(Steve Gunn/Education Action Group) – It’s amazing the difference one election can make.
About six months ago, Florida residents who care about quality education were crushed when former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed an overdue tenure reform bill.
The bill’s sponsors in the legislature hoped to increase professionalism and accountability in K-12 teaching by taking away some of the absurd protections that keep bad teachers in the classroom.
Crist, a Republican, might have been expected to sign the bill. But he stabbed his party and his state in the back by killing the measure. And just to add insult to injury, he accepted the endorsement of the state teachers union in his independent bid for a U.S. Senate seat.
Luckily Floridians elected a new governor in November who obviously means business when it comes to improving schools and increasing parental choice.
Gov. Rick Scott, who took office last week, comes armed with an in-depth and aggressive education reform plan authored by his Education Transition Team.
The plan is thorough and bold, to say the least. While governors in many states have nipped around the edges of school reform in recent years, approving some measures and rejecting others, Scott’s plan hits all of the major targets.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, since Scott announced in early December that his Education Transition team would include former D.C. School Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Her fingerprints on this plan are not difficult to pick out.
The plan is too long to report in its entirety, but highlights include a provision to allow parents to use state education dollars at the school of their choice, full development of cyber education options, implementation of a “parent trigger” law to radically alter failing schools, and requiring parental consent to place students with sub-par teachers.
We’re certain Scott’s education blueprint has the Florida Education Association shaking in its boots, and that’s a very good sign. We’re hoping we can count on the new Florida Legislature, with Republican majorities in both houses, to give quick approval to all or most of the agenda.
Florida’s families and taxpayers would certainly emerge as the winners.
Scott’s to-do list
In a recent statement, Scott said “I will work with the legislature, business and parents to develop a more comprehensive program that will allow all of Florida’s children to have the best possible education experience that meets each child’s unique needs.”
Here are a few examples of what he has in mind:
• Parents could receive 85 percent of their child’s per-pupil grant to use for private school tuition, virtual schooling or private tutoring. Since those options typically cost less per pupil than public education, the state would conceivably save 15 percent.
• Students would be allowed to take online classes full-time, part-time or by individual courses.
• A new classification of charters – High Performing Charter Schools – would receive greater operational flexibility, equitable funding, expedited approval processes and flexibility in enrolling students.
• High performing charters could increase enrollment by 25 percent.
• Any charter school with a waiting list could increase enrollment with students from schools that do not outperform that charter.
• A new teacher evaluation system would be implemented to ensure at least 50 percent of the evaluation is based on student progress.
• A new salary schedule would give effective teachers, and those who teach in low-income, low-performing schools, more money. It would also give teachers the option of dropping tenure protection in exchange for higher salaries.
• Tenure would be eliminated for newly hired K-12 teachers. Individual contracts would never exceed three years.
• Seniority will not be a consideration when reducing staff.
• The design of teacher evaluation procedures would be removed from collective bargaining.
• Parental consent would be required before a student is placed with a teacher who is determined to be less than effective.
• The A-F school grading system would remain in place.
• Schools would provide annual individual student achievement growth charts, to show parents how their kids are progressing versus predicted growth and college-ready standards.
• Parents of students at failing schools would be empowered with a “parent trigger” law which would allow a majority of the parents to radically alter the administration of the school.
• Parents would receive an annual statement detailing their school’s revenues, how the money was spent and overall academic outcomes for the year. The results would have to be compared with results from other schools.