Louisiana is not the only state dealing with a governor determined to bring down public education. In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott has implemented an education "reform" plan very similar to Louisiana's. And like here, there is now a lawsuit underway to undo the damage.
Unlike Louisiana, Florida's two largest teacher unions, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association, have merged into one powerful organization.
Seven accomplished Florida teachers have joined with their unions in a
federal lawsuit charging that the state's new evaluation system—which is based
on the standardized test scores of students or subjects they do not
teach—violates their due process and equal protection rights under the U.S.
Constitution's 14th Amendment.
The teachers, who work in Alachua, Hernando and Escambia counties' public
schools, brought suit in federal court against the Florida commissioner of
education, the State Board of Education and the school boards of those three
counties. The school systems have implemented high-stakes evaluations tied to
the state's standardized student assessment, known as FCAT, in order to comply
with SB 736.
Under the law, teachers who are rated unsatisfactory for two
consecutive years (or two out of three years in a row) are subject to
termination or nonrenewal. Transfers, promotions and layoffs are based on the
assigned performance rating. And, as of July 1, 2014, salaries will be based on
the assigned performance rating as well.
"This lawsuit highlights the absurdity of the evaluation system that has come
about as a result of SB 736," says Andy Ford, an AFT vice president and
president of the Florida Education Association, an affiliate of the AFT and the
NEA. The FEA and the NEA jointly filed the federal lawsuit this month. "Teachers
in Florida are being evaluated using a formula designed to measure learning
gains in the FCAT math and reading tests. But most teachers, including the seven
in this lawsuit, don't teach those subjects in the grades the test is
administered. One of the teachers bringing this suit is getting evaluated on the
test scores of students who aren't even in her school."
SB 736, the Tampa Bay Times recently observed, has succeeded only in
undermining public confidence in public schools. "The law anticipated using
student performance on end-of-course subject exams to inform 50 percent of a
teacher's evaluation. Such exams don't yet exist for the vast majority of
classes students take," the paper said. "But rather than delay implementation
until such measurement tools could be designed, the Legislature said school
districts could substitute results from the FCAT, even for the teachers—be it
art, Spanish or kindergarten—whose classes are never part of FCAT testing."