Florida needs to change how it pays and evaluates teachers so the best are rewarded. It needs to make it easier to fire bad ones. But the bill expected to be approved by the Florida House late Thursday and sent to Gov. Charlie Crist's desk is an arrogant attempt at reforming public school classrooms. On style points alone, the Florida Legislature has earned a failing grade.
The last insult came Thursday when House Republican leaders — despite a week of protests by teachers from Pensacola to Fort Myers — rammed the bill (SB 6) through their chamber, suppressing efforts even from members of their own party to make even minor changes to the plan.
This was a rush job. The most radical overhaul of teacher employment rules in more than a generation was introduced early last month by state GOP chairman Sen. John Thrasher. In the House, the first of just two committee stops was only two weeks ago.
Finally, lawmakers failed to convince the public school community that this was a good idea. Nor did they respond to the bill's glaring shortcomings — including failing to define how the state would measure student learning gains, which would be the basis for teacher evaluations and pay increases. Even the Florida School Board Association, no friend of the teachers' union, has criticized the plan.
When voices of concerns were raised, Republicans did not listen. When suggestions for improvements were offered, they did not care. When teachers protested, they did not see. Republican lawmakers were claiming victory Thursday, but they won no friends in the classroom.