March 16, 2011
Contact: Mark Pudlow, 850.201.3223 or 850.508.9756 or Jacqui Sisto 850.228.5443
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Education Association condemned the House passage today of SB 736, the so-called Teacher Quality bill, and said there was little difference in this legislation and the widely panned SB 6 that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed last year. The legislation sets up a performance pay system based on student test results, evaluates teachers on those test scores and eliminates due-process rights for all new teachers and any existing teacher who enters the performance pay system or moves to a different school district.
“There’s no research evidence that this legislation will help our children in public schools,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “We’ve looked closely at plenty of scientifically sound, peer reviewed research out there that shows this is the wrong approach to take to implement performance pay and to revamp evaluations.”
Ford cited research done over the past six months by 17 outstanding Florida teachers and Barnett Berry, the president and CEO of the non-profit Center for Teaching Quality (see report at http://www.teachingquality.org/node/1202), They examined the results of more than 30 of the most significant scientific investigations into teaching effectiveness and performance pay and questioned experts in the field. They found that implementation of SB 736 would lead to thousands of effective Florida teachers being falsely branded and leading to unfair decisions about pay and employment and worst of all, lost educational opportunity for the state’s schoolchildren.
The bill, which would rate teachers based on the learning gains the state determines students make on standardized tests, greatly expands the number and scope of these tests students take every year. It will cost millions of dollars to develop and implement these new tests, but the Legislature sets aside no money to do this.
“Schools have seen steep budget cuts over the past four years and all indications are that they will face the most drastic budget cuts yet next school year,” Ford said. “But lawmakers have added this new fiscal burden to already struggling school districts. This additional burden will have to be made up somewhere – and we fear there will be more students in each classroom and a great many programs will be curtailed or eliminated in our public schools.”
While districts are not required to fund performance pay until 2014, they must immediately begin developing and implementing hundreds of additional FCAT-style tests and the new evaluation systems this year. Some estimates say the total cost of new tests, technology and software could be more than $2 billion, yet the Legislature provided no new funding and is likely to slash school district budgets this session.
“Despite the mantra about local control and less government we hear from lawmakers, this bill reduces a school district’s flexibility and authority over teacher evaluations, pay schedules and working conditions,” Ford said. “This bill gives new power and authority to the Florida Department of Education and the Legislature. It’s not good for students, it’s not good for teachers and it’s not grounded in sound research. Governor Scott should veto this bill and tell lawmakers to start over and get it right.”
Backers of this bill say it ends tenure for Florida’s public school teachers. In fact, that ended in 1982, when the Legislature abolished it. What has existed since 1982 is that teachers had due process rights and the chance to improve their performance before they were dismissed. SB 736 will end that practice and threatens to make teachers more vulnerable to unfair dismissal.
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational support professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.