My Letter to Oprah during Florida’s Fight to Stop Senate Bill 6 : The Virtual Town Hall has Spoken … Florida Teachers Empowered 2010
Democracy has hit the new millennium here in Florida.
Facebook has enabled parents, teachers, students, experts, college students, and Legislators to participate in a virtual democratic town hall.
As Florida debated Senate Bill 6/ HB 7189 last Thursday evening in the State Capital, the Stop Senate Bill 6 Facebook page conducted a virtual town hall, interacting with each other( membership 50,000) and even State Representatives.
It was a disappointing, yet inspiring, evening, that ended with a speech by Representative Geraldine Thompson of Florida.
She had recently been in a car accident and began by telling us that she was ‘bruised but not broken’. She waited all evening until after 2 am to speak. She had to remain seated while speaking, but in an eloquent voice, strikingly similar to Maya Angelou, she brought us all to tears. Knowing the bill would probably pass, she invoked the memory of Rosa Parks and reminded us all that we sometimes have to
‘Sit to Take a Stand’.
Although the bill passed, to the disappointment of us all … these Representatives here in Florida gave us real hope that we could make a difference.
They gave us hope for democracy.
They are heroes to the thousands of thousands of teachers and students who watched the House session stream live until the early morning. There are no words as to how much they mean to us, they truly renewed our hope in democracy. I, for one, would love to express my thanks to them. I’d love to see them on your stage receiving the thanks they so deserve. Representative Thompson, Representative Robaina, and others truly have made an impact and given us hope.
Win or lose, that hope is priceless.
Now to my issues with SB6/HB 7189 and the treatment of Florida teachers by some of its proponents. I am a parent, a teacher, a graduate of Florida Public Schools. Here is my response: I’d like to start by saying, in response to Jeb Bush’s taped phone message (sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce) that I have read Senate Bill 6, House Bill 7189. I have done much research. I have also read several plans/bills from other states, such as Tennessee.
I am NOT part of a ‘massive campaign of misinformation’, as he says in his phone calls.
I am INFORMED. Through the power of Google, public documents, networking with experts, countless hours of reading and researching, and the lifelong learning I gained graduating, proudly, from a PUBLIC Dade County High School and the University of Florida, I am informed.
SB 6 was drafted quickly in an attempt for Florida to compete for President Obama’s Race to the Top Incentive. SB6/HB7189 is not innovative. The bill is poorly worded, is based on misinformation and not scholarly research, and is punitive. The states should have worked together with their stakeholders… parents, unions, teachers, districts. This should have been a collaborative process.
It was not.
Senate Bill 6 /HB7189 also has many ideological flaws. Primarily, it will force us all to put a value, a number, a score on a child. That score will be worn like a badge of success or a badge of shame. A child should not have to feel that burden of responsibility. The FCAT scores allowed us to judge our schools, to target schools and teachers who needed more help…. to provide training or tutoring. This SB6/HB7189, however, will force us to judge the CHILDREN, instead. Tests should be diagnostic and corrective, in nature, not punitive. Our children do not deserve to be punished !
The bill has constitutional issues with regard to due process and property rights. It does not provide for due process for a teacher. It does not recognize experience or advanced degrees or trainings of teachers. It cancels many programs that help teachers to finance college. It belittles the value of education, at the core.
Finally, SB6/HB7189 takes a teacher’s security. Teachers don’t care about tenure… There really is no such thing as tenure in Florida, and we know it. It just sounds good in the media for proponents of the bill to try to make it look like teacher’s are only looking out for their best interests.
We, teachers, say… please. Who are they kidding? Have they seen our paychecks?
No, we teachers demand stability, some knowledge of whether or not we have a contract next year. We have mortgage loans and kids to put through college, too. We all know respected teachers who are happy in their positions, not under threat and anxiety, make better teachers. We also know the stress of data will make the student feel like a number. I know, I have seen it happen before. Also, the insult of not paying teachers with advanced degrees and / or experience will lead many to not pursue advanced degrees or to leave the profession. There will be a shortage of teachers with advanced degrees to teach Dual Enrollment, Advanced Placement, and International Baccalaureate classes. This will limit a student’s opportunity and put them at a disadvantage in the competitive pursuit of and acceptance into a university. Thus, gifted kids, like my daughter, will have less classes to choose from. In the end, the problems with the schools will push kids out of classes to dropping out or moving to private schools.
This is all a worry.
There are far too many technicalities that need sorting out. I commend the many Representatives who tried with the amendments. I think the amendment process was a last ditch effort, and I thank them, but those changes could have been made in the planning stages. I blame the drafters of the bills for not starting that process earlier. The stakeholders… we teachers, parents, districts, students, and unions should have been involved from the start. We were not.
This is not our vision of innovative reform. Those in charge should listen to the people. Oprah, we beg for your support. This all lies in our Governor Charlie Crist’s hands. Please speak out in favor of Florida parents, teachers, students, college students …and in favor of democracy. The virtual town hall is calling out loud and clear down here in Florida.
Can you hear it? VETO VETO VETO
We got that Veto
The Virtual Town Hall has Spoken … Teachers Empowered 2010
Rick Scott is Governor of Florida now…
SB7136 (the rewritten SB6) passed 3rd day of session…
Oprah gave us Superman and Rhee instead…
I stopped following her on twitter.
It is what is is…