Race to the Top

Debate is raging tonight at the state capitol, as lawmakers battle over merit pay and the end of tenure for more than two hundred thousand teachers in Florida. Unlike last year, most teachers choose to stay home for this debate.

A thousand people in the State Capitol Courtyard Tuesday...but hardly a teacher among them. On the eve of one of the most important votes affecting their future, most Florida teachers chose to stay home.

Andy Ford is President of The Florida Education Association. “Our teachers are in the classroom, doing their job, and they are focused on preparing the kids for the FCAT next week. They aren’t going to be in Tallahassee and they know that.”

Their union is trying to mobilize opposition to a merit pay bill with this robo call. “And we should not punish our teachers when our schools are doing better than ever.”

We did find St. Leon College Associate Dean Trish Parrish walking the halls. She’s worried the legislation pigeon holes teachers in their specialty with no room for other advanced degrees. “Children are better served if those teachers can expand their knowledge by perhaps getting a masters degree in reading education, or a master’s degree in special education.”

The legislation would grade teachers on their students test scores and peer reviews. The bill’s sponsor, Erik Fresen, a Miami Republican, says it is time teachers join the rest of the world. “We’re literally talking about a system that has absolutely no assessment what so ever as to whether or not a teachers methodology of teaching, as to whether or not a teacher’s effectiveness is translating into learning growth.”

The legislation is performance pay in concept only. There’s absolutely no money here to pay teachers more.

The House is expected to cast a final vote on Wednesday. If there are no changes, it will go to the governor, who is expected to sign it.

The House is scheduled to meet until 11:45 tonight (Tuesday) and again tomorrow (Wednesday) for six hours of debate.

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