Yes, I am exaggerating our "takeover" of Fox News.
No, I have never seen anything like this.
The teachers of Florida owned Fox News yesterday in one small but very important corner of their world. Today on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace is holding a debate between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio. Fox opened the floor for questions, and we flooded their boards with an issue that both candidates want to ignore. The teachers of Florida are mobilized, and we are getting loud.
We WILL decide the Fl-Sen race, and our domination of Fox News yesterday is strong evidence.
Over 95% of the responses were about Florida Senate Bill 6, which would base half of a teacher's salary on standardized test scores and make it illegal for a teacher to receive any compensation for advanced degrees or years of service. 99% of those responses were outraged about this Jeb Bush based power grab that is meant to break our unions and soak up millions for the testing industry.
How will Fox News respond?
I will be using comments from the teaching community in Florida, as posted on a reddit I started for my diary about this issue yesterday.
I think there should be performance pay for dentists too. Dentists shouldn't get paid a full salary if their patients come with stained or chipped, or missing teeth. They should also be penalized if their patients have cavities. Doesn't matter if their patients drink too much coffee, smoke, use their teeth as bottle openers, refuse to floss or don't own a toothbrush. The dentists should still be held accountable.
Let's even go as far as merit pay for politicians. They lose part of their salary for every unhappy member of their district, every member on welfare, every member on food stamps, every member who breaks the law. Think they would pass that one? Sounds absurd? It's just as absurd as merit pay for teachers.
The bill is a hot potato for Republicans, even though half of the teachers who are demanding their support are non-Democrats. They swear they are against big government, but Jeb Bush has them following the bread crumbs into a state-controlled mandate for all schools in Florida.
I teach middle school. In one of my classes I have 4 new Haitian students. They speak no English at all. I have 1 new Filipino student who speaks almost no English. I have 1 new Venezuelan student who speaks no English. I also have 12 Hispanic students at varying levels of language acquisition. I also have 6 students with diagnosed learning disabilities. That leaves 3 students who speak English fluently AND read on grade level. I spend an extra 10-15 hours per week working feverishly to come up with lessons to help all of these students. They were ALL required to take this year's FCAT (State mandated test) regardless of their English language ability.
I teach in Florida, and I have not had a raise in 2 years; my pay was actually decreased by 1%. I spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars of my own money on school supplies and resources. I don't have enough textbooks, regardless of language ability. Last year I had so many students that there weren't enough desks, let alone textbooks, due to the budget cuts and loss of teachers.
It is past time for teachers to fight back.
We are fighting back, and we are fighting hard. Senator John Thrasher is the worst of right wing monsters, and he had no idea what he was going to cause when he started railroading this bill. The Republican party will lose thousands of members if Charlie Crist does not take a stand for teachers right now, and it looks like Kendrick Meek may be elected to the US Senate because of this.
This action places children in the pressure cooker position between a teacher's ability to care for his/her family and a test. Figlio produced a study showing our voucher students perform similarly in their voucher school in comparison to their prior public school. The University of Florida just released a study linking address to achievement, thus removing the idea of teacher quality from the forefront. Such research is being neglected and political whims are dominating decisions.
We are on the front lines of the national debate, and President Obama's Race to the Top program is unfortunately very similar to some of the content of the bill. The research is being ignored, but we aren't.
I am not a teacher, but speak as an involved parent who has spent a lot of time in public school classrooms. It doesn't take more than a couple of minutes of thoughtful consideration to realize just what a crock this bill is. It will never, ever work, the way that it is apparently intended. And will cost ALL of society dearly, in many ways. School teachers are professionals who already have so much to juggle, and have never been given the respect that they deserve. Now we are going to sucker punch them once again. It is a shame, that we are running the very best out of the profession, and directing the most promising into other professions. Who will be left to teach our children?
Senate Bill 6 does not care about the children. It only seeks to turn Florida's schools into one big corporation under the control of a centralized government testing system that has direct financial connections to Jeb Bush. It is, by over 95%, the one issue that we must hear our US Senate candidates discuss on Fox News Sunday. We took over their website yesterday. How will they respond?
Not only are we among the lowest paid teachers in the country, but we deal with many different cultures and students from different socioeconomic status that the rest of the country doesn't face. Yet, we still come to work everyday because we care about the children and we want to help them. Now comes the final insult: base our salary on something that we have no control over. Florida is going to lose some great teachers and the children are going to suffer the most.