League: Veto Senate Bill 6

Letter to Gov. Charlie Crist:

Dear Governor Crist,

I am writing to respectfully urge you to veto Senate Bill 6, which just passed the Legislature.

The bill would require all teachers be retained, certified and compensated based on student test scores on standardized tests — not years of experience or degrees held. It abolishes rewards for teachers who become National Board Certified Teachers and penalizes districts financially if they consider length of service or degrees held when determining compensation or reductions in force.

Based on my own experience in public schools, as well as some time in the classroom (student teaching in the U.S. and substitute teaching abroad), I believe this measure would hurt Florida students in both the short- and long-run. Ultimately, it would weaken our free, accessible public education system by deemphasizing the professional nature of the work public educators do.

Like police, emergency, and a host of other public employees, teachers perform a vital community service. That service is available to the whole school-age population, without discrimination. This results in a diverse student population with a complex range of learning needs and abilities. It takes a great deal of training, experience and talent to successfully address individual student needs within the scope of an inclusive classroom program. For some students, high school is a jumping off point for outstanding future achievement. For many others, the road to a productive future may happen in incremental gains that cannot be measured with a written test. For those students, teacher influence may, in fact, prove more pivotal in the long run than it does for high achievers.

Very often, teaching entails unpaid extra hours, emotional strain and personal financial expenditure. It’s disappointing to see all that teachers do reduced to a standardized test score number and held against them. We don’t hear proponents of testing penalties demand police officers get a pay cut when crime goes up, or emergency personnel lose their jobs if accident victims don’t make it. But somehow, the work teachers do to shape coming generations is dismissed as menial labor, subject to assembly-line style supervision. Worse yet, “reform” proponents seek to damage the collegial atmosphere that encourages teachers to collaborate on knowledge and strategies, to all students’ benefit. If teachers are forced to “compete” for pay and bonuses, there is no doubt collaboration, and learning, would suffer.

Unfortunately, much of the impetus for recent attacks against teacher professionalism appears to be coming from a special interest group concerned with redistributing education tax dollars towards un-transparent, unaccountable private schools. As is often the case when large amounts of public dollars are involved, the sky’s the limit on the spin jobs used to access them. Again, it’s students who will ultimately suffer from this well-funded, greed-based movement.

Public education has been a cornerstone of America’s democratic tradition almost since our nation’s inception. Countless professional educators have instilled a sense of shared destiny to generations of Americans, through our public schools experience. I would urge you, once again, to help ensure teachers continue to work in an environment that allows them to best carry out that mission. Please veto SB 6 & encourage legislators to work on education solutions that empower teachers, rather than punish them.


Deborah Nelson
League of Women Voters of the Pensacola Bay Area