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Reform Bill Moves Closer to Passing in Florida
posted by: Megan | March 14, 2011, 03:18 PM   
Senate bill 736 would link teacher evaluations to student academic progress measured by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and other standard examinations. The bill would end tenure for newly hired teachers, who would work on annual contracts and only provide raises for those deemed effective. Current teachers would keep their existing contracts and pay plans but could be fired if they had multiple years with poor performance evaluations.

Arguing that rewarding excellent teachers and firing bad ones is "a moral issue," Senate Republicans approved a broad education package on Thursday that ends tenure and gives pay raises to teachers based on student performance.

The majority vote sends the bill to the House, setting up a rematch of last year's battle between teacher unions, their Democratic Party allies, and education reformers statewide. This year, the GOP has stronger legislative majorities and a governor who has made education reform a priority.

The House Education Committee approved its version of the merit-pay plan shortly after the full Senate acted. The issue is set for a heated debate in the House chamber next week. The Florida Education Association, that state's largest union is fighting it as hard as they fought a similar measure last year, which was vetoed by then-Governor Charlie Crist.

"There's a moral issue here," said State Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, a former school superintendent. He said it is "the soft bigotry of lowered expectations" for government to inflict poor-performing teachers on struggling students who have a right to free, high-quality public education.

State Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, the sponsor of the bill, stated he retired from 30 years in education and he understands the problems that Florida faces. He said bad public schools affect poor students, particularly at-risk black males, more than any other population segment in Florida.

While Florida ranks fifth in overall education ratings it is home to seven of the nation's 10 school districts with the lowest graduation rates for black males. The bill passed along near party lines with one lone Democrat dissenter, Gary Siplin of Orlando.

For the latest on the Florida bill, check out AAE's media schedule.


Do you think merit pay is likely to pass?
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Originally posted by Alix on AAE’s website.

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