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Educators continue battle against teacher performance pay bills

By Staff | Apr 6, 2010

A key Florida House council passed its version of a teacher performance pay bill, paving the way for a full chamber vote and potential approval into law.
The Associated Press reported Monday night that the House Education Policy Council passed HB 7189 with a 12-5 vote. The Senate already passed its version of the bill, SB 6, meaning if it passes the House, the two will have to be reconciled and sent to Gov. Charlie Crist for a signature.
Each bill ties teacher salaries to whether their students show gains on standardized tests and changes how a new teacher gets a professional contract — increasing the time frame from three to five years.
Debate between supporters and opponents of the bill centers around whether it will discourage teachers from educating the most challenging students, such as at-risk or in Exceptional Student Education programs, or if it would attract the best and brightest who are willing to work to make academic gains.
Although there are various studies reporting state-by-state educational rankings, and experts disagree about which one is a correct representation of how states are doing, a 2009 ranking from Education Week put Florida 10th in the nation for overall quality of education.
Educators and unions statewide continue to barrage legislators with e-mails and phone calls demanding both bills to be trashed because they take away local control.
Donna Mutzenard, service unit director for the Florida Education Association, said teachers are continuing to send e-mails and make phone calls to all members of the House, as well as educating the community on the effects of the bill.
“Something needs to be done to correct this,” she said. “We always have to be optimistic and hope we have a chance of reaching some Republicans.”
She said the unions aren’t going to give up.
Most teachers are concerned about a 5 percent cut in per student spending which would be banked and used to pay for the implementation of the new program, and districts who don’t use the new state program miss out on $900 million starting in 2011, reported the Associated Press.
Dr. Steve Maxwell, a social studies teacher at Cape Coral High, said all professions who are licensed, including doctors and lawyers, should be equal in the way they lose their livelihood, adding that most won’t lose their license if a patient dies or if a lawyer loses a case.
Another major change in the House bill is the use of end-of-course exams rather than the FCAT, which is cumulative. Maxwell questions what will happen if a student maintains an passing grade throughout the school year, but unexpectedly fails the end-of-course exam.
“They don’t get credit and the legal implication surfaces to what is the meaning or value of those grades,” said Maxwell.
It’s unclear whether local school boards and unions will have any say in developing salary schedules. But, Maxwell added that teachers may not pursue advanced degrees, like masters or doctoral, if their salary isn’t supplemented for obtaining more education.