Governor DeSantis: Educators Have 99 Problems, and Pay Is Just One...

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Governor DeSantis:

While the 9/24 announcement concerning the long overdue death of the Best & Brightest program will be received with enthusiastic applause from teachers all across the state, we are all concerned about what will replace it.

It CANNOT be another bonus scheme.

I’ve already heard some of the shadowy outlines—a $2+Billion increase to help the pernicious pay problem, which includes raising minimum salaries to $50K; while that is a start, how will you address veteran teachers such as myself who have worked 16 years just to get to $54K in an expensive county? The next part of the plan supposedly calls for massive monetary incentives to draw highly effective teachers to D and F schools—again, more bonuses, and many of us, like me, won’t even qualify due to not having a state issued VAM.

Below, I and the undersigned would like to see the following happen:

1. Use the $2B+ to provide actual salary increases. Earmark the money as a categorical so that local districts cannot shuffle the funding around, and allow us to collectively bargain for these funds as is our constitutional right. Do NOT, however, take this funding away from the BSA or other sources. With a $1 TRILLION economy and 45th in funding, we are woefully behind because the lack of revenue negatively affects every aspect and every school choice in public education today. Moreover, you must ensure that this new revenue is sustainable and continues to increase over time. We already lost the last decade of economic growth and educators will never get it back.

2. Convene a council of at least 100 classroom teachers—not more bureaucrats from upper level district management, and definitely not more politicians who have never spent a day in the classroom—real, actual teachers, preferably veterans who have been part of the seismic shift in the last decade or more. Bring in traditional public school educators, magnet teachers, and charter school teachers (from non-CMO managed/for-profit charters). Allow all of them to collaborate and provide solutions to the many vexing problems facing public education here in the Sunshine State. There are many that must be addressed head on, especially student behavior and the lack of discipline.

3. Eliminate VAM. Period. Full stop. End of story. This is the most destructive force affecting our profession, and it has been widely discredited. Moreover, lawsuits have already been won in several states, and it will only be a matter of time before one hits Florida. Let’s all save the taxpayers some money by being out in front of this issue. The coming council could have a round table to bring solid ideas to you and Commissioner Corcoran about how to evaluate educators.

4. Significantly reduce or eliminate as many tests as possible. The policies of your predecessors, especially the need for data to evaluate teachers, have been the most damaging to the profession. Again, see number 3. Far more importantly, though, the tests are stressing out our students, killing the innate curiosity and desire to learn in many if not most of our children. Please also rescind the mandatory 5/1 test date; it has created logistical nightmares at every secondary school in Florida.

5. Treat teachers as valuable and contributing members of the Sunshine State. We are the second most important adult besides parents/guardians for many of our students. For the last decade we’ve had so-called “leaders” who profess hollow words when National Teacher Appreciation Week rolls around, but then pass legislation to micromanage every facet of our existence at school. We are professionals. Would you treat a doctor as such? A police officer? A firefighter? Please respect us and the education we have been providing to Florida’s students during the last two decades while funding has slid into a deep, dark hole. We have done more and more with less and less.

Lastly, please use your bully pulpit and veto pen. In the recent article you complained that the Florida Legislature didn’t give you what you had asked for—VETO the line item and send them back to create a better budget. Better yet, use your elevated platform to shame the legislators who have not done right by us. 

Thank you for your time and attention to these dire matters.

Respectfully signed and submitted,

- Ryan Haczynski and the undersigned concerned public education supporters