Teacher merit pay hurts Florida’s underachieving schools

By James Webb | gargoyle@flagler.edu

Opinion G logoTurns out Gov. Rick Scott is sticking to campaign promises of decreasing the deficit. After passing the Florida House 80-39 and gaining more momentum through the Florida Senate passing, 26-12, Scott signed the teacher merit pay bill into law last week.

What will this mean for taxpayers, teachers and students?

Scott and supporters of the bill would like you to believe that The Student Success Act will recruit better teachers while cutting poor performing teachers. Sounds reasonable, right?

The catch is that teachers’ evaluations will be tied to their students’ test scores. In essence, teachers at “A” schools will reap the benefits of their well-performing districts while teachers at “D” schools will lose their contracts. This will create a void in lower-performing districts as teachers will avoid those where standardized test scores are low.

The partisan bill angers teachers who think it is unfair and discourages discourse among teachers because of competition promoted by the law. According to a statement issued by Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, “Scott took a wrecking ball to the dreams and aspirations of the state’s public school students by imposing a test- and sanction-driven education policy that rejects the proven educational strategies of the world’s highest-achieving nations.”

Weingarten is correct. The law not only attacks teachers’ unions and collective bargaining rights, it also hurts students. Instead of promoting stability and job security for teachers, Scott and other Republicans have created a hostile environment where teachers are forced to withhold lessons and ideas from colleagues for fear of competition.

The new law also implements more standardized tests to evaluate teacher performance, which in turn hurts students. Instead of teachers focusing on the curriculum, they are compelled to teach how to pass standardized tests.

Strangely, the law does not allocate money toward the merit pay, so well performing teachers do not receive awards. Scott should have followed his predecessor and vetoed the bill but instead, he has imposed a $2 billion bill without funding.

If Scott is looking to save taxpayers money, he should not look toward our already poorly funded education system. Doesn’t he know that teachers are not in it for the money, so the merit pay won’t work?

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