have read your bills and find them to be egregious bills that attack teachers and remove local control for local schools."

Monday's eight-hour hearing on the bill should be interesting.

Read on to see Cretul's full response to Blankenship, with Blankenship's commentary interjected in blue.

From: Speaker Cretul <larry.cretul@myfloridahouse.gov>
Subject: From 'Write Your Representative' Website (Thread:105270)
To: kwblankenship@verizon.net
Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2010, 5:06 PM

Thank you for your recent email regarding Senate Bill 6, and the now pending legislation - House Bill 7189.  I appreciate the opportunity to learn of your thoughts and concerns on this important issue.

In order to better explain why these reforms will help students while rewarding our state's educators, it is important to establish specifically what HB 7189 actually proposes to do. 

House Bill 7189 will not reduce teacher salaries.  Teachers will not have a pay cut as a result of this proposal.  This legislation proposes to increase pay by recognizing that additional compensation should be based on results achieved by teachers, not the amount of time they have taught.

both bills will:
Take 5% of all operating funds from each school district’s existing FEFP funds (estimated to be in the $900 - 950 million dollar range) to be used to develop the tests which will be used to measure student learning gains and then to pay any performance pay benefits required by the bill.  In essence, all teachers are paying for the cost of test development and performance awards which may become due under SB 6 and HB 7189.  Where do you think these funds will com from?  Employee salaries will be cut as a result! 

Both bills deny the use of experience or advanced education for pay (page 28 ofHB7189).

That cuts existing  salaries.  Further, the state budget for schools has declined in recent years and is not expected to grow for several more.  The stimulus dollars flame-out next year and leave a near billion dollar hole in the education budget.  And as you’ve just read, the state will now skim off 5% of every district’s FEFP funds to buy tests, implement a new appraisal system, and to pay for the new performance scheme.  All other district costs have been increasing.  So, with less state revenue, less Federal revenue and a loss of 5% in FEFP funds - how could you rationally assert that existing pay could be held harmless?

The bill, HB 7189, will not eliminate tenure for current teachers.  The 175,000 teachers now in Florida's classrooms will continue to serve under their current professional services contracts.  This proposal only impacts newly hired teachers by starting them in a common sense compensation structure based on teacher quality and student learning.

Both bills, in very flawed ways, attempt to “differentiate” the effectiveness of teachers using criteria to be developed by the Florida Department of Education. The criteria would be             used for evaluation, compensation, promotion, termination,  assignment contracts and due process.  Accordingly, all  teachers are potentially affected. Specifically:
Districts may not use time served (seniority) or advanced degrees held in setting pay schedules for teachers. This appears to affect all teachers.
The bill requires differentiated pay based on assignment to a high priority location, teaching in a critical shortage area (high need or STEM), or the assignment of additional teaching responsibilities for all teachers. This appears to affect all teachers.
For the appraisal process, four effectiveness levels are prescribed (highly effective, effective, needs improvement, unsatisfactory) and beginning 2014-15, no personnel may be rated as effective or highly effective if their students fail to demonstrate learning gains. This appears to affect all teachers.
Beginning with the 2014-15 year, all teachers would have tomeet the new requirements for renewal of a professional certificate which is defined as evidence of effectiveness. Specifically, current teachers who now hold PSCs would maintain those contracts UNLESS they fail to meet the recertification requirements. Essentially, the contract is only as good as the effectiveness rating.  This provision definitively catches existing contract holders.
Absent any language in the bill to the contrary, there is a significant question about whether existing PSC holders will operate under a different salary schedule.  The bill analysis states, “It is not anticipated that the bill revises the total funds for teacher and administrator compensation but rather, it provides a means by which compensation can be based on performance.”  This seems to say there will be no additional money to structure the new schedule, so we conclude the intent is that current salaries would finance the reform.
Bill language requires reductions in force decisions and transfers to be made primarily on performance and not seniority.
HB 7189 does not contain any provisions that impact the pensions and retirement benefits of Florida's teachers. 

The bills impact current teachers pay, therefore they impact the retirement of teachers.

This legislation, if passed, would not take effect until 2014, so local districts, teachers and the Department of Education will have time to make sure that suitable standards are in place to properly measure teacher performance.

These bills are inherently unfair to ALL teachers who will be teaching in Florida! 

Be assured that the Florida House is aware that many teachers do a great job in helping prepare their students to achieve learning gains.  These are the exact teachers we must and should reward.  Currently, the only way these teachers can earn more money is by moving into administrative positions.  The Florida House wants to make certain that our best teachers are kept in the classroom where they are most valuable.  This can best be accomplished by placing a priority on and rewarding teachers for their work inside the classroom.

This is not the fix that Florida schools need.  Do the right and sensible thing, remove these bills from consideration!

Thank you again for writing to me.  If I may be of assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Sincerely,

Larry Cretul
Speaker

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:56am]

    

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