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Educators to participate in first-ever virtual rally

By Staff | Mar 25, 2010

The Teacher’s Association of Lee County and other educator unions statewide are tired of cuts to funding and unfair demands on teachers, so they’re asking local educators to participate in a first-ever virtual rally to coincide with a Florida PTA protest in Tallahassee.
TALC is up in arms over bills like Senate Bill 6 — seeking to institute teacher performance pay — and cuts in local funding that have hit close to $100 million lost in Lee County over the last three years.
And since most of the union members couldn’t make it Tallahassee today because of their obligations in the classroom, leaders are inviting them to protest online at MakeOurSchoolsAPriority.org after 4 p.m.
“We can’t be there, educators can’t be there because we have to be in the classrooms and FEA came up with the idea of trying a virtual rally,” said Donna Mutzenard, a service unit director for the FEA.
For the first time ever technology has allowed members of local teacher unions to protest alongside state leaders in other parts of the state. Mutzenard said the FEA is also asking members to wear red, sign an online petition and write to their legislators.
“This is the first time we have had a virtual rally,” she said. “Everybody doesn’t have to log on at 4 p.m. because we know a lot of people are still in classrooms or in their buildings working. It begins at 4 p.m. and will continue for the next four days.”
Senate Bill 6 takes away local control, said Mutzenard, by leaving it up to the state to decide what Lee County salaries will look like.
“It’s taking away our collaborative relationship we have with the district when it comes to negotiations,” she said.
Since 1999, the school district has been using multiple versions of teacher performance pay plans, she said, but the latest one defined in SB 6 takes power away from local officials.
“We have been doing performance pay since 1999,” she said. “We have had three or four different plans.”
In 2007 the Florida Legislature passed a bill revising the state’s Merit Award Program, a teacher performance pay plan, in which districts participated in a pay plan under certain guidelines. Teachers received bonuses based on the amount of students they taught who improved their performance on standardized tests.
“Part of the issue is we have had a number of different plans,” she said. “Teachers still feel it’s not fair.”