Pay tied to test results angers school employees

Measures pending in the Florida Legislature have raised the ire of teachers.

Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 8:26 p.m.

More than 200 Alachua County school employees rallied Wednesday against bills being considered by the Florida Legislature that they say will cut benefits, reduce classroom spending, increase testing and curtail local control.

The rally was held at the Kirby Smith Center, the district's headquarters, and the fight will be taken to Tallahassee in coming days, said Gunnar Paulson, president of the Alachua County Education Association, the district union.

"Do you know what's going on in Tallahassee? Do you know what's going on in Tallahassee?" Paulson chanted into a bullhorn while standing on a picnic table. "Well, that's not right. That's not right."

Of particular concern is Senate Bill 6, which would require districts to develop and implement end-of-course tests and limit bonuses under a particular program to those who remain continuously employed in a public school in this state.

Also of concern is House Bill 7189, which would revise provisions on teacher preparation programs, school district compensation and salary schedules, appraisal of education personnel and educator certification requirements.

Signs at the rally included "Oelrich deserves an F" in reference to Sen. Steve Oelrich, R-Cross Creek, and "Close the loopholes, not schools."

Speakers including Superintendent Dan Boyd, Gainesville High economics teacher David Perry, United Faculty of Florida President Tom Auxter and others blasted the bills - often getting the chant of "That's not right" in response.

"This is an attack on education as a profession. It's not reform when you take a hatchet to the system. These politicians do not respect education," Auxter said. "The struggle is to confront legislators to let them know we are going to follow them ...until they are chased out of here if they go through with this plan."

Teachers across the state have been rallying in opposition to the bills, including an e-mail campaign to legislators and a protest in Tallahassee on Wednesday.

Speakers at the Gainesville rally urged opponents of the bills to travel to Tallahassee for future events to keep the pressure on legislators.

Paulson noted that the district is on spring break next week and urged teachers to go to Tallahassee on their vacation to lobby against the bills.

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