Florida GOP pushes through Merit-pay bill for teachers

Mike Riggs Contributor
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I’m not so sure this is a great thing:

The outcome was clear going in, but lawmakers in the state House of Representatives still debated a controversial teacher pay bill until nearly 2:30 a.m. Friday.

Ultimately, the vote was 64 for and 55 against the measure, which would overhaul the way teachers are evaluated, compensated and fired in Florida.

The bill’s next stop: the desk of Gov. Charlie Crist. And what he does with it is anyone’s guess.

“There are things about it that I like and things about it that give me some concern,” the governor said Thursday. “I just want to weigh it out and continue to listen.”

“Gov. Crist holds the power to do what’s right for students and teachers of Florida,” said United Teachers of Dade President Karen Aronowitz. “When he vetoes this bill, he stands up not only for the well being of teachers, but for the stability of local communities.”

Hailed as a way to reward the state’s best teachers, the proposed law would base half a teacher’s evaluation on students’ test performance. Instead of the current system, which rewards teachers based on years of experience, advanced degrees and extra certification, proponents say newer teachers could make more money earlier in their careers if their students are successful.

“What is unacceptable is the status quo — telling a beginning teacher that no matter what you do in the classroom, there’s nothing you can do to increase your pay,” said Rep. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican.

She voted in favor of the bill.

But opponents — many teachers, unions, Democrats and some Republicans — say the bill would abolish job security, discourage new teachers from working in Florida and prompt existing educators to leave.

Yes, it breaks the death-grip teachers unions have on Florida’s public schools–but what will it do to incentives? Under the current system, teachers in bad schools with few resources may stick around and take up space for the promise of increased pay after a certain number of years. This mindset doesn’t do students any good.  But under this new system, what chance does a teacher have to advance inside a problem school?