By B.C. Manion
As the legislative session continues in Tallahassee, educators are growing increasingly discouraged, said Frank Roder, vice president of instructional personnel for United School Employees of Pasco County.
Hillsborough County educators are also concerned, said Chuck Kiker, director of government relations for the Hillsborough Classroom Teacher Association.
“The governor’s budget, quite frankly, is devastating,” Kiker said, noting Scott’s budget would result in a $108 million cut for Hillsborough County’s public schools.
State lawmakers passed a measure last week that ends tenure for new teachers and links teacher pay to student performance.
Gov. Rick Scott has said he will sign the bill, which is one of several measures affecting education being considered by lawmakers this session.
Scott’s proposed budget calls for a 10 percent funding cut, based on student spending allocations.
Lawmakers are debating the education budget, and as of last week, their proposed cuts were hovering at around 8 percent.
Pasco County school district officials have estimated that the district would have to cut $60 million, based on Scott’s budget.
Since salaries make up the lion’s share of the budget, teachers who are not in core subject areas such as mathematics, English, social studies and science are concerned they could be cut, Roder said.
“There’s not a lot of secure feelings in education right now,” Roder said. “It’s pretty disheartening,” Roder said. “The morale was low already and this is not going to help at all,” he said.
Both Roder and Kiker are concerned that Florida’s teaching ranks will lose good recruits.
Some experienced teachers will exit the system, Roder said. “I think you’re going to see retirements shooting way up.”
The bill that eliminates tenure, expected to be signed by Scott, goes into effect with new teachers hired after July 1. The measure also links 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation to student performance on assessment tests.
Teachers are concerned about that because “so much of this is out of their control,” Roder said. “You can’t pick which group (of students) you are getting. A lot of those kids come from an environment that’s not supportive,” he said.