Several ‘Sweeping Change’ Education Bills Up For A Vote Today

April 8, 2010

Several bills that could usher in sweeping changes to the state’s education landscape are up for a final vote in the House on Thursday, the last stop before the governor’s desk.

Class sizes could grow, more kids could go to private schools on the taxpayers, the FCAT could be phased out at the high school level and teachers could see their pay raises based on their students’ achievement. The bills have been part of a highly politicized, partisan process that has divided the education community.

HB 7189/SB 6
The most controversial measure before the Legislature this year would strip away tenure from public school teachers, instead basing their salary, in part, on student performance.

A measure filed in the Senate on the first day of session would partly base teacher pay raises on the results of their students on standardized exams. But the Department of Education has yet to determine exactly how student learning gains would be measured and will outline those proposals throughout the summer if it becomes law.

The Florida Education Association has come out swinging against the legislation with teachers flooding lawmakers’ offices with emails, letters and phone calls. A House committee also scheduled eight hours to hear the measure earlier this week and 120 people signed up to speak on the legislation. It has also gained national attention with a representative of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce testifying at a committee meeting along with a representative of an education think tank in North Carolina.

Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, stressed that the students aren’t being required to hit a certain mark on exams, they just need to show gains from the previous year.

“The focus is not on the end performance, it focuses on a learning gain,” she said.

Democrats proposed several amendments to the legislation, all of which were knocked down by the Republican majority in a session that went late into the night on Wednesday. The amendments included a measure to remove penalties from schools who reward teachers based on years of service, a proposal to include external factors such as a child’s socioeconomic status in their progress, and an exemption for military personnel from having their teaching certificates revoked.

“This bill is a slap in the face to every teacher out there,” said Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville.

The House gave the bill preliminary approval on Wednesday night setting it up for a vote on Thursday.

HJR 7039/SJR 2

The House will also vote on whether ask the voters to knock down a class size provision in the state constitution.

In 2002, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment that would cap class sizes at 18 students for kindergarten through third grade, 22 in fourth through eighth grade, and 25 in high school. Smaller classes have been phased in since 2002, but at the start of the 2010 school year, every classroom would have to meet those hard caps.

The joint resolution would roll back the requirement so that class size would be calculated at a grade-level average, not an individual classroom cap. Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, the House sponsor, said this was a school flexibility measure. “We are not repealing the class size amendment,” he said on the House floor Wednesday.

The measure requires a three-fifths vote to make it to the November 2010 ballot where it requires 60 percent voter approval to pass.

HB 1009/SB 2126

Included in the package of bills is a measure to massively expand the state’s voucher program, the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship, so more low income students could choose to attend private school. The program, established in 2001, gives companies a tax credit in exchange for contributing to the program.

The bill would add revenue sources and expand the cap on how much in scholarship money can be awarded from $118 million to $140 million and increase the individual award over time from the current level of $3,950 to 80 percent of the per pupil spending awarded by the state to public schools. Currently, the state spends about $6,900 per public school student.

HB 7053

The FCAT would be phased out at the high school level under HB 7053. The legislation would implement end-of-course exams in algebra, geometry and biology, phasing out the ninth and 10th grade FCAT in mathematics and the high school science FCAT.


10 Responses to “Several ‘Sweeping Change’ Education Bills Up For A Vote Today”

  1. Miss M on April 9th, 2010 1:34 am

    I neglected to mention that since the tools of discipline have been removed from teachers and administrators, it has tied their hands horribly. Disruptive or threatening students can rarely be removed from class, and this is not only detrimental to a learning environment, but it also has become dangerous.

    This situation is the fault of both parents and government.

  2. Miss M on April 9th, 2010 1:25 am

    Mrs. Rude -

    I’m sure that most people would love to give their children’s teachers credit when it is due. Parents aren’t always blaming teachers; I have heard parents many times refer to certain teachers with admiration. Many parents are very supportive of good teachers.

    Yes, there are parents who don’t care; yes, parents should be way more involved; yes, parents should make sure they have the whole story before jumping to conclusions. Bad parents make a teacher’s job very hard indeed.

    However, many kids do poorly because no one has ever expected more than that of them. They’re from poor neighborhoods or families, or the families don’t care how they do in school as long as they’re out of their hair for eight hours. The school figures that since the kids have an “I don’t care” attitude and have it rough at home, that they can’t expect anything from them, so they don’t even try to motivate or challenge the kids. The parents don’t care, the kids don’t care, the administration is busy with faculty politics, and the teachers are left to figure out how to handle it.

    Some adopt the same “I don’t care” attitude, and pass the kids at the end of the year just to get them out of there.

    Some try to get the basics across, to get the kids to learn at least enough to pass the test. They usually do truly care, they just don’t expect much from the kids because of their situations. They expect mediocrity because that is what they are given, and they get mediocrity.

    Some figure out how to turn the kids on and challenge them to rise above the lack of concern for their welfare. If the teachers don’t waver, and don’t forget that they aren’t the kids’ buddies, their students just might realize that they aren’t slaves to their situations, and that they can strive for the same education and opportunities that are available to others. These are the teachers that students look back on as adults with praise, because this teacher or that teacher was the one who challenged me, wouldn’t let me be lazy, and really turned me on to math, or science, or poetry, or art.

    The teachers in the first category are the ones who need to go. These are the “bad teachers” everyone is so angry about. These are the ones who are responsible for parents’ frustration with teachers in general.

    The teachers in the second need to be encouraged to set the bar high for their kids, expect them to reach it, and blow off the complaints as they work with the students to attain it. If they figure out how to turn their students on, they become the teachers in the third category.

    The teachers in the third category should be able to reap some reward for their persistent, stubborn expectations of their students that has paid off. These are the teachers that cause parents to try anything to finagle their kids into their classes. These teachers may not always be particularly sweet, but their demand for excellence tends to shake the “poor me” funk off the kids.

    Parents aren’t trying to punish all teachers. They’re frustrated with the bad ones who shouldn’t be there. They’d like to see the good teachers get paid what they deserve. They’re also frustrated that every time some idea for weeding out bad teachers comes along, it’s opposed.

    Teachers are overworked. Not only do they end up buying supplies that their students should have brought, they have to do way too much paperwork. And when a test like the FCAT is involved, the teachers have so much on their plates trying to teach all the information that is on the test, they don’t get in the other things they really wanted to teach.

    The FCAT has not made anything better. My husband, who was a maintenance man, watched a kid’s love of school die. One year, he loved school. The next year, at some point in the school year, my husband asked him how school was going, and he replied, “All they do now is teach the test.” This is not fair to the teachers or the students.

    If we got the government out of schools and went back to local control, the communities would be competing to try to attract the best teachers. Teacher pay would likely be higher in most places, parent and community involvement would increase, paperwork would be drastically reduced. I’m not saying it would be all sunshine and roses, but government control of education has done nothing to help it, and has done nothing to help teachers.

  3. Mrs. Rude on April 9th, 2010 12:04 am

    No one knows what a teacher does when they are in their classroom. But I assure you, if that teacher isn’t doing what she needs to do there are students that will certainly run and tell. I think it is pretty bad when you have parents that never show their face at a school meeting or any activity but yet they are quick to judge a teacher. Come on parents get off your lazy butts and support the school and your child. I think you would be able to see a major difference in your child. Yes, and lets talk about these teachers that do nothing. How many days out of the school term is your child sent to school with no suppilies? Endless I am sure, or do you even check. No need to worry, those over paid and lazy teachers will furnish your child supplies to use even if they have to pay for it out of their own pocket. How can you even think a teacher does not care about their students, They are the ones that have to listen when your child complains about problems at home I tell you what, Let’s base 50% of your income on parent performance and see what you will bring home, I assure you that would be an eye opener. Come on parents, grow up and take responsiblity for your on actions and give your childs teacher a little credit. The pay is not that great but the end reward is priceless.

  4. Miss M on April 8th, 2010 10:19 pm

    Quoting ahem… “government has no business with their hands in the education system in the first place. never did.”

    You are absolutely right. Somehow, we managed to produce some brilliant men and women before we had government education. The Founding Fathers, for instance…

    Around the time of the Revolution, it is estimated that 90% of adults were literate. Today, that number is between 65 and 85%, depending on what definition of literacy you use. The Census Bureau reports 99%, but their method is seriously flawed, and I think we all know that 99% is false anyway. Many kids were allowed to graduate from the high school I attended who probably couldn’t read their own diplomas. Even if they could, they probably couldn’t read a manual and get the information they needed, or a bus schedule. I have met many people since then that can read at a basic level, but cannot comprehend what they read well enough to glean needed info. I can’t possibly be living in the one area where all the 1 in 100 people who aren’t literate live.

    The ones that are considered literate often are clueless about history and current events.

    It’s just really sad, and getting government out of education and getting back to local education would help mightily. It would be easier to weed out the bad teachers, and the parents and community would likely have a much greater interest in their schools, and in making sure their students got a good education.

  5. ahem... on April 8th, 2010 3:35 pm

    government has no business with their hands in the education system in the first place. never did.

  6. Miss M on April 8th, 2010 3:29 pm

    Jaime Escalante died a little over a week ago.

    He did not base his expectations of his students on their background, home environment, previous educational failure, or anything else like that.

    He based his expectations of them on the fact that if you take those who believe even that they are trapped in a cycle of failure from which there is no escape, expect excellence from them, and then prove that you care about them as you work to help them to accomplish excellence, you break the cycle of failure and open up a whole new world of possibility.

    His students rose to his expectations, and passed the AP Calculus exam. College-level calculus being learned by the students at a school in which the kids were so disadvantaged, they couldn’t be expected to learn basic algebra. At least, that’s what the school administration told him.

    School politics finally became too much for Escalante, and he and others who were involved with his program moved on. The school has since drifted back into mediocrity.

    “If he wants to teach us that bad, we can learn.”

  7. Uv Gotoo B. Kiddingme on April 8th, 2010 3:00 pm

    “This bill is a slap in the face to every teacher out there,” said Rep. Mia Jones, D-Jacksonville.

    A slap in the face is what they need. The union has destroyed what was a quality education system 45+ years ago, before the takeover of education by the left. Maybe now they can bring back discipline and focus on results instead of self-esteem issues. Maybe now they can focus on teaching kids the basics and move away from the left wing ideology focus.

    Hurray for our side!!!

  8. FYI on April 8th, 2010 12:59 pm

    It’s easy to see why so many students have so little respect for teachers. Their parents are teacher-haters! Sure, there are some bad school teachers, just like their are bad parents, bad cops, bad bankers, etc.. But, most teachers really care! I wonder how many people that have legitimate complaints ever bothered to voice them with the principal? Or are you just angry because your perfect child brought home bad grades or got in trouble for thier behavior? When the teacher sends home notes or calls and leaves a message about a concern do you respond promptly? Do you go over your child’s homework with them each night? Do you spend time reading to/with them? Do you visit the school? Do you volunteer in the school? Ever?
    Try spending the day in a classroom with kids that come to school dirty, hungry, sick, sleepy, in ill-fitting clothes/shoes, unprepared for class and disrespectful to the teacher. A lot of kids don’t have the proper supplies. You try writing with a stub of a pencil. Teachers are scrambling to get them what they and the supplies are not endless.
    Shame on the parents who don’t send their children to school properly dressed, fed, doctored, rested, etc, etc Shame on the parents who have not instilled respect in their children for teachers. At least we know from some of these posts that the children have come by their disrepect honestly. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. For good or bad, your child is a reflection of you!!

  9. Parent of a student on April 8th, 2010 10:36 am

    I think it’s about time that teachers are graded on performance! Most teachers are (SORRY) When they get tenured, most turn to crap, they are just there to get a check and a easy retirement! They don’t care about our students. I think they should have to take the FCAT test also, and pass it to get paid or keep their job!

    Last night on channel 3 news, Dawn said “Do not address what a child bubbles in on a FCAT test, one day out of the entire year. Don’t base my pay on that”

    Why should a student’s graduation be based on one test score (FCAT) one day out of the entire year, to determine if they get a diploma or a certificate? Basing their salary, in part, on student performance will ensure that they are doing something other than just showing up for a check and a retirement.

    Most Americans are average with a test score of a “C”. A student with an average GPA of a “C” will graduate high school and go on with whatever their life brings. The FCAT is pass or fail, PERIOD. A student that does average all year making C’s and don’t pass the FCAT, (maybe from stress of taking a test that allows them to graduate with a diploma or a certificate, or are not a good test taker or even not feeling good that ONE day out of the year) ends up with a stupid certificate for basically 12-13 years of school.

    I know that Dawn didn’t come up with this FCAT test, but I see it as the same argument! Why is it good for the students but not for the teachers! When I was in public school here in Escambia Co, Florida I had teachers that would show up pass out handouts and goof off the rest of the day! Ask for help and they said just sit down and stay quiet, I’ll pass you with a D if you are good. I had some that sleep during class, I had one tell me that I would never amount to anything. I am now a Retired Military Officer with a Masters Degree!!!!!!!!!

  10. stop getting paid for nothing on April 8th, 2010 10:09 am

    The very first step should be to get rid of tenure!!!!!! That is a must!!!!!! No more paying for problem teachers, that are not doing their job. There are more of them than teachers doing their job, and that is so sad!

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