Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Teacher Union legislative report

Each week during the legislative session the Tennessee Education Association provides an overview of legislation they support and oppose. Don't wait to read these. They haven't archived these in the past.

Choice: Last week's included solid objection to charter and virtual schools along with vouchers and help for private pre-K programs. Obviously they are eager to protect their educational monopoly regardless of whether these options are good for children.

Money for Classrooms--Not: Requiring 65% of the BEP money actually get to the classroom is objectionable to this union because it could impact 'support services'. I hope that teachers on the front line, in those classrooms, (many of whom are union members) go back to this union leadership and remind them that the classroom is where the bulk of this money belongs.

Feeding Children: Further TEA objects to reducing the sales tax on food. These very same union leaders will likely also demand expansion of school breakfast and lunch programs recognizing that some families cannot afford to feed their children and good nutrition is essential to the learning process. But we cannot allow those families that extra 1/2 cent to help them do the job themselves. Please, folks, we're currently running a budget surplus of over $115 million. Money isn't the problem. It's where the money goes that's the biggest problem. Let's leave more at home--the first and best 'support service'.

Lottery Bank of Tennessee:

And they want to carve out their own little lottery niche:

Legislation has been introduced which will provide financial assistance to individuals preparing to be teachers in the areas of mathematics or science. SB 223/HB 450 would require that the Tennessee Student Association Corporation (TSAC) administer a loan-scholarship program for students training to become mathematics or science teachers.
Do we really want the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (that's student assistance) enabling these fledgling adults to get into debt? Why is a lottery scholarship not sufficient? Oh, yeah, that's right, it's akin to pay for performance.

Gov. Bredesen has already suggested in his State of the State address that lottery funds be used for loans to local school districts. I'll remind you that the excess funds are artificially created by not fully funding scholarships for students.
This session, I will ask the General Assembly to pass legislation to enable us to set up a state-wide bond pool which will give individual school districts access to capital at the lowest possible cost—the lowest possible transaction cost and the lowest possible interest cost. This will particularly help smaller rural districts.

In order to give that pool the credit it needs to borrow as inexpensively as possible, I will ask you to transfer $100 million from the lottery reserves—about a quarter of the total—to this bond pool for use in enhancing credit; getting the best possible bond rating and interest rate.
And the referenced legislation allows TSAC to use funds from sources other than the lottery losings to provide these loans. Do we really want the TSAC to become a banking entity? I don't.

Debt is a dangerous and unforgiving master. The State of Tennessee should not become one of its partners.

Equal Pay for Equal Work?: And don't even talk about tying pay to performance.

It's a sad list.


Anonymous said...

Hi Kay. I don't know about the rest of your comments on TEA positions, but you are quite off base in your pre-K analysis. Opposition to the bill you mentioned, which gives priority to for profit schools, is not opposition to private for profit and nonprofit community classrooms providing pre-K. The overwhelming majority of non public school groups are opposed to this bill, while at the same time they support full collaboration between public school and community based pre-K settings.

Ginger said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kay Brooks said...

Ginger's post contained profane language. I don't allow that here. I removed it--typos or grammatical errors and anger are all the writer's.

Here's her post w/o it:

This is from my friend, a teacher who works in the Broward County School System in Florida:

Hey Tennessee listen to the [deleted] taking place in Florida. If your not already a pay for performance state fight like hell not to go to one.

It really troubles me that Charlie Crist (our newly elected governor) has christened himself the "People's Governor" and it will take a lot more than a canceled inaugural gala and marching in to "Ode to the Common Man" to convince me. Especially when he proposed to double funding from 147.5 million for public education that our previous governor Jeb Bush had allocated if schools participated in the STAR plan to 300 million. Broward County teachers union (thank god we have them down here) voted 97% against the STAR plan. Broward County is the sixth largest school district in the nation (17,000 teachers and 14,000 in the union) and 97% voted against it. Why would teachers do that if it was something that was a good thing? Pay for performance is not the way to go Tennessee and think long and hard before you let them railroad you with it. NEA, FEA are great but you should also try to organize by district and stand in solidarity.

I guess I am just gun-shy about accepting titles politicians bestow upon themselves. Jeb Bush honored himself with this title, "Education Governor" and then did everything he could to destroy public education. "Education Governor" Jeb Bush took a very important educational tool, FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test) and used it as a weapon. Testing is supposed to be a diagnostic tool to help teachers find out the level their students are at, what they need to learn and finally how much progress they have made. Instead, the "Education Governor" held up how much progress they have made. Instead, the "Education Governor" held up students and teachers with this assessment and used it to pistol whip us. He tied everything to this ONE test -- student promotions and retention, school funding, teacher bonuses (in lieu of adequate salaries) and vouchers (public funding for private schools). Just a side note teachers in Georgia make about six thousand dollars a year more than teachers in Florida and the average cost of a home is South Florida is $330,000. Raise our [deleted] salaries don't implement bonus pay to increase teacher salary in Florida to where it needs to be. Florida ranks 47th in the nation in education funding and 29th in teacher salary and I may make more money based on what little Johnny scores on a test??? Go to [deleted]. That takes the control out of my hands and places it in the kids that float up on our shores from Haiti and Cuba and can't speak the language let alone take a [deleted] test. Pay us don't betray us. Sorry I went off on a tangent. At the same time, he had his infamous, "devious plan" he actually used that word a reporters mic was on and everyone raised their brows when that came out in the news. anyhow, this devious plan was to destroy the Class Size Amendment and his reign as "Education Governor" allowed the dropout rate to increase, ACT and SAT scores to plummet and graduation rates to decline.

Now his legacy is a program with a name that, I believe, shows his disdain for teachers and public education -- STAR (Special Teachers Are Rewarded). This program heralded in a letter to the Sun-Sentinel by Bush political crony and APPOINTEE Education Commissioner John Winn (that should be an elected position just like the Commissioner of Agriculture is) suggests by its very name and the fact that only 25% of Florida's teachers are eligible that only 25% of Florida's teachers are "special." The message given to the remaining 75% of Florida's teachers who earn below the national average and who will not receive the 5% bonus offered through STAR is basically "you stink" in the "Education Governor's" and Commissioner of Education's eyes or, at the very least, as a teacher no matter how hard you worked and how dedicated you are you are not "special."

Now here is the kicker, guess what the "Education Governor" decided would be the factor to determine if 25% of Florida's teachers get 5% extra in their salaries this year to pay for the increased windstorm insurance, real estate taxes, electric bills, bills and other increases in the cost of living that occurred under the "Education Governor's " watch -- yup, it is that weapon he has been attacking us with for 8 years -- FCAT. The test that is supposed to help us assess our students' needs will now be used to determine if our student's test scores will give us, well, 25% of us, a little extra money to feed, clothe and house our own children. Oh, and because STAR is so severely flawed since all teachers do not administer FCAT the Florida Department of Education is hustling to design tests that Physical Education, Media, Art, Gifted, Kindergarten and other teachers can administer to their students to see if they can make their students jump through more testing hoops so those teachers will qualify for this 5% bonus and even with these tests some teachers are still ineligible. Imagine all the money being spent on all these tests that could be going towards educating students. Then again guess who has an interest in printing all those testing materials and manuals? Yep you got it those Bush crime family.

Teachers are not hired, educated and trained to make sales (or in this case, testing) quota. We are educating children and many different factors besides testing results figure into their success in learning. Trying to force teachers to compete for a small piece of the "bonus pie" dishonors us and is a grave disservice to our students. Parents, teachers and Florida's citizens should be up in arms (and any state considering performance pay) and calling the new "People's Governor" and legislators to say, "enough is enough. FCAT should be a tool not a weapon and STAR is offensive and should be ended immediately." Why isn't the $147.5 million allocated for STAR being used to increase all teacher salaries? Every teacher in the state would stand to get a 600 a year boost in pay. Now that our "People's Governor" wants to double it to $300 million every teacher in the state would get a 1200 a year raise. Wait umm what about the money spent on all that testing material? Our students our currently using NRT test and Broward Benchmark tests to measure student success so with those two test and the elimination of FCAT testing and yes ( a big piece of the Bush's big business, i'm sure they can print other items though) that would bump teacher pay to a 1800 a year increase just from spreading the funding and eliminating one test. Sorry I went on a tangent again. Why isn't this money being used to increase the salaries of all teachers and to help retain qualified, dedicated educators especially when Florida is facing a teacher shortage? It is so expensive down here that they even pondered building teacher villages (apartments) so teachers could have affordable housing. Imagine that, they choose instead of paying us enough so we can choose on our own where we want to live or what type of home we would like to buy. Teacher communes hmmm, I'm seeing shades of communism with that one. So should all your Repubbies to. Oops, I digressed again.

If Charlie Crist wants to be the "People's Governor" he can start by eliminating STAR, a program that educators, teacher unions, school boards and just about anyone and everyone else who actually has a hand in educating the children of Florida says is flawed, then he should sit down with educators (not political flunkies and yes men and women) and find out how we can correct the damage the "Education Governor" did to Florida's students, teachers and the educational system.

If he is serious about being the "People's Governor" he should show that he is serious about education, serious about appropriately funding education and stop taking funds away from public education, serious about bringing per student spending and teacher salaries from the bottom of the national scale to a place that will ensure qualified staff can afford to take the job and then remain teachers and that the resources we need to provide a first-class education for our students are made available.

Maybe then Governor Crist won't have to call himself the "People's Governor" maybe the citizens of Florida will be glad to do it for him.

It is my hope that everyone reading this will call Charlie Crist at 850-488-4441on behalf of Florida's teachers and e-mail him at and raise [deleted] with your legislatures if this is something they would like to implement down the pike in your state.

P. S check out this link to. It is a petition calling for the dismantling of the No Child Left Behind Act. Even if you don't sign it is interesting to read. if you agree please sign the petition.