Great Teachers Do More Than Just Teach, They Change Lives
Over the last decade Florida embarked on a bold mission to improve the educational opportunities for its students. At the time, Florida was ranked 38th in the National Educational Rankings and was considered mediocre at best. The opponents of reform, including the teacher unions, launched a misinformation campaign scaring teachers and other stakeholders to death and immediately filed a lawsuit against the state with the intent to stop these reform efforts.
It should come as no surprise that the sky never fell, not a single teacher has lost their job, public education was not destroyed and Florida’s national ranking improved from 38th to 8th in the nation. Today, Florida is a leader in the educational reform movement and many of the other states are now looking up to us in hopes of and duplicating many of our reforms. The teacher unions and the opponents were proven wrong back then and repeating the same misinformation and utilizing the same scare tactics now will not change the results.
While being ranked 8th is certainly commendable, now is not the time to sit back on our laurels and become complacent. The passing of Senate Bill 6 and its companion House Bill 7189 will enable us to finish the job and seek the path to perfection by rewarding highly effective teachers, placing effective teachers in high need schools or high need subject areas awarding them with higher salaries, and holding school administrators accountable.
Unfortunately the teacher unions and the opponents of reform vehemently disagree. They believe that teachers employed in high poverty or low performing schools and those in high demand subject areas should be paid the same as ineffective teachers, and don’t recognize any distinction between ineffective and effective performance. Once again, they are circling the wagons to preserve the status quo. If it were up to these obstructionists Florida would still be ranked 38th or lower in the National Rankings.
The passing of SB 6 and its companion HB 7189 will enable Florida to attract higher quality teachers such as the recently departed Jaime Escalante, a great teacher who changed the lives of his students and challenged the status quo by pushing for tougher standards and accountability for students and teachers which both SB 6 and its companion HB 7189 will accomplish, and in addition assist in recruiting great teachers into the classroom.
Jaime believed that all students when properly prepared and motivated could learn and succeed academically at demanding course work in spite of their racial, social or ethnic background. The reform efforts of Florida have enabled us to close the achievement gap of minority students, raising the graduation rate and improving math and reading scores through high expectations by continuously raising the bar.
The teacher unions demonized Jaime Escalante, called him a traitor to his profession and celebrated once he left the profession bragging that they ran him out of public education. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that teacher unions and the opponents of reform are using the same tactics and misinformation to once again demonize, scare and intimidate the legislators, the public and others from supporting SB 6 and HB 7189 and other good educational reform legislation.
Ira J. Paul, President
Independent Voices for Better Education, Inc.
18495 NW 78th Avenue
Hialeah, FL 33015
Ira J. Paul retired from Miami-Dade County Public Schools in June 2008 with over 30 years of service as a math teacher at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Sr. High School.