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Teacher Fight Looming

March 8th, 2010 by Mike Vasilinda

Florida teachers are up in arms over legislation buried deep within a sixty-one page bill that references child abuse. The legislation makes drastic changes in the way teachers are rewarded or punished. And as Mike Vasilinda tells us, future employment and salary increases would be based on how well students do on tests.

Shari Gewanter has been teaching elementary school for fourteen years. Shes angry because some lawmakers want to put her job on the line every year, based on how her students performed on year-end exams.

My kids know how to think. My kids know how to problem-solve, Gewanter said. My kids know how to work together. You cant measure that in a test score.

Shari was one of seven teachers the union brought to the Capitol to protest legislation, which they say will discourage quality teaching.

Its provisions would allow principals to fire teachers at will, Andy Ford, with the FEA, said.

The Florida Education Association says politicians want to praise improvements in school rankings, but slap the teachers who are on the front lines. Thomas Lentz teaches high school English in Polk County.

They can give us fewer students so that we can give them the individual attention they need, Lentz said. And they can pay us for our experience, our skills.

The question might be why now and why all of a sudden. The answer might be, its an election year and theres no money for schools.

The legislation is a priority of the Senate President, who is running for statewide office. Sponsor John Thrasher says the legislation is required if the state is to get 700 million in federal race-to-the-top cash.

This bill simply says tenure is no longer appropriate, Thrasher said. Were going to measure teachers and were going to keep teachers on the basis of their performance.

Both sides agree on one thing: Bad teachers shouldnt be in the classroom.

The legislation has its first hearing before a Senate committee on Wednesday

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