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Teachers hold rally, protest performance pay legislation

By Staff | Mar 31, 2010

Students in Lee County’s ESE programs could be the ones to suffer if the Florida Legislature decides to approve a bill instituting teacher performance pay, according to union officials.
The Senate passed its own version of the bill last Wednesday and House Bill 7189 is in the Education Policy Council as of Sunday. Both bills would make teacher salaries based on how well students do on standardized tests like the FCAT.
Teachers at a rally in the parking lot of the Lee Education Center in Fort Myers Wednesday night pointed out that ESE and intensive students are going to be the ones to suffer if teachers are paid according to performance.
“Teachers like me won’t be able to afford to teach,” said Sheryl Cuevas, an ESE teacher at Harns Marsh Elementary in Lehigh Acres.
She said most ESE students, on average, are two or three years behind the rest of their cohorts, and therefore if a teacher can’t bring them back to grade level within one year, they will be paid less.
The result, she said, is that every teacher is going to want the highest acacdemically performing students in his or her classes, and educators will be financially discouraged from wanting to teach the most challenging students.
“Everybody will be fighting for the highest achieving students,” she said.
Stephanie Coto and Jennifer Brock are young teachers at Treeline Elementary in Fort Myers. They are both in their third year and will be receiving a professional certificate or “tenure” through the current system unless the Legislature passes the bill and overhauls how teachers are certified.
“We are concerned about the well being of our jobs and students,” said Coto.
Both teachers said they were taught that standardized tests like the FCAT should be for diagnosing problems with students, not as a way to measure teachers.
Brock said she would seriously consider leaving the profession if the bill is passes.
“Absolutely, we love it, but as much as we love it, we are human and have bills to pay,” she said.
If passed by the House, the bill would go to Gov. Charlie Crist, who officials from the Florida Education Association are hoping will veto the proposal.
FEA Vice President Joanna McCall addressed the crowd, as well as Teachers Association President Mark Castellano and Support Personnel Association President Bob Rushlow.
“Why teach in Florida?” said McCall. “Who wants to teach here anymore?”
Her message to teachers is to contact their legislators.