1. Gradebook

Prekindergarten teachers ask Florida lawmakers to count them, too

State law does not include pre-k teachers and some other categories as ‘classroom teachers.’
Broward County preschool teachers Emily Wiskoff and Merrill Galante ask the Florida House PreK-12 Appropriations committee on March 25, 2019, to include them as classroom teachers when assigning incentives and other benefits, such as the Best and Brightest bonus. [The Florida Channel]
Published Mar. 25

Two Broward County preschool teachers had a simple plea Monday for members of the Florida House: Please include them.

“It’s very disheartening to not be considered a classroom teacher when we are,” Emily Wiskoff of Broadview Elementary in North Lauderdale told the PreK-12 Appropriations committee.

She and colleague Merrill Galante referred specifically to the Best and Brightest teacher bonus program, which offers an added payment to teachers with “highly effective” and “effective” performance evaluations. In recent weeks, pre-k teachers — along with guidance counselors, career advisers, instructional coaches and others — have learned they are not eligible for the awards regardless of their rating because they are not defined in law as a K-12 classroom teacher.

Related: Not a Florida classroom teacher? No Best and Brightest for you.

More than that, the educators told the lawmakers, they’re not counted for purposes of certain retirement benefits, class size requirements or other areas of law they could gain from.

Yet they must follow the same academic standards, sign the same employment contracts and meet the same observation requirements as others in their district, they noted. Because of their certifications, Galante said, they could teach other grade levels, but many preschool teachers were assigned to their posts and have chosen to remain.

It doesn’t make sense, Galante suggested, for them to be excluded from certain aspects of law just because they don’t fit into the K-12 classroom teacher definition.

“It’s really hurtful,” Wiskoff added.

Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Lauderdale Lakes, told the committee that she wanted the teachers to speak on the issue, even though it was not on the daily agenda, because it’s an important one she hopes to have addressed during budget conforming bill conversations. She said she is consulting with chairman Rep. Chris Latvala on the matter.

Latvala allowed them to talk, but did not comment afterward other than to thank the teachers for their input.


  1. Chanell Newell, a reading teacher at Woodson K-8 School, is a finalist for Hillsborough Teacher of the Year. HCPS  |  HCPS
    The winners will be announced on Jan. 23.
  2. A school bus travels the early morning streets of Pasco County on the way to the first day of classes in 2017.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  4. Representatives from the United School Employees of Pasco, on the left, present their latest pay request to the district's bargaining team during talks on Oct. 24, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff
    Teachers have yet to reach a deal on their contract.
  5. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. It has met just once more since then. The Florida Channel
    Lawmakers have yet to set an aggressive agenda beyond talk of teacher pay as the 2020 legislative session nears.
  6. FILE - In a Monday, Dec. 11, 2017 file photo, transgender teen Drew Adams, left, leaves the U. S. Courthouse with his mother Erica Adams Kasper after the first day of his trial about bathroom rights at Nease High School, in Jacksonville, Fla. The transgender student's fight over school bathrooms comes before a federal appeals court Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Drew Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High School in Ponte Vedra, won a lower court ruling in 2018 ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. (Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via AP, File) WILL DICKEY  |  AP
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  7. A bird's-eye view of USF St. Petersburg, which this week announced a new member of the Campus Board. She is Melissa Seixas, a Duke Energy executive who earned her master's degree at USF.
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  8. An LGBTQ Pride march participant walks under a large rainbow flag in New York earlier this year. School Board policy regarding LGBTQ students has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent months in Pasco County. CRAIG RUTTLE  |  AP
    The discourse is more civil and respectful, two weeks after a session that many deemed hate-filled and vile.
  9. The Florida Legislature so far has has left Gov. Ron DeSantis to set most education policy priorities for 2020.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  10. "Miss Virginia," a film about school choice, will be screened at the Tampa Theatre on Dec. 10.
    “Miss Virginia” will be playing at the Tampa Theater on Tuesday.