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Jared Kushner finally granted his security clearance. Also on our nationwide rundown: a new lawsuit seeks the release of a gay man from ICE Detention in Pennsylvania; and protecting an Arizona water source for millions near Phoenix.

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Teachers on Tenterhooks as Florida House Considers Merit Pay

March 29, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Legislature is poised to vote on a bill that would implement the first statewide merit-pay system for teachers in the nation. SB6, the bill that would tie teacher pay to student test scores, passed the Senate last week, and its companion bill narrowly passed out of House committee, while thousands of teachers and parents gathered in Tallahassee to protest. If it passes the full House in the coming weeks, Governor Charlie Crist says he will sign it into law.

Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher, sponsor of the bill, says it would reward teachers who do good work, and let schools clear out what he calls "deadwood." But Florida Education Associationspokesman Mark Pudlow calls it an assault on teachers that would hurt students.

"It doesn't matter how much experience, it doesn't matter how much knowledge you have. If you're going to be basing salaries so strongly on student achievement, how are we going to get the best teachers paired up with the students that need the most help?"

Pudlow says there are already provisions to fire teachers based on poor performance, and the bill could make it difficult to keep teachers in a state that already pays $7,000 a year less than the national average. He says the bill comes on the heels of years with no pay raises and, he adds, when the federal stimulus money runs out next year, there is the prospect of teacher layoffs.

Pudlow says this bill pits teacher against teacher, and may drive teachers to leave the state or the profession.

"It's going to be terribly difficult to keep teachers, particularly since this bill is paired with a bill that would allow class sizes to rise, and another bill that would have the state run through the pension system and lower the benefits the teachers would have."

Pudlow says this bill makes scapegoats of teachers, when students, parents, and the Legislature should also share the responsibility for student success.

"We make our choices. We've decided to build more prisons. We've decided to take on this whole new responsibility of a high-speed rail. We're expanding the amount of money that private schools can get. Yet we have this mindset that we can't afford public education."

Teacher merit pay may come to a vote in the Florida House as early as this week.


Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL