One, Two, Three Strikes I’m Out!

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Strike Out of Education

Republished: November 28, 2012

Originally published: November 21, 2012

In response to “St. Lucie County School District Teacher Negotiations Leads To Teachers Exploring Career Options” the following editorial was received. Where as, we do not usually republish comments, the words expressed below merit greater public awareness and republishing.

From comments shared on the Florida Public Employees Facebook page and in reading this editorial, one has to ask:  What the hell is going on?

By: Kafkateach Blog

The first strike against me continuing a teaching career in Dade county came at the beginning of last year when I had 54 freshmen in my Advanced Placement class because the Florida Legislature in their infinite wisdom decided to label AP classes “electives” so they would not be subject to the twice voter approved class size amendment.  The latest reasoning by Mr. David Simmons (Republican legislator of Altamonte Springs, FL) was that “college classes have more than 25 students.” Other legislators argued common sense should dictate class sizes. Spoken like true politicians who have never worked for the public school system and have no understanding that if you let them get away with murder, school districts will commit educational genocide if it saves them money. Children be damned.

Another example of the public schools gaming the system when it comes to class size is something called “inclusion classes.” The idea behind “inclusion” was nice, as are many ideas in education, but it has become a sick joke for teachers and students. They didn’t want to isolate ESE (special education) children so they decided to “include” them in regular classes and provide a special education teacher to assist them. I taught inclusion classes in my first few years of teaching. In the beginning, I had 25 students, five students who were ESE. I didn’t mind teaching inclusion classes and most of the time I couldn’t even tell which kids were ESE. Then came the budget cuts. In my last year of teaching inclusion classes, I had 42 students in one class, 25 of whom were ESE students. It had turned into reverse inclusion, putting regular students in an overcrowded ESE classroom with a teacher (myself) who had never been trained in special education. My inclusion teacher, when he was there, never did much of anything. Inclusion teachers are frequently used as substitutes and frequently taken out of the classroom to write IEPs (30 page individual education plans required by the Department of Ed). Arne Duncan in his infinite wisdom and love of useless data has decided that if only every student had mounds of asinine paperwork attached to their names in the form of individual education plans the United States would be Racing to the Top of international test scores! Dade county, in their infinite wisdom and seemingly endless adoration of Arne Duncan, has decided to apply for Race to the Top round II in spite of the fact that creating IEPs for every student in Dade county will cost infinitely more than they ever receive in funding from the federal government and do absolutely nothing to improve education. Bottom line for teachers in Florida, if you teach lower end classes you are screwed with huge class sizes and if you teach higher end classes you are screwed with huge class sizes. In both cases you are looking at student loads of 200 or more students and you are entitled to no extra pay.

Strike two against my continuing a teaching career in Florida came last year when my state “won”  Race to the Top funds and teachers lost all rights to a fair and valid evaluation. “Winning” Race to the Top meant my district deciding that 50% of a teacher’s evaluation should be based on student test scores, specifically reading scores, and if you didn’t teach reading or a grade that was tested, then the school wide average would be used instead. This was done all in the name of holding teachers “accountable” for job performance. Evaluating 12th grade AP Calculus teachers on 10th grade reading scores is not accountability, it is absurdity. Even more absurd, the union agreed to this and duped the teachers into voting in favor of Race to the Top.  To make matters worse, in March we learned that VAM would be used and the Florida VAM excluded poverty as a factor that influenced student learning. Not only is VAM total junk science, it is costly tool in a time of austerity and possibly the least efficient evaluation system known to mankind. It’s almost December and still no VAM for a test that was taken last April!

I thought a low VAM score would be the final straw for my teaching career in Florida. But there would be one more slap in the face to endure in Dade county before I even got my VAM. The final strike came yesterday, when the United Teachers of Dade voted in favor of a contract that gave me a $300 raise after five years of nothing. $30 million was set aside for raises for Dade county teachers. How did the District and union decide to allocate the funds? 75% of the $30 million would go to the highest paid teachers. The step increase from 21 to 22 was $11,000. The step increase for teachers on steps 3 to 13 was $300. That sort of hoarding of wealth at the top for teachers already making a decent salary is more in tune with Mitt Romney. Yet our union president (who by the way is reportedly paid $180,000) thanked the reelection of President Obama for the raises. Did I mention that the union is also on the school district’s payroll? Seems like a wee bit of a conflict of interest to this teacher but what the hell do I know.

So how did such a horrible contract get passed? The District and Union are not stupid. 11,000 teachers stood to gain financially and 8,000 teachers stood to continue to collect food stamps and work second jobs as strippers. Veteran teachers argued the inequitable distribution of funds was fair because “that’s the way it’s always been.” The teachers who stood to gain from the contract voted in favor of the flagellation and humiliation of those who didn’t. So much for teacher solidarity, and I dare say so much for the union.  The teachers who can afford the $800 dues will retire in about 10 years, teachers on steps 3 to 13 are canceling their union memberships in droves (and if they don’t they are total suckers), and the new teachers will all be on pay for performance annual contracts and there will be no point in belonging to a union.

So after ten years of loyalty to Dade county and giving it my all in the classroom, this teacher will be calling it quits to a teaching career in Florida. It will be impossible to earn less than $40,000 after ten years of teaching in any other school district in America. Dade county’s new motto, “Giving our students the world and our teachers the finger.”

What About You, How Do You Feel?

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