Florida Unions Fight 'All-Out Assault' Against Teachers

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AFT members in Florida are pulling out all the stops to defeat a state Senate-passed bill that would put test scores in the driver's seat when it comes to virtually all decisions about teacher pay, security and professionalism.

Under S.B. 6 (H.B. 7189), more than half of teacher pay would be based on student scores, and educators risk losing certification if they fail to show "effective performance" based on scores. Newly hired teachers would remain on probation for five years and then have annual contracts for the remainder of their careers. The bill also eliminates experience, advanced degrees and professional credentials like National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification as salary considerations. Teacher layoffs also would be determined by students' performance on tests, which clearly were not designed for these purposes.

Florida RallyThis is an "all-out assault on the teachers of Florida," warns AFT vice president Andy Ford, who is also president of FEA, the statewide joint affiliate of the AFT and the NEA. The bill narrowly passed the state Senate last week, and FEA is responding with "Make Our Schools a Priority," a full-on mobilization effort to defeat the bill in the House. The AFT is working with FEA to help make its mobilization a success.

The FEA campaign urges Floridians to let their state representatives know they oppose legislation that attacks teachers, retreats on class size and cuts school funding. The campaign includes social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as letter-writing, rallies, media ads and personal contacts with state representatives and community partners.

The bill also has come under fire from leading voices in school reform, including education historian Diane Ravitch of New York University. Enactment of S.B. 6 "will have very negative consequences for the children of the state of Florida," Ravitch, the author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System, warned Florida lawmakers.

"I believe that it will dumb down their education. I believe that it will cause many of your best teachers to leave the profession or the state because this legislation is so profoundly disrespectful towards the education profession," Ravitch told the Florida state legislature in testimony opposing S.B. 6.

March 29, 2010