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School officials oppose pay plan linking pay with test score performance

By Staff | Mar 9, 2010

School district leaders spoke out against a Florida Senate bill instituting performance pay for teachers.
Senate Bill 6 is one of a number of controversial pieces of education legislation – including a bill to alter the Class Size Amendment and one replacing the FCAT with end-of-course exams – that are up for discussion in the 2010 session.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, R-Jacksonville, would force school districts to create a salary system based on how well students do on standardized tests, in an attempt to cut out inefficient teachers.
Other initiatives, including the Race to the Top program where districts entered into a race for federal grants, have also tried to institute merit pay for teachers. But, Lee County officials said no to the federal grant program because they said it took decision making away from the local level and now the district is refusing to support the newest bill in the Senate.
“It’s treating them as less than professionals,” said Board Member Jeanne Dozier. “I don’t think we should be OK with any of this and we need to stand up and let our voices be heard.”
Teacher unions statewide are fighting the initiative under direction of the Florida Education Association.
“It’s going to undermine the positive relationship we have with the district,” said Mark Castellano, president of Teacher’s Association of Lee County.
He said processes are already in place to weed out bad teachers and that SB 6 is simply designed to weaken teacher unions. Over the past 10 years the union has struggled to develop a close working relationship with the district, he said.
“This is punitive, it’s all about union-busting and circumventing collective bargaining rights,” said Castellano. “If this goes through there will be drastic action.”
Superintendent James Browder’s staff is responsible for salary negotiations with teacher and support personnel teachers and on Tuesday Browder also spoke out against SB 6.
“I am concerned by the perceived effort to damage relationships districts have with there bargaining units,” said Browder. “You whip us for so long, at some point we will take you hitting us and be happy with it.”
Board Member Robert Chilmonik said the bill seems unfair because it only applies to teachers and not administrators or other district staff. He said administrators should be held to the same standards as teachers when it comes to student performance, but that administrators aren’t included in the bill.
He doesn’t support basing teacher pay on student performance because there is no way of telling what happens in a classroom.
“You can’t count on what is going to happen in the classroom,” said Chilmonik.
The bill is scheduled for the Senate’s Education Pre-K Committee on Wednesday.
Lee County School District officials are supporting a bill to alter the Class Size Amendment to expand the requirements and allow for the use of school-wide averages to reach compliance.
The state has spent approximately $16 billion to aid districts in reaching compliance with the amendment, and Browder said Tuesday that Lee County has spent $535 million from its operating and capital funds to satisfy the requirements by August 2010.