erik fresen snake

(Image taken from https://thewitheringapple.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/ef2.png?w=860&h=280&crop=1)

In perhaps the least surprising news of the year, Governor Rick Scott has denied a request on behalf of the Florida Educator’s Association to extend the Oct. 1st deadline for the Best and Brightest Scholarship. You can read the letter from FEA President Andy Ford here https://www.facebook.com/BrevardFederationofTeachers/photos/a.468695559883531.1073741829.337122859707469/897976140288802/?type=3&theater

Despite FEA pleas to extend the deadline for teachers still waiting to get their scores from the SAT and the ACT, the best the union was able to negotiate was allowing teachers to use their high school or college transcripts instead. For most teachers over the age of thirty who already hold Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees, high school transcripts are generally not what one chooses to retain in their office filing cabinet. Of course anyone with an ounce of cynicism and an GRE analytical score over 500 would know that petitioning Rick Scott to enable more veteran teachers to qualify for Best and Brightest scholarships would counteract the original purpose of the bill. This bill was not meant for veteran teachers. It was clearly meant as a signing bonus for Teach for America recruits, charter school teachers and any other cheap young blood who are stupid enough (despite having standardized test scores in the top 20th percentile) to sign up for teaching in a state that has shown nothing but disdain for educators and passes one humiliating law after the next.

While the blame and injustice of Best and Brightest lies mostly with Representative Erik Fresen for coming up with the hair-brained scheme and Governor Rick for signing it into law, neither our district nor our union in Miami did much to ensure that their highly qualified veteran teachers benefited from this inane giveaway of tax payer funds. Neither the district nor the union chose to send a district wide email clearly explaining the details of Best and Brightest and how to apply. The district chose to inform teachers the last week in August by putting it in the weekly briefing email that no teacher in the history of Dade County has ever bothered to read. The second least read publication for Dade County teachers would be the UTD “Activist” Newsletter that only gets mailed to union member homes. The newsletter sat unread in a pile of junk mail on my dining table for two weeks. Looking at photos of the union president smiling at one social event after the next is not one of my top priorities. If there were any two places where one could publish information that one could be assured that no teacher in Dade County would ever see, it would be the weekly briefing and the UTD Activist newsletter. This way both the district and union get to say they informed their teachers, while ensuring that the majority of them would remain uninformed so as to not dilute the $10,000 jackpot earnings.

Just this week UTD finally sent out an email only to qualifying union members. This email was sent out on September 21st, ten days before the deadline:

“The Florida’s Best and Brightest plan has been discussed.  Its flaws are numerous and self-evident. Nevertheless, it is now the law.

Even though it is not something we agree with, we recommend that if you qualify, you should apply. We have identified you as being potentially qualified, which is the reason you are receiving this e-mail.  You should use the links below to begin the process of applying for the funds.

Here is the link to get the application. (click here)

Here is a link to College Board to request your SAT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to request ACT scores. (click here)

Here is a link to the Percentile Rankings associated with the SAT and ACT. (click here)

This would have been an awesome email had it been sent out in early August, not one week before the deadline! If teachers hadn’t already known to request their test scores weeks earlier, there was no way they would qualify at this point. Which leaves one wondering, why send out an email one week before the deadline at all? Why did they wait so long to send this email? It’s not like UTD is shy about using the district email to flood both non-member and member Inboxes with useless information. Just last week I got an email to attend the Million Man March in Washington D.C. and another email wishing me a Happy Yom Kippur. Being neither an African American male nor Jewish, I found these emails to be rather unnecessary.

Then on a Friday afternoon, less than one week before the deadline, UTD sends out another email only to union members lamenting that Rick Scott is not extending the deadline but now teachers can look into ordering their high school or college transcripts instead. (By the way, I ordered my high school transcripts and my SAT scores were not even on them). The majority of Dade County union members (remember the other 50% have no access to this information), will probably not even see this email until the middle of the day on Monday. Giving them exactly 48 hours to procure their high school or college transcripts.

“From: United Teachers of Dade <United@UTD.org>
Date: September 25, 2015 at 2:05:34 PM EDT
To: Undisclosed recipients:;
Subject: Best and Brightest Scholarships – Another Update

Neither the Governor nor FLDOE have provided for an extension to the October 1 deadline, but some relief has been provided based on the efforts of UTD and FEA (Florida Education Association).

In contradiction to a previous Technical Assistance Paper provided by FLDOE, M-DCPS will now be allowed to accept official transcripts that include SAT and/or ACT scores.  An email with details will be forthcoming from M-DCPS.

If you have not been able to acquire your official score report from SAT or ACT, you should look into getting a copy of your high school or college transcripts that may include your scores.  You can submit these documents in lieu of something from SAT or ACT.

The deadline for applying for this funding is still October 1, 2015.   Individual awards will be based on the number of qualifying individuals that complete the application divided by the amount appropriated.

Take Action

Best and Brightest “Scholarship” Program FEA Member Questionnaire

FEA is exploring the legal and organizational impact of the “Best and Brightest” program on our members. This is a one year program that provides scholarships to first year classroom teachers who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT and all other classroom teachers evaluated as “Highly Effective” and who scored in the 80th percentile or higher on the SAT or ACT.

To best assess this issue, and to determine the best course of action that FEA will need to take to protect our members’ interests, we need your input and contact information.

Answer the Questionnaire Now

If Dade teachers didn’t go to high school or college in South Florida, they are going to be SOL when it comes to getting a transcript with test scores in time as well. Which begs the question, why bother sending this email out at all? If UTD and the district really wanted to ensure all of their eligible teachers benefited from the Best and Brightest “Erik Fresen Makin’ it Rain on Florida New Hires” Scholarship, they would have sent these emails out months ago. The question of why they didn’t remains.

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