Teachers' lawsuit against merit pay law is dismissed

A lawsuit by Florida's teachers union over the merit-pay law was dismissed Thursday, with a circuit judge ruling the sweeping 2011 law did not violate teachers’ constitutional rights. Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper sided with state officials and shut down the lawsuit filed by the Florida Education Association in his ruling issued Thursday. Cooper wrote that the merit-pay law does not prohibit collective bargaining and, therefore, does not infringe on teachers' collective bargaining rights, as spelled out in the Florida Constitution. The lawsuit, filed in September 2011, contended that the new law -- which overhauled how Florida teachers are to be evaluated, paid and promoted -- brought about changes that "collide" with that bargaining right. "We're discouraged that the court ruled against FEA members," said Andy Ford, the union's president, in a statement. "But there's nothing in the ruling that prevents us from going to court in the future when specific aspects of SB 736 impairs our members' collective bargaining rights. We believe that this has occurred already and will continue to occur throughout the state as this flawed law is implemented." SB 736 was the merit-pay legislation the Legislature passed, and Gov. Rick Scott signed, in early 2011. Ford added that the union may appeal Cooper's ruling as it still believes the law delegated too much authority on teacher evaluations and salaries to the Florida Department of Education. The teachers union last month filed a separate legal challenge in federal court over how the merit-pay law ties teacher evaluations to student test score data. That lawsuit argues the law unfairly resulted in many teachers' evaluations last year being based on the test scores of students or subjects they did not teach. That violates the equal-protection and due-process clauses of the U.S. Constitution, the lawsuit claims. State lawmakers have tried to fix that piece of the law with new legislation this year.


http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/state-regional-govt-politics/judge-sides-with-state-in-teacher-challenge-of-mer/nXfT6/ (Andy Ford quoted)


Amendment on Florida House bill targets “unsatisfactory” teachers

Two days after the Florida Senate killed the parent trigger bill, one of the proposal's more controversial provisions found new life in the Florida House. The language, which would prevent students from being assigned to "unsatisfactory" teachers for two consecutive years, was tacked onto a bill that would hold charter schools more accountable for their management and finances. The House approved the amendment, and then the larger proposal, in a pair of party-lines votes Thursday. HB 7009 is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott. Earlier in the week, the upper chamber defeated the divisive parent trigger, which would have allowed parents to demand major changes at failing public schools. But Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, was working to protect a less-discussed provision of the bill. On Tuesday, Flores added the language about "unsatisfactory" teachers into the charter school bill. The Senate signed off on the move. House Democrats, however, argued that the state's teacher evaluation model was too flawed to distinguish unsatisfactory teachers. "We need to wait until we have an evaluation system that evaluates teachers properly," said Rep. Mark Danish, a Tampa Democrat, during the floor debate Thursday. "We're not supposed to be working out problems with the plane while in midflight." Jeff Wright, of the Florida Education Association, pointed out that the teachers union supports evaluations. Still, he had concerns with the amendment. "We don't want incompetent teachers put in front of our kids," he said. "But we also believe people have to be treated fairly." Beyond the teacher accountability provision, the charter school bill requires the state Department of Education to draft a standard charter school contract for all 67 school districts. The Legislature will consider the proposed contract next year.



Schools need parents, not a trigger

http://www.dailycommercial.com/news/article_0fbbd742-3699-55a6-bad6-d78a4909365c.html (Andy Ford and B. Grassel quoted)


Bush’s foundation not giving up on parent trigger bill



Teachers get their pay raises (Mark Pudlow quoted)



Lake teachers are stressed, pressured, unappreciated (B. Grassel and Carol Cadwell quoted)


Senate opens digital learning to out-of-state companies

Florida students will be able to sign up for more online classes under a bill the Senate passed Thursday and sent to the governor. CS/HB 7029 opens the pool of online classes to those offered by out-of-state digital learning companies. “Are you willing to ship Florida education jobs out of the country?” Sen. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, said during debate. Supporters, however, pointed to increased accountability provisions included by Senate sponsor Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. The measure:

  • Specifies the level of service the online education company must provide to parents and students.
  • Requires the Department of Education to develop an online catalog of digital courses that includes completion and passage rates.
  • Mandates Florida Virtual School to report about digital operators in and outside the state.

“I would say if you don’t pass this type of legislation you are allowing the Wild, Wild West of virtual education to keep on going,” said Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz and chairman of the Senate Education Committee. “He’s (Brandes) allowing and creating a framework from which you can evaluate and put standards in for the future of virtual education.”



Bondi sides with virtual charter school over who has to pay for student testing



Education hits and misses for 2013 (from Fund Education Now)


Education entrepreneurs excited by new K-12 opportunities




PSRPs expand reach to educational support staff worldwide (Lorretta Johnson and Ruby Newbold quoted)


North Carolina won’t find any school miracles to copy in Florida



Cleveland charter officials accused of stealing $1.8 million




Texas: More school privatization on the way



Sharp decline in number entering teaching in California



Will Miami Dade College bill get heard?



No more drama: House Democrats get on board the state budget

Despite all the meltdown drama from the past couple of days, don’t expect a big clash on the state’s $74.5 billion budget today. Florida House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said Thursday that the Democrats won’t be voting along any prescribed party line when the budget come up for a vote. “There will be some who will voting for the budget, and they’ll have legitimate reasons to vote for it, which I think are legitimate reasons,” Thurston said Thursday. Thurston said he will be among those Democrats voting against the proposed budget as a protest for the House’s refusal to expand Medicaid and a disputed vote Wednesday that gave a tax break for manufacturing equipment. But he said other Democratic lawmakers, like Rep. Alan Williams, had every right to endorse the budget with a “yay” vote because of issues that help state workers and teachers. Williams’ district is in Leon County, which has 20,000 state workers. State workers are getting automatic raises between $1,000 and $1,400, plus bonuses up to $600. “It’s time that they should be compensated, so if Alan Williams, who has been fighting on this issue, wants to vote for it, he should vote for it,” Thurston said. “He has every right to, he’s the catalyst who has done the right thing. He can tell his constituents, ‘That’s why he voted for it.’” Williams said he still opposes the House’s stance on Medicaid, but he won’t let it stand in the way of his support of the budget.



Major bills await Florida Legislature's final day




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One in four Floridians live near poverty line



Lawmakers pass measure on sick leave




Legislative staff analysis: Tax cut needed two-thirds vote to pass





Voting rights watchdogs give thumbs down to Florida elections bill





Partisanship hurts the old, sick and poor



Reject latest assault on Florida’s environment



U.S. adds 165,000 jobs; jobless rate falls to 7.5 percent



Not enough inflation



Koch brothers form new dark money group to hide political activities from public





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