2011 Visit to Tallahassee
By Ira J. Paul, President, IVBE, Inc.

I arrived in Tallahassee on March 14th and spent the next two days at the Capitol. Overall the time I spent was very productive.

I met with the legislative aide to Representative Reggie Fullwood and told him about IVBE and our 2011legislative priorities.  I also told him about my background and explained that education reform should be a nonpartisan issue.  I mentioned the visit of President Obama and former Governor Jeb Bush to Miami Central Senior and how Democrats in other states are embracing education reform.  Although I did not get to speak with the Representative, I made the point that there are other teachers out there that support the education reform bills that are being heard this session.

My next visit was with the aide to Representative Kelli Stargel.  She was very receptive to what I had to say.

My next appointment was with Representative Jimmie Smith.  The meeting went extremely well.  He is very attuned to the education reform movement and was impressed with what IVBE is doing.  I also told him about the Professional Educators Network of Florida (PEN) and that I was recently appointed to its board of directors.  I provided him with their contact information.  He thanked me and asked me to stay in touch.

I then met with Representative Scott Plakon who is sponsoring one of the union bills that would decertify a union if its membership dropped to below 50%.  He was also very receptive to what IVBE is doing and we discussed some of the upcoming legislation.

I had lunch with Liza McFadden who served on the Schools of Excellence Commission with me.  Liza was the Chairperson and is the President and CEO of Volunteer USA Foundation.  Liza suggested that I network with Students First that was started with former Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee.  They are traveling to other states and plan to be in Florida in the near future.

Later in the afternoon my representative’s legislative aide brought me to the mailroom and our IVBE information was distributed the mailboxes of all 120 Representatives and all 40 Senators. 

My representative’s  aide asked me if I had ever been to the annual press corps skits and suggested that I go. I was told that the money raised was for a good cause and would go to charity. I attended the event which probably raised a great deal, considering the price of the tickets and what was served.

Next I met with the aide to Senator David Simmons.  The meeting went well since we both seemed to agree on all issues.

 My last appointment was with Senator Anitere Flores.  We discussed legislative issues and she suggested that I contact former Washington D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s organization Students First and network with them.  She told me she would e-mail me the contact information.  It was a good meeting.

On Wednesday I met with Representative Charles S. Chestnut IV.  He looked over the 2011 IVBE legislative priorities and told me that he is in agreement with most of it.  He also told me that he was one of the few Democrats that voted in favor of the corporate school vouchers last year and agreed with me that education reform should not be a partisan issue.  We discussed the education reform bill on performance pay and the elimination of tenure.  He told me he didn’t have a problem with it and he acknowledged that it was going to pass and hoped that I wouldn’t be disappointed if he voted against it.  He gave me some insight on how things work in Tallahassee.

I attended a task force meeting with the Professional Educators Network of Florida outside the Capitol. The meeting lasted several hours and I had to cancel two scheduled meetings.  The meeting was very productive and we worked on an action plan to increase membership and inform teachers in all 67 counties about PEN by building a network.  PEN needs to get the word out and we also need to come up with a plan to overcome the obstacles thrown up by the union and those school districts that accommodate them.

Later that afternoon I met with my State Senator Rene Garcia to update him with what I’m doing.  Even though he is not on the Education Committee, he is very interested in education reform and appreciates my efforts.

My last meeting was with Senator Jeremy Ring.  I found him to be a sincere and genuine individual.  He is a supporter of charter schools and agrees with most of the education reform agenda.  The only part of the elimination of tenure, which he supports, that was a sticking point for him was that teachers who have proven themselves as effective or highly effective for several years were to have one bad year they could be let go.

I then attended the Cattleman’s Club reception and the reception at the Governors Club where I ran into some of the legislators I was not able to meet with previously. 

This was a worthwhile trip to give input and get information on all of our issues.