Florida has been under single party rule for more than 20 years. This complete lack of checks and balances has normalized an unrelenting assault on our most precious asset: public education. With each year, the destructive political intent behind the “school reform” agenda has grown bolder and more extreme. We are at a place where politicians make little attempt to hide their contempt for teachers, students, parents and districts.
Alachua teacher, Kim Cook shares her views on just how important the current governors’ race and upcoming 2018 election is to Florida public education:
“I’ve seen some educators saying on social media that they won’t vote for Andrew Gillum. Here is my response.
For those of you who are saying you won’t vote for Gillum, please consider the following (from a teacher):
The Florida legislature and governor’s office has been Republican for 20+ years. In that 20 years, we have seen nothing but bill after bill with the sole intent of destroying public education. The vast majority of those bills have been signed into law by the governor. Here is a review of the legislation (please add anything I forget):
- The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush introduced the FCAT in order to track student “progress” ignoring the fact teachers are entirely capable of assessing their own students.
- The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush then started using FCAT results to grade schools, falsely equating low socioeconomic schools with “bad teaching.”
- The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush linked passing the third grade FCAT with retention and the 10th grade FCAT with high school graduation–despite research that clearly demonstrated this would be detrimental to students and communities.
- The Republican legislature and Jeb Bush linked school grades to money–awarding “A” schools with more money and “F” schools with less.
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott connected student test scores to teacher evaluations, otherwise known as VAM.
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott imposed a tax on educators by requiring them to contribute 3% of their salary to their pensions; however, that 3% goes into the general fund, NOT the pension.
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott changed the pension plan by requiring new hires to choose between the defined benefit pension and the 401k plan within the first nine months of their careers. Any educator who doesn’t choose by the required date automatically goes into the 401k plan, undermining the financial health of the defined benefit pension.
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed a law that decertifies any teacher union that falls under 50% membership, making that district’s contract and salary schedule null and void. Unions for first responders were exempt from the law (they are mostly men who vote Republican. after all).
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed legislation creating the “Best and Brightest” program. B&B bypasses providing the money to districts so that it can be put into salary schedules. The B&B money is considered a bonus, so it doesn’t count towards teachers’ pensions. The money also cannot go to “non-instructional personnel”–educators like media specialists (I teach ALL day every day, but nope, I’m not eligible), guidance counselors, deans, etc.
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed legislation that allows voucher schools; thus, tax dollars go to private, often religious, schools, that do not have the same accountability measures as public schools. They have expanded the program just about every legislative session.
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott have created laws to turn over public schools to for-profit charters. We have an entire district in Florida that is now a “charter” district.
- Many Republican members of our legislature own or have a vested interest in charter or voucher schools and testing companies, yet they pass legislation that pads their wallets.
- The Republican legislature and Rick Scott passed legislation that requires school districts to harden schools, yet didn’t fully fund the program. They also allow “non-teaching personnel” like me, the school librarian, to carry guns.
- The Florida legislature fully intends to continue to destroy our pension bit by bit. My state senator, Keith Perry, admitted this. He told us that the state had no business running a pension program.
- From Ceresta Smith: The Republican legislature and Rick Scott made Bright Futures Scholarships harder for non-whites to receive as they upped the bar on standardized tests, which provide advantage based on class and race.
Most likely, our legislature will continue to be Republican dominated. If we don’t have a Democratic governor to veto the legislation that will continue to destroy public schools, destroy our salaries, and decimate our pension, we are sunk. I don’t know about you, but I’m counting on my pension in retirement. I don’t know what we’ll do if it’s not there, or if the state tries to pay us off with a lump sum, as other states have done.
If all Gillum does is veto destructive legislation, he’s still better than having DeSantis who will rubber stamp every horrible anti-public education bill the legislature sends him.” – Kim Cook