Gov. Scott Signs Teachers Bill, but Educators Protest

Gov. Rick Scott signed the Republican-sponsored teacher merit pay legislation into law Thursday.

The bill passed the House 80-39. It cleared the Senate in a largely partisan 26-12 roll call, last week.

Some educators around the state believe the bill could have adverse effects.

The legislation established a statewide teacher evaluation and merit pay system that will take effect in 2014 and do-away with tenure for new teachers hired after July 1. This is the first bill signed by Scott since he took office in January. Republican-turned-Independent and former Florida governor Charlie Crist vetoed a similar bill last year after teachers protested.

It wasn’t long before Scott signed the bill, as it was delivered on March 16 and was signed March 17.

Under the new law, teachers will be judged on how their students perform on standardized tests, namely the FCAT.

“All of us know that measurement works,” Scott said at a news conference with Republican legislative leaders shortly after the bill passed.

Mary Striggles, a former teacher at Broward County’s Blanche Ely High School, said the law is an attempt to limit the effectiveness of the teachers union.

“This law takes any power out of the hands of teachers, which is why we protested the last bill during the Crist era,” Striggles said.”We are now subjugated their standards of acceptable teaching, as opposed to what we know to being effective. My only question is, how do they know what is in the best interest of our children, if they aren’t the ones in the classroom to see their needs?”

Schonta Gay-Nesbitt, an 11-year high school English teacher at Dillard High School in Ft. Lauderdale, said the bill will properly evaluate teachers, but will limit a teacher’s curriculum.

“We are already teaching only FCAT to our students,” Gay-Nesbitt said. “Even though all teachers should still be held accountable for the growth and matriculation of their students, as teacher our job is to get them prepared for the next level in education, not a test.” Democrats believe the bill will lead to tax increases or layoffs and reduction in base pay.

Gay-Nesbitt’s sister, Vanetta Gay, who has taught at both the middle and high school levels, shared her concerns for student growth.

“The law is an abomination to all teachers who pride themselves as being nurturers of the next generation,” Gay said.

“I am a teacher second and an educator first. I don’t believe that I am paid to teach students how to pass a standardized test. I teach English thoroughly. If my students follow my instructions, passing the test will be second nature.”

Idaho passed a similar merit pay bill just one day before Florida.