I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Florida Senate Bill 6--Could it Result in a Statewide "Sick-Out" by Teachers?

As I read about Florida SB 6 on the blogs and in the news this afternoon, several things come to mind. Unions hate reform, merit pay, and Senate Bill 6.  The statewide (Democratic Allied) teachers union and many individual teachers blame the "Republican Lawmakers in Tallahassee" for ramming this reform through.  "It's an outrage" seems to be the overriding sentiment.  Funny how it seems perfectly fine for Democrats, at the National level, to Ram the Government takeover of Health Care down the throats of Republicans and the overwhelming majority of American taxpayers.  Yeah, that's okay at the National level, but what the republicans are doing with Senate Bill 6 in florida--that's "at outrage"  Talk about your hypocritical double standard.....It's funny how things can cut two directions.  But, back to SB6...

First off,  there is a lot of misinformation and anti-SB6 spin being thrown out by those that seek to derail this reform effort.  Everyone should read this piece-- which lists the facts vs the myths surrounding SB 6.

I think the editorial by Mike Thomas on merit pay for teachers (a large component of SB6 and President Barack Obama's Race to the Top) In today's Orlando Sentinel really hits the mark.   from the piece:

"Everything the unions have fought against is working.  For decades they have promoted a system in which poor, minority children are neglected, the best teachers are encouraged to go to white suburban schools, excellence is not rewarded and incompetence is not weeded out. There has been no free-market reality check in public education. Too many resources are not targeted to where they will do the most good.  A school district cannot pay more to get a good math or science teacher, even though they are rare commodities, because everybody must be paid the same"

By contrast, the editorial in today's Miami Sun-Sentinel that attempts to marginalize the reforms of senate bill 6 could have been mailed in by the FEA; This editorial was blatantly pro-union and totally ridiculous. from the piece:

 "No one should mistake the measure linking teacher salaries to student performance on annual tests for a serious effort to reform education. A pointed jab at teacher unions and school districts is more like it."

The Palm Beach Post's "Extra Credit Blog" from Friday afternoon talks about the CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce lending his support to SB6.  The blog discussion on this thread is very interesting with poster number 15 putting the following comment on the board:

"John Abrahams Says:

March 20th, 2010 at 1:04 am

Please start thinking/discussing the beginning of state wide “sick out” days with your colleagues, districts and unions. Our way of striking.Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami/Dade are already discussing options. If we use “sick out” days, were at least covered financially until those are used up. Even after that, we might lose a couple days of pay –consider it a furlough (something that many districts plan on doing anyway).
If we need to lose a couple days of income in order to be heard, so be it. I’ll take a week or two hit instead of possibly losing half my income for the next 20 years. NE states need to strike only a couple of days before demands are met Here is your teachable moment - turn something horrible into a way of receiving a way overdue list of recognitions - benefits, salary, and most important support for the wonderful job we do everyday.
You in?"

Would good teachers really consider such a childish, fiscally irresponsible stunt?  all I can say is WOW!  I wonder if such a stunt would be tolerated, as essentially it would be a "pseudo-strike" --Illegal in Florida.  I wonder how teachers in counties like Escambia, where a majority of teachers are not members of the union, would react to a sick-out?

The most important question I would ask any teacher who would participate in something like this is "What about your class, what about your students?"

Would the teacher's union condone such behavior by their members?.


Ted said...

This bill is a horrible idea. It will hurt teachers and schools. See my opinions here:

ACR4NOLIBS said...

Jeff, as I pointed out in another post, you bet the teacher's union would condone this behavior by its members. I think they would actually encourage it. They are interested in what is best for their members, and children are not card carriers. Again...maybe the kids should have a union of their own? Ted states that this bill will hurt the teacher's and the schools. Fact is Ted that "UNIONS" in education have been hurting teachers and schools for some time now. More liberal policies that over time, prove to have dire unintended consequences. What's the solution? Ask a liberal and they will tell you we need to throw more money at the problem. We have been doing that now for a long time. Where has it brought us? Maybe we should try and chart a different course this time. Let's start with some personal accountability. Keep up the good work Mr. Bergosh.

Anonymous said...

This bill is not going to improve education. This bill will destroy the educational system down to its core. Why would anyone want to go into teaching as a career with their future being questioned each day by people that do not know anything about education.
If some of the decision makers that think that they are so very smart really want to make a difference then come up with a plan that supports the teachers that spend money out of their own pockets to but their students clothes, shoes, and food. I work in a low socio-economic school. If this bill passes some of the great teachers at my school will request a transfer to a school where the students test scores will make them look good on paper. What about the ESE students, teachers will not want these students in their classes because the test scores just might not be perfect. For answers that are real and true to life why don't decision makers ask the people in the classrooms what will work? I would love to see these same people in a classroom with 25 fifth graders and try to teach them.

Keats' said...

Mr. Bergosh-

I appreciate what was, for the most, part a balanced take on this controversial topic. I'm not totally against incentive pay (I think it's a great idea if done right, but there are a lot of really bad policy decisions made in this bill.)

I’m a current law student and former high school teacher. I just read HB 7189 and would like to share some lesser known (but very dangerous) aspects of the bill.
Little Known Aspects of HB 7189
-Florida won't be able to attract teachers from other states because they will have the starting pay of a brand new teacher. Teachers from other states will be labeled "beginning teacher" and will get the same starting pay grade as brand new teachers. Imagine telling a 20 year veteran teacher from New York that her starting salary is $32,000! This will only exacerbate the problem of finding good teachers. Additionally, teachers from other states won't want to move here because of the other general provisions of this bill.
-Restricts the teachers who can teach reading math, science and other critical shortage areas. Must be certified in the area, and cannot even teach out of field temporarily while getting certification in an area. While this *might* be a good idea in math or science, it will make it even more difficult to have enough reading teachers. For example, a principal can no longer assign a English teacher to teach reading , even temporarily, while getting a teacher is getting the additional reading certification.

-Schools are forbidden from financially recognizing a teacher of the year! We've heard a lot about how teachers cannot be recognized for years of service, National Board Certification or graduate degrees. Additionally, school boards are expressly forbidden from providing incentive pay to state or local teachers of the year! Talk about perverse incentives!
-Teacher retention must be based on standardized testing. If school boards have to cut back on teachers, (as many have had to do because of budget cuts) the board must base their decisions primarily on standardized tests scores. Of course, seniority is out the window, but note something even more pernicious--the school board has to ignore its own need for teachers in certain subject areas in the face of standardized test scores. For example, what if a school board has to let go of 10% of its teachers. Let's say that students in math, ESOL or reading on average make less gains per year. Well, then the school board would be forced to let go all the teachers in that critical need subject area who are performing less on standardized tests, while other subject areas have a relevant surplus of teachers. This is just plain bad policy.

LBS3169 said...

Jeff, as a teacher what I am concerned about is the unknown. I want to know TODAY what my salary will be for next year. I feel that is a reasonable expectation. After 10 years of teaching and earning a master degree in education I currently earn about $40,000. With this bill I have no idea of what my salary will be. Will it remain $40,000 forever and if my test scores are good receive a bonus of $200, $2,000, $10,000, $25,000? I don't know the answer to any of it. Would anyone feel comfortable in not knowing the answer to these questions about their own job. Merit pay is fine to me as long as my normal salary and raises each year continue the same. If you want to keep talking about private sector isn't that the way it is in the private sector? Who thinks it is honestly reasonable to cut my salary by....oh yeah who knows how much and the only way for me to make it up again is through merit pay? If you want to motivate teachers to do whatever you think we should be doing better how on earth do you think that is they way? Is it just me or does this all seem to be happening at a VERY convenient time. The state is in a horrible position financially so what would be a solution to save a lot of money? How about cutting all teachers salaries and will tell them the have the opportunity to make it up.
Another issue I want to comment on is when you said all teachers every want is more money thrown at the problem. I guess this is true. I would like to see that whenever my students need a pencil or paper those things were available, because they haven't been since the first month of school in the supply closet. Or how about when I am in small reading groups trying to help raise my students reading level. Wouldn't it be great to have a teacher's assistant to help the rest of the class answer their questions, keep them focused and motivated for that hour and a half I'm required to have small groups going on? How about having enough social workers available to help find out why one student has worn the same shirt to school everyday that week or why another student comes late to school so often, but yet still never is able to eat breakfast? I could go on and on with wonderful ways the state could invest in student education if they were really concerned with making a difference.
Overall the point of the bill was good. Get better teachers by rewarding them with merit pay when students make progress or they teach more difficult subjects and create stronger evaluation criteria. What most teachers are opposed to is cutting their salary to fund the idea.