Six Florida teachers have filed a lawsuit claiming new legislation abolishing tenure and creating a system of merit pay violates the state constitution. Article I, section six guarantees collective bargaining, but as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the teachers believe the new law limits what can be bargained.
Beth Weatherstone and Carolyn Loftin had never met before Wednesday, but they came to the Capitol from opposite sides of the state to file a lawsuit against a new merit pay law that they say infringes on their right to bargain.
Their attorney, Ron Meyer, filed the suit in Circuit court.
“I’m reminded of what is attribute to Henry Ford when he rolled out the Model T, ‘you can have any color as long as it’s black.’ Thats what we’re telling public employees in this state is you can bargain anything you want as long as it looks like this,” Meyer said. “That’s not effective collective bargaining.”
Six teachers are plaintiffs in this lawsuit.
Beth joined in because she believes the law forces her to choose between really teaching her Vero Beach students to understand algebra or teaching them to perform on a test so she can keep her job.
“I know I will teach them the Algebra I, but I could be let go within a two to three year period and lose my certification to teach because of that FCAT test,” she said.
Carolyn is a 35-year classroom veteran who feels like policy makers minimize what it takes to perform in a room full of kindergartners.
“Kindergarten students are very smart,” she said. “They’re eager to learn and I do believe that I make a difference in their lives, they want to be in school and they enjoy being there.”
Most school districts in the state are fighting the clock. They face a September 30th deadline to come up with a plan to reward merit pay, even though lawmakers put no money into the plan and most school budgets are being cut.