Ending teacher tenure in Florida?

Teachers protesting anti-tenure bill (Greg Kahn/Naples News)

Looks like that’s what could happen. A key committee in the Florida House has approved a bill that will end teacher tenure, create a new statewide merit pay program, and require that half of teachers’ evaluations be based on student performance. Teachers in Florida are furious, saying good teachers will be discouraged from working in the state. According to the Associated Press, the bill has become the most hotly debated issue of this year’s legislative session and “teachers, parents and students have flooded the Capitol with calls and e-mail over the past couple weeks. Demonstrations also have been held around the state and one teacher has written a protest song.” Democrats oppose the bill. Here’s how Republicans defend it. If passed, as seems all but certain, Gov. Charlie Crist has said he would sign it.

Teachers earn tenure in every state. (Technically, tenure doesn’t mean lifetime employment. But due-process is so lengthy and expensive that few teachers ever lose their jobs for incompetence.) But, according to this Education Week story, a number of states are making it harder for teachers to earn tenure and, increasingly, student achievement gains are being factored into the decision. It will be interesting to see if Florida — which has an unusual political climate and a former governor (Jeb Bush) who remains actively involved in education policy decisions through a foundation that he helped re-establish — influences other states.

— Richard Lee Colvin

POSTED BY ON April 6, 2010