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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teachers Union Urges School Board Support Against Pending Legislation in Tallahassee Union is fighting Senate Bill #6

By Sid Riley

There is a Senate Bill working its way through the legislative processes in Tallahassee which would have far reaching impact on State Teachers, Schools, and the manner in which pay scales are established. It was sponsored by Senator John Thrasher, Republican from the Jacksonville area. It is arousing strong opposition from the Teachers Unions in the state.

Under the existing system, a teacher’s pay scale and raises are determined by seniority and advanced degrees acquired. Actual teaching performance and results in the classroom are not factors in the evaluation process. Additionally, after a teacher has acquired three years of seniority they are currently granted “tenure” which provides continuing employment guarantee. Administrators are virtually rendered unable to terminate a teacher once tenure has been granted.

In many school districts across the nation the tenure process which was created through union pressures has created severe problems within school systems. In New York City there are reportedly some 165 teachers with tenure who have been identified as undesirable and thus no principal within the system will select them to serve on staff. As a result, these supposedly inept teachers draw full pay, get seniority raises, and full benefits….but they do not actually work and hold a position. This situation is costing that school district over $8,000,000 per year in extra payroll.

This new legislation would drastically change these procedures, and would greatly reduce the job protections provided by existing tenure rules. Under the provision of the bill, teacher pay would be based on measured student results, and reviews. Senator Thrasher states that he sponsored the bill because the existing system is dysfunctional. “We have over 99% of our teachers getting good reviews, while some 50% of the students they teach are not even progressing in basic reading skills. The bill would allow school administrators to identify substandard teachers, and if necessary take termination action. Lifetime tenure would be abolished.

The system would take effect in 2014. Any school system refusing to apply the procedures would lose 5% of their state funding.

Some school officials feel the criteria used is too rigorous, and would result in a much higher failure rate among students. Meanwhile, the union is mobilizing in an effort to squash the bill and retain the lifetime tenure condition.

At Thursday evenings meeting of the Jackson County School Board, local teachers union President, Catherine Stone, asked the Board to assist the union in notification of all teachers within the Jackson County system of this bill and what it contains.

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