Teachers union says new merit pay law violates constitutionby John Kennedy | September 14th, 2011
The Florida Education Association sued Wednesday to overturn the new state law that ends teacher tenure and introduces merit pay based in large part on how students perform on standardized tests.
The state’s largest teachers’ union said the measure — approved by the Republican-ruled Legislature and the first bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott — violates constitutional collective bargaining guarantees. Employment terms are to be decided by negotiations between teachers and school districts — not by state lawmakers, said Ron Meyer, attorney for the FEA, which filed the suit on behalf of six school teachers.
“It strains credulity that people in Tallahassee, over in the Capitol, know better than the people on the ground,” Meyer said.
Andy Ford, FEA president, said the new standard — approved in a mostly party-line vote, with legislative Democrats opposed — “totally changed the teaching profession in Florida.”
“It denies teachers the constitutional right to collective bargaining,” Ford said.
The merit pay legislation requires that 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation be based on student achievement on tests — including the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) and other standardized exams, most of which must still be developed by state and local educators.
Under the bill, current teachers would retain existing pay schedules and contracts — even those spanning multi-years. They could lose their jobs, though, if they drew two subpar annual evaluations within three years.
Teachers hired after July 1, however, are limited to one-year contracts and would draw raises only if rated “effective” or “highly effective.”
Former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a similar bill last year. But during last fall’s governor’s race, Scott made ending teacher tenure and enacting merit pay a central portion of his campaign, with the FEA throwing in heavily behind Democrat Alex Sink.