Let me preface this letter by stating that I do not speak for all Florida teachers nor do I know what all Florida teachers want. I do, however, know what I would like to see from a candidate running for Governor who is going to need the teacher vote if he wants to win (and teachers, you actually need to vote).
Dear Charlie Christ,
Congratulations on winning the Democratic primary in the race for the Governor of Florida. Now that you’ve won, teachers are going to need to hear you speak on issues that are near and dear to their hearts. You’ve stood up for teachers in the past as a Republican Governor and we hope you will stand up for teachers even more so as a Democratic Governor. (By the way, I would stay away from affiliating yourself too much with President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. They are not very popular among teachers these days.) Because you are not a public school teacher, you may be unaware of the plight of the Florida educator as experienced during the Reign of Rick Scott. Here’s a list of bad legislation passed in the last four years that teachers would like to see reversed.
- SB736, need I say more. I believe you are partially responsible as you initiated the state’s Race to the Top application. The grant period for Race to the Top is now over, so you should be able to reverse some of its ridiculous demands. Teachers should not be evaluated on the standardized test scores of their students. There is no fair way to do this. If you use pass rates, then teachers doing the hard work of teaching our most challenging populations will suffer. Judging teachers by growth rates (VAM) has proven to be statistically invalid and tends to penalize teachers who teach high achievers as well as special needs and English language learners.
- Amend the amendment to the class size amendment. All Florida teachers and students deserve a class size that is conducive to a productive learning environment. Advanced Placement teachers and students have especially suffered since their classes were declared “electives” and exempt from the 25 student cap. Advanced Placement teachers have seen their class size balloon to over 40 and their student load increase from 150 to 200 without any additional pay. Inclusion classrooms also tend to be over 40 students because technically there are two teachers assigned to the room. Many times the trained Special Education teacher is absent from the class due to IEP meetings and paperwork. This leaves a teacher with no special education training in a room with over 40 students, most of whom have special needs.
- Merit pay. Pitting teachers against each other for a few hundred dollars is no way to improve our schools. One known way to improve teacher quality is to share best practices and provide quality professional development. Teachers are not going to feel comfortable collaborating with their peers and sharing materials when they are being ranked against their colleagues in every possible way.
- Bring back continuing contract status for all Florida teachers. Teachers need to have some due process rights before they are fired or simply not rehired. Left to the whims of administrators, quality teachers can be let go just because of personality differences, nepotism, or because they stood up for their students when it may have conflicted with administrative decisions.
Thanks for listening Charlie! I hope you can speak out on some of these issues and give teachers a reason to go to the polls in November!
A Concerned Florida Educator
***Please feel free to leave a comment below to add to the list of issues important to Florida teachers***