Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Will raises buy Gov. Rick Scott the support of teachers?

Gov. Rick Scott today will formally propose taking some of the state's expected budget surplus next year to grant Florida teachers a pay raise.

In recent years, as the state and local school districts struggled with tax revenue declines, the odds of a pay raise for teachers were about the same as the odds that teachers would not be held accountable for the test scores of students they never had contact with. In recent years, many teachers, like here in Manatee County, saw their pay cut in order for districts to balance their books.

The result is the skepticism that greeted word Tuesday that the governor would be proposing pay raises for teachers.

The Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports:
With Florida expecting its first budget surplus in six years, Gov. Rick Scott wants to spend a chunk of it on higher pay for teachers — a proposal some see as more of Scott’s newfound support for public schools. 
Scott will unveil his proposal Wednesday, including his recommended amount of the raises, when he visits Ocoee Middle School near Orlando in the hub of the Interstate 4 corridor, which is pivotal in statewide elections. 
“It’s good for teachers, it’s good for students, and it’s good for the state,” Scott said Tuesday.
But skeptics see a governor hobbled by low popularity numbers in campaign mode, trying to prove he’s an ally of public education. 
“Tell him to send the money, but no one is fooled by this,” said Karen Aronowitz, president of the 22,000-member United Teachers of Dade in Miami. “He’s just restoring money that was already stolen from teachers. He can campaign all he wants.” 
Average teacher salaries in Florida are among the lowest in the country, at about $46,000 a year, lagging about $10,000 behind the national average. 
While the money may be welcome, teachers might not be as quick to embrace Scott. Many teachers remain angry at him for cutting $1.3 billion to schools from his first budget, for signing a teacher-evaluation law that he now says must be reworked, for backing a merit pay system tied to students’ standardized test scores, and for requiring teachers to contribute 3 percent of their pay to their pensions — a requirement upheld last week by the Florida Supreme Court.
Scott in recent months has gone on a listening tour at schools, proposed more professional teacher training and declared emphatically in interviews that “I like teachers.”
Read the whole story, here.

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