Teachers' union to lawmakers: Back off FRS

Leaders of the state teachers' union held a news conference this morning to blast proposed changes to the Florida Retirement System. Standing beside a basket of colorful plastic Easter eggs, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford and Vice President Joanne McCall said the pension proposals would deprive teachers of their nest egg. "Because of the actions of our political leaders, teachers have no expectation of continuing employment, no due process and a performance-based pay system that is not funded and based on bad or irrelevant data," McCall said. "Now they want changes to the pension system that guarantee retirement insecurity. These proposals make it more difficult to recruit and retain high-quality teachers." The House is considering a proposal that would prohibit new hires from enrolling in the state pension plan; they would instead enroll in the defined-contribution system. The Senate bill would give employees a pension option, but would make the defined-contribution plan the default choice. The teachers' union considers the Senate proposal "the more palatable plan," but doesn't see the logic in either. Said Ford: "It's all about politics. Part of the ALEC legislative agenda is to change defined-benefit plans into defined-contribution plans."




Florida pension changes rooted in ALEC model legislation



This bill hurts (by Lyle Farmer)


Politifact finds Trujillo’s parent trigger claim false




House plans to increase per-student funding

House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, has produced a $20.1 billion spending plan for public education that increases per-student funding in K-12 by $395 to about $6,780.It also factors in a 6 percent tuition increase for university students. Fresen described the proposal during a Wednesday committee meeting. It includes a $1.3 billion boost in education spending, restores the $300 million cut made in the State University System budget last year and directs money to both the University of Florida and Florida State University in an effort to establish a pre-eminent state research university program. However, the plan does have critics. Fresen and committee members got an earful from supporters of Florida Virtual School, a statewide online education program for public school students during public testimony on the proposal. They are opposed to a Fresen plan to change how per-student funding is calculated. Fresen tweaked the formula to free up money to give a raise to schoolteachers. “The tweak recognizes that instruction is no longer happening on a six-period basis. It is happening in a blended model of six periods or seven periods ...  some full-time virtual, some actual in-classroom instruction,” Fresen said. “We are recognizing that this in fact is happening but that right now the only element being accounted for and compensated is FLVS (Florida Virtual School).” The FLVS is the longest-running and largest state-sponsored virtual school in the country. Last school year more than 148,000 students received on-line instruction. The school is paid only when a student completes a course. FLVS receives a portion of the per-pupil funding provided to the school district where the student lives. That's where the controversy over Fresen’s proposal begins. The House proposal differs a little from the one the Senate is working on. The House would increase spending by $1.3 billion while the Senate adds $1.1 billion to the public education budget. Both plan on a 6 percent increase in per-student funding. The Senate earmarks $480 million for a teacher pay raise, Fresen expects the House to exceed that amount. The House includes $2 billion for state colleges, the Senate $1.97 billion. Both chambers will do further work on their spending proposals in their respective appropriation committees.







Teacher-pay proposals hampered by debate over merit pay (by Andrew Spar)
There has been a significant amount of talk about the governor's proposal to give all classroom teachers a $2,500 raise at the start of the next school year. While I applaud the governor for beginning a long-overdue conversation about teacher compensation, we must look at the complete context of his proposal and the proposals last week from both the Florida House and Senate. In Volusia County, teachers -- and all employees for that matter -- are taking home less money today than they did five years ago. While Volusia's teachers and employees have only seen their pay increase about 3 percent over the past five years, they are having more taken out of their paychecks. Volusia's school employees, like all public sector workers, have had 3 percent of their compensation taken to cover their retirement, an amount previously paid by the employer. Health care costs have also risen significantly over the past five years. This has literally meant that our teachers and other staff now take home, in some cases, as much as $200 less per month then they did five years ago. But this is bigger than just Volusia County. Due to major budget cuts in the education budget, Florida's teachers have slipped to 45th in the nation in teacher pay — nearly $10,000 behind the national average in the latest survey from the National Education Association. The governor's courageous attempt to bring attention to the woefully low teacher pay in our state should be applauded, but there are issues with his proposal. For one, he proposes to increase only the pay of classroom teachers, which has a narrow definition in state law that excludes guidance counselors, media specialists, psychologists, social workers and others. When all our employees are suffering due to constant budget cuts, we should be addressing the pay of all who play a role in the education of our children. Also, by the governor's own admission, the Florida Constitution requires that salary increases be negotiated between the school district and the union representing the employees. Last week, the House and Senate responded to the governor's proposal for increasing teachers' pay. However, unlike the governor, who recognizes how hard the recession has been on teachers, lawmakers in the House and Senate seem more concerned about the politics of implementing a performance-based pay system. While there may be some merit in developing a performance-based pay system, it must be based on a sound teacher evaluation. Two years ago, lawmakers passed legislation dealing with teacher evaluation. Since that legislation was developed without input from teachers and school administrators, many of us knew it would not work. Earlier this year, the results that came in proved the evaluation system thrust on school districts is not working.



Teacher evaluations changes advance in Legislature (Karen McCann quoted)


Port plan to save Brevard schools hangs on after meeting



Florida's high-performing schools get richer



Thrasher bill would allow parents more input in special-needs students' plans



Bill may allow guns in schools







Charter schools make the case for facilities funding

The House Choice and Innovation in Education Subcommittee held a workshop on Wednesday to take up the controversial issue of charter-school funding. Charter schools receive public dollars for teacher salaries and educational materials. But unlike traditional public schools, which can levy property taxes for construction and maintenance, charter schools do not have a recurring revenue stream for capital needs. For the past several years, Florida's charter schools have received dollars from the Public Education Capital Outlay fund. But supporters say the funding is spotty. “If we do not resolve this issue immediately, then school choice will cease to exist in Florida,” said Rep. Janet Adkins, a Fernandina Beach Republican, who is sponsoring legislation that would provide a recurring stream of general revenue for charter-school construction and maintenance. The idea of providing public funds for charter-school facilities has long been contentious. Parent groups, school districts and the teachers' union point out that some charter schools are run by for-profit management companies. What's more, in many instances, the public funds would be supporting private buildings. After the meeting, Adkins told The Herald/Times that she doesn't expect her charter-school funding bill to pass this year. "We're going to focus on securing funding in this year's budget," she said. But don't count the powerful charter-school lobby out just yet. Insiders say charter-school advocates might make a run at the dollars later this session.



An insider reveals what happens in cyber charter schools




The great deception: How to convince the public to abandon education for all in three steps


With vouchers, states shift aid for schools to families

A growing number of lawmakers across the country are taking steps to redefine public education, shifting the debate from the classroom to the pocketbook. Instead of simply financing a traditional system of neighborhood schools, legislators and some governors are headed toward funneling public money directly to families, who would be free to choose the kind of schooling they believe is best for their children, be it public, charter, private, religious, online or at home. On Tuesday, after a legal fight, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the state’s voucher program as constitutional. This month, Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama signed tax-credit legislation so that families can take their children out of failing public schools and enroll them in private schools, or at least in better-performing public schools.  In Arizona, which already has a tax-credit scholarship program, the Legislature has broadened eligibility for education savings accounts. And in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, in an effort to circumvent a Legislature that has repeatedly defeated voucher bills, has inserted $2 million into his budget so low-income children can obtain private school vouchers.  Proponents say tax-credit and voucher programs offer families a way to escape failing public schools. But critics warn that by drawing money away from public schools, such programs weaken a system left vulnerable after years of crippling state budget cuts -- while showing little evidence that students actually benefit.  “This movement is doing more than threaten the core of our traditional public school system,” said Timothy Ogle, executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association. “It’s pushing a national policy agenda embraced by conservatives across states that are receptive to conservative ideas.” Currently, 17 states offer 33 programs that allow parents to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools, according to the American Federation for Children, a nonprofit advocate for school vouchers and tax-credit scholarship programs that give individuals or corporations tax reductions if they donate to state-run scholarship funds. These state efforts come at a particularly challenging time for public schools. Their budgets suffered severely during the recession, and they are now facing pressure to conform to new curriculum standards and to evaluate teacher performance. “We’re not providing adequately now,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. “Why would you take away” financing from public schools?



North Carolina Republicans want unregulated, unsupervised charters





In Chicago, thousands march to protest proposed school closings


http://leadernet.aft.org/news/article_detail.cfm?ArticleID=3879 (Randi Weingarten quoted)

NEA vice president discusses Common Core at AEI panel



Scott opposes university tuition hikes



Florida Polytechnic fights for funding, independence



Accreditation is FAMU's priority



More missteps at FAU




Scott appoints new trustee at FAU



Stop assault on fair-wage laws



Bring back Florida's second primary



Groups blast bill giving governor more power over selecting judges



House less stingy than Senate with incentive funds



Business lobby pushes back against corporate tax reform



State of Florida report shows $20 million incentive giveaway could happen again





Avoid sequel to Digital Domain and the $20 million



Florida economic development gone awry


Florida airports to take legal action to avoid federal cuts






Homeowners rankled by foreclosure money going to dorms and developers



House, Senate differ in approach to foreclosure settlement money


House, Senate budget proposals include money for land-buying, beach restoration




Florida Senate remembers Larcenia Bullard


“Trickle-down consumption”: How rising inequality can leave everyone worse off







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