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This morning I sent the following letter to Gov Crist regarding SB 6. It is my hope that he does the right thing and rejects this legislation....
The Honorable Charlie Crist
Governor, State of Florida
Tallahassee, Florida 32399
Veto SB 6. I make this request as a legislator and as a parent of three children enrolled in Florida’s public schools whose education I believe will be imperiled should this bill become law.
The problem with the bill is it assumes the best way to weed out bad teachers is to assume all teachers are bad. While other states are addressing teaching tenure by simply modifying the number of years it takes to obtain tenure, Florida would take the drastic step of eliminating tenure and forcing teachers to work on year-to-year contracts. For a profession that, in our state, is already paid $5,000 below the national average, this will be demoralizing in the extreme.
More importantly, the measure will set Florida down a path that subjects our children to theories and assumptions that may have disastrous effects on their education.
First, it requires the implementation of pre-tests and end of course exams in nearly every classroom in Florida and ties performance on those tests to teachers’ pay. Yet, there are presently no models for such tests and no districts have even tried such an experiment. It assumes that teachers should be responsible for factors affecting students beyond the teachers’ control like socioeconomic conditions and family circumstances. And it fails to address how performance will be evaluated in non-core subjects or where students arrive with specific special needs like language deficiencies or other challenges.
Second, it diminishes experience and formal training as a legitimate factor in evaluating teachers. Ironically, while we tell our students to seek higher education and training, this bill advances the opposite lesson: don’t seek higher certifications and degrees because it won’t impact your professional success.
Some have dismissed these concerns with the simplistic platitude that ‘Florida needs to be a leader.’ I don’t believe this sets Florida apart as a leader as much as it makes our children the canaries in the coal mine.
Finally, while you have previously expressed support for this concept in theory, I believe circumstances have changed since your previous comments. Florida’s failure to receive Race to the Top funds last month suggests that any movement toward merit pay needs buy-in from teachers which the two states who did win Race to the Top grants had. SB 6 does not have buy-in from our teachers. If you were to veto this measure immediately, it would give the legislature the opportunity to craft a proposal that is more thoughtful and has teacher support. This could open the door to millions in federal dollars which Florida’s underfunded school system desperately needs.
Please veto this bill upon its arrival on your desk. It's the right thing to do.
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Sen. Gelber debates against two amendments to HB 1143 that took aim at a woman's right to privacy
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