Teachers’ union set to sue to block tying teacher pay to student test resultsby John Kennedy | September 13th, 2011
After months of promising action, the state’s largest teachers’ union looks ready to bring Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-ruled Legislature to court in an attempt to overturn a measure that creates a new merit pay standard and ends teacher tenure.
The legislation (CS/SB 736) was the first bill signed into law this spring by Scott. But it also marked was the culmination of a increasingly bitter clash between Florida Republicans and the Democratic-allied Florida Education Association, a struggle whose roots are deep.
FEA President Andy Ford and other leaders of the teachers’ group plan to outline the lawsuit they plan to file during a news conference and media call tomorrow.
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.
The FEA is already squared off against the Legislature, having earlier this summer sued to overturn a proposed constitutional amendment put on next year’s ballot to lift the state’s more than century-old prohibition on tax dollars flowing to religious institutions.