John Meeks: Tallahassee has reneged on its promises to teachers

A key element of education reform in Florida has failed to live up to its promise this year.  When the Student Success Act (Senate Bill 736) was passed in 2011, our state’s leaders touted it as a way to attract quality educators to our state’s schools.  Furthermore, the legislation upended the traditional pay scale in favor of a new merit pay system that was based in part on student performance.

“We must recruit and retain the best people to make sure every classroom in Florida has a highly effective teacher,” said Governor Rick Scott.  And, in the name of education reform teacher pay was no longer based on simple longevity but was tied to their performance and results.

Now that the teachers’ performance and results have been rated, we are being told that the commensurate pay increases are not happening.  I think that it is highly irresponsible for our state’s leaders to fail to properly fund the very reforms that they enacted.  I doubt that such sloppy policy implementation is what attracts quality teachers to our state.

This unfunded mandate is harmful because, in light of the state’s lack of financial support and in light of recent budget shortfall, Duval County’s highly effective teachers face a cut in their performance pay.

Going forward, I do hope that this serves as a lesson in how we can have great rhetoric such as ‘education reform’, but we need to remember that true education reform is a long term commitment and not just a catchy sounding slogan to get elected.

It is my hope that our school system finalize a contract with the teachers union in the short term and that Tallahassee fully fund its vision for the long term.

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