Dockery says No to Teacher Bill

The devil is in the details: more government interference is not good for the classroom

By Paula Dockery

Had Senate Bill 6 simply rewarded exceptional teachers with extra pay, I would have supported it.

Had it simply phased out tenure for new and existing teachers, I would have voted in its favor.

Had it actually offered a way to remove bad teachers, I would have signed on as co-sponsor.

But as I have found so often in public life, the devil is in the details. And on close examination, SB 6 violates my core conservative principles – less government, more personal responsibility and lower taxes.

I believe any good education reform effort should include teachers in the challenge, not shut them out when big decisions are made.

In particular, I opposed SB 6 because:

– SB 6 is a Tallahassee power grab. Sponsors want to take local control of teacher evaluations, salaries and budgets away from Florida’s 67 elected school boards and give it to a Tallahassee bureaucracy. This violates Florida constitutional protections of local control for local schools and redirects local decision making to Tallahassee. We don’t need any more Tallahassee one-size-fits-all solutions for our communities or our schools.

– We can’t afford SB 6.SB 6’s passage and implementation was contingent on Florida receiving another $900 million in federal stimulus funds – borrowed money that the United States Department of Education denied to Florida just last Monday. Serious fiscal questions remain as to how we will pay for this new state government program that requires the Florida Department of Education to hold back 5 percent of a local school district’s funding every year. To avoid classroom cuts, school districts will have no option but to raise local taxes. Classroom funding should not be used to grow a new and bigger Tallahassee bureaucracy on the backs of taxpayers.

– SB 6 will destroy jobs. The bill makes it nearly impossible for someone not currently teaching to renew his or her teaching certificate. Teachers will not be able to return to work after raising their children. They will have their certifications threatened if they are activated for military duty, or otherwise unavailable to teach, for longer than one school year. And if a teacher can’t show yet-to-be-defined “learning gains” for four out of five consecutive years, the teacher will lose his or her license, and ability to make a living. What is not clear is what such learning gains will include or whether they will be measured on a student-by-student competitive basis, a teacher-by-teacher basis, an averaged-group basis or individual year-by-year-gains basis. The bill leaves fleshing out its critical components and practicalities to rulemaking to a Tallahassee government agency without providing meaningful guidelines or procedural protections, rendering the bill an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority.

– SB 6 takes a blame-the-teacher approach instead of recognizing that individuals have personal responsibility for their decisions and behaviors. The sponsors put all responsibility for student performance on teachers, failing to hold parents or students personally responsible for their own roles in the education process. What if kids don’t come to school willing or able to learn? What if they don’t come to school at all? Teachers face all penalties without regard to factors outside of their control or influence.

– SB 6 denigrates the teaching profession and our public schools. It’s demoralizing to ask teachers to defend their teaching certificates and jobs each year, and it’s patently unfair to base half their pay on how well students perform on a single test. Our best teachers won’t want to work where we need them the most: in lower-performing schools or in classrooms with special-need students.

– SB 6 is more cloak-and-dagger, Tallahassee politics as usual. The bill’s sponsors are refusing to allow any amendments that might make the bill better. Instead, they are holding secret meetings and urging that the bill be passed without any amendment, or teacher input. This is not how reasonable people make sound public policy. This is politics as usual in Tallahassee. And that has to stop.

In an open forum with public debate and input, we can do better than this bill. Rewarding good teachers with good pay is good policy. But disguising an unfunded, $900 million dollar Tallahassee power grab of our local public schools as public-education reform, is not.

Paula Dockery is a Republican state senator and gubernatorial candidate from Lakeland. Click here for her campaign website. 

This column first appeared in the Lakeland Ledger.

9 thoughts on “Dockery says No to Teacher Bill”

  1. SB6 was created to solve a problem that the teachers’ union will not address. We have bad teachers that we can’t get rid of. We have bad schools that won’t improve. After years of cries from good parents about these problems, the teachers’ union turns a blind eye and fights to do….nothing. The union doesn’t want accountability for teachers. They don’t want to prove the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. The union wants more pay, less work, less responsibility.

    We have come to a turning point….either the union steps up and takes care of the dirty laundry, or the politicians will do it. We all know what happens when politicians do it.

    FCAT is a prime example of what happened the last time the teachers’ union didn’t want to measure performance. The union said “No way”, and the politicans forced it upon them. What we all got was a boondoggle called FCAT that has some results, although not all good. However, think of the wonderful results we COULD HAVE gotten had the unions conceded to performance measurement, and the teachers put together a plan to measure it? Instead – fight back and refuse to do anything, the typical union mantra.

    Guess what? The lazy, no-good idiots that exist amongst the really good teachers? They need to be purged. The unions refuse to purge them. The politicians are tired of inaction, so they will act on behlaf of the people…and you will get another boondoggle.

    If you want to point a finger of blame, point it at the very unions that are fighting this. If teachers don’t want any more of this junk shoved down their throats, disband the unions.

    Ask yourself, teachers….what has the union REALLY done for you? They take your dues and bloat themselves at your expense, for what?

    Learn your lessons, or Tally will keep rolling it downhill at you, and the only losers in all of it are the very kids you profess to protect.


  2. SB6 STINKS. Rotten. The author of this beill knows nothing
    about teaching. Go back and start over or just plain do nothing. AC


  3. I struggle with supporting (or not) this bill. Our classrooms are a huge MESS because parents basically SUCK. There ought to be a test before you can have kids. But the teachers (and more specifically their UNIONS) are to blame too. All they care about is keeping dues paying members employed so they can continue to pay their dues and support the union. Pinellas county last year (one of the larger counties in our state which employs thousands of teachers) fired ZERO teachers all of last year. Give me a break! Our kids deserve better. The teachers unions care NOTHING about education — only their members. Until we get rid of the union thugs in education, our public school system will continue to “graduate” — a meaningless term — a bunch of dolts and zeros.


  4. From: Derek
    Sent: Wednesday, April 07, 2010 1:57 PM
    To: ‘Irreverent View’
    Subject: RE: Our First Ever Racy/Sexy Media List (photos)

    I’ve always enjoyed your stuff, VERY much so. Even recommended you to some folks last week for some sponsorship/contracting/consulting work. But to run that crap from Paula Dockery, who’s as liberal as the day is long, shows either a complete disregard for facts or a lack of knowledge concerning her past. Please remove me from your list.


  5. Derek,

    I will remove you as requested.

    However, I would point out a couple of things:

    1) This site has always been about ideas, and an exchange of information, and a viewpoint that is often against the grain and not what you generally expect to read in the newspaper. The site has always welcomed different perspectives from people including liberal Democrats, RINOs, conservatives, libtertarians, Christians, Jews, and atheists, gays, straights, — you get the picture.
    2) I don’t embrace Dockery, but I think she represents a lot of good things. Specifically: she’s willing to stand up and fight the establishment (good old boy) view when she feels it is necessary.
    3) Finally, I would say sticking your head in the sand because you disagree with something and ignoring other viewpoints leads to totalitarianism. I hope you’ll reconsider and agree to disagree with the columns posted here from time to time, but be willing to be exposed to different ideas no less.

    I’ll remove you at once. If you wish to re-subscribe just let me know.

    Chris Ingram


  6. I personally left community college education after a 33 year career because the faculty in my institution voted in a union. I believe that unions have not been effective in the cause of “good education.” I would never support or join a union. I was lucky–forever healthy< I never missed a day of work!

    The current bill before the legislature concerning teacher tenure and rewarding exceptional teaching has not been well thought out. It was a rush job! It is impossible to implement in its current form. Valuable resources will be wasted. It will send the Florida education system off on another chase that will only lead to weakening a system that is already fragile and underfunded.

    The lottery system was implemented to supplement education and it never has. Re-occurring lottery funds have been added to the state education budget while the same amount of dollars have been removed from the general fund and used for other programs. I have never purchased a lottery ticket and never will.

    The legislature has had a cascade of politicians who have continued to fiddle with Florida's education system: Dempsey Barron, George Kirkpatrick, TK Weatherall, Johnnie Bird, etc. Each of these individuals have done great harm to education in FL.

    Many FL politicians have jumped into higher jobs in education to collect a much larger salary than the salary they earned as a politician: TK at FSU and our former Lt. Governor Brogan at Florida Atlantic are examples. Brogan resigned as Lt. Governor a few short weeks after he was elected by the people of Florida to serve as Lt. Governor Brogan has been elevated as the new Chancellor of the Board of Regents. Politicians serving as university Presidents have not been in the best interest of the citizens of FL. It is much the same gambit as jumping up and back as politician and lobbyist.

    The voters of FL had to pass a referendum to re-employ an effective university system board of regents after it was removed by the legislature and Governor. The full authority of the (New) Board of Regents has never been fully implemented

    The voters of FL had to pass a referendum to reduce classroom size after the legislature and governor failed to pass effective education bills concerning class size and education issues. The reduced classroom size has never been implemented as the voters of FL so requested by vote because a past governor and legislature didn't want to implement the reduced classroom size referendum as passed.

    Charter schools are nice but are not accountable. I would rather invest in a total public school system that is somewhat accountable rather than investing in a voucher system for charter schools that have no accountability. Private schools that are funded with private funds are OK. Do not use public money for them. All voucher monies should be used for the public school system.

    When Bush became Governor in 2000, the FL cabinet was also reduced in size and Bush had the authority to appoint all the members of the Board of Trustees of the ten universities of Fl. Bush appointed primarily business people and ignored educators in general. This was a huge mistake for Florida's education system. At this point in FL history, government became governor strong rather than the previous–legislature strong! Most Floridians did not notice it.

    The Florida legislature and the Governor have not dealt properly with community colleges who teach four year programs, Florida needs to design a system of higher education levels that reflect Universities, colleges and community colleges (three systems). Community colleges have always had their own boards of trustees and therefore, have not been able to mount an effective voice in education as compared to the University system with its board of regents. Community colleges need a unifying authoritative body too! Okaloosa-Walton CC is a poor example of a school with four year programs. After what happened at (alias) Northwest FL College concerning Speaker Samsom and President Richfield, they need to get their act together! Authoritative boards of regents might be helpful is stopping local college board of trustees from creating unnecessary duplicate programs though out the state. There is no way that Florida needs two new medical schools. We don't need a new airport in the (Panama City) Panhandle either. What Is the new Panhandle prison doing vacant? These are examples of political whims in Florida.

    I admire Dockery for pointing out the weaknesses in the tenure and teach reward bill before the legislature. Unlike our Attorney General, she is busy conducting the business of Floridians rather than spending time bringing a frivolous law suit against health insurance reform by a "crony law firm." Why hasn't our attorney general pressed for the credit card expense records to be released to the Florida public concerning credit card expenses AE cards issued by Chairman Greer to various politicians? McCollum has really only won one election in his life and that was because of extremely weak opposition.

    I and a whole host of educators have studied and discussed the issue of merit pay in education for the last fifty years. The problem has always been how to implement it fairly. Many evaluators, administrators, were not good classroom teachers. They fled the classroom in favor of a higher paying administrative position and they gave up their passion for teaching to be a boss. Now, how are they going to identify good teaching in the classroom when they could not accomplish effective teaching themselves? The usual result is awarding teachers on personal friendships rather than effectiveness.

    No one has ever been able to design an instrument that accurately identifies effective teachers! FCAT definitely doesn't do that! Maybe we could have some lawyers decide what percentages apply to failures in student performance in each case like they do in liability cases in court. In this case, the student's failure is 60 percent the families case and 40 percent the teachers fault, for example.

    Tenure was designed to protect teachers from job loss due to political persecution. This could be redesigned and not called tenure.

    Schools have been saddled with responsibilities that come with the failure of the family unit. Busing, lunches, other programs have cut into the teaching day. Overworked teachers have learned to shy away from any extra duty as a result of unionism and a cascade of busy work and change based on "whims" rather than concrete thinking and effective programing and policy.

    Many students are not good test takers. Some of the most brilliant minds in our American society were not able to conduct themselves in traditional American public education. The word "school" comes from the Greek stem word which is interpreted as "the time of finding one's self."

    If you could choose, would you rather have your child is a class with fewer students or in a classroom that teaches to FCAT preparation for the FCAT test?

    Most knowledgeable educators realize that educational policy and process of education takes time and often comes with twists and turns that could never be foreseen. Constant trends in education that lead to change which has not been well planned and researched simply hurts the educational process in every way possible. Education is a process for each individual in our society. Educators cannot ever be sure who will excel and who will not. For example, if a coach knew which of his/her students would become a champion athlete what would happen. I don't think the best coaches ever know. What is more important is to advance each individual to best of a teachers ability and play no favorites but nurture all!


  7. I believe school administrators are responsible for firing bad teachers, not the union.

    I also believe tenure is a poor term to use, as I am on a PS contract. This contract is renewed if I receive adequate evaluations. I can be “let go” if the school administrators document poor performance and improvement is not seen. We do not have “tenure”.


  8. I believe school administrators are responsible for firing bad teachers, not the union.

    I also believe tenure is a poor term to use, as I am on a PS contract. This contract is renewed if I receive adequate evaluations. I can be “let go” if the school administrators document poor performance and improvement is not seen. We do not have “tenure”.


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