TALLAHASSEE REPORT-MARCH, 2010
Ira J. Paul, President, IVBE, Inc.
My first meeting was with Representative Kurt Kelly for a discussion of education issues. He informed me that he will be running for US Congress and, should he be successful in his primary, he would be challenging Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson from the Orlando area.
I met with the Foundation for Excellence in Education and discussed education reform. I then headed back to the Capitol for my next appointment with Representative Erik Fresen. Erik attended the September Washington D.C. educational summit and we were on the same plane.
Tuesday was a very busy day, and I arrived at the Capitol at approximately 8:00 AM. A packet of our research and positions was placed in each legislator’s box. Afterwards, I began my legislative visits. I was able to meet with was Senator Mike Haridopolos. Mike is running unopposed so far and we spoke about education issues.
I then visited Senator Don Gaetz office and spoke to his aide. I told her that Charlotte said hello and we discussed IVBE and education reform.
I went on to Senator Stephen Wise’s office and spoke with his aide. Stephen will not be running for reelection. His term ends in 2012 and he is term limited.
My last Senate visit was to Senator John Thrasher’s office. I spoke to his legislative assistant and she informed me that the Senator would only be serving as Chair of the Republican Party of Florida until they elect a new Chair. John plans to serve in the Senate and will not be a candidate for the Chair of the Republican Party of Florida when the election is held.
My first House visit for the day was with Representative Adam Hasner. Adam is also term limited and will not be running for reelection. We talked about the education reform issues coming before the legislature and he informed me that there shouldn’t be any problem getting them through the house but that things might be tougher on the Senate side; however we’re hoping that some of the important agenda will be passed. I wished Adam well and asked him to stay in touch.
I spoke to Representative Julio Robaina whom I’ve known for several years and with whom I’ve always had a good relationship. I then spoke with Representative Anitere Flores and discussed education issues. My last visit for the day was with Representative Esteban Bovo.
I met with Dr. Stan Marshall and Bob Sanchez 9:00 a.m. the next day at the James Madison Institute. I discussed what I was doing and that I would be testifying in favor of SB6 later in the day. Stan informed me that he would be meeting with Senator Thrasher, the sponsor of this bill sometime next week.
Afterwards, it was back to the Capitol. I met with Representative Debbie Mayfield, and then with Representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera. We chatted about education issues.
I then met with the legislative aide to Representative Tom Grady. His assistant is a former middle school math teacher and he was on board with us on our education positions. I do not have a relationship with Tom but I did work with his bill last year on the Making the Grade Commission. Last year was not a good year for legislation and the bill was so watered down that it became unrecognizable.
My last meeting was with Representative David Rivera who will be running for Congress. The only representative on my list that I was not able to meet with was Representative Will Weatherford. At 1:00 p.m. I headed over to Senate Office Building 301 where I signed up to speak on SB6.
I introduced myself to the Committee, and mentioned my connection to IVBE. I stated that I was a retired Mathematics teacher from Miami-Dade County Public Schools with 30 years of experience, that I had a distinguished carrier and was presented with a proclamation from the school board upon my retirement recognizing me for many of my accomplishments. I also mentioned that I became involved in education reform issues back in 1999 and was represented in an amicus brief on the side of the Governor and State. I also mentioned how our opponents claimed the sky was falling, that the reform and accountability efforts were terrible, would destroy public education, causing teachers to lose their jobs. Of course none of this happened, and here we are almost a decade later and Florida has moved from 38th place to 8th in education rankings.
I mentioned my brief membership in the United Teachers of Dade and my service on its Executive Board and as the Legislative Chair. I told them that several years ago I testified in a House subcommittee hearing in favor of Representative Adam Hasner’s 65% Solution and the modification of the class size amendment, which was a good thing for teachers and would have provided more money for the classroom. The union of course was against this, which indicates that they really are not concerned with legislation that benefits teachers and education. I told them that when I got back to Miami the union stripped the Legislative Chairmanship from me and took other powers away. A few weeks later when I testified at a State Board of Education meeting in favor of performance pay, the union told me I was no longer welcome, so I resigned.
I testified that SB6 is long overdue, that it is good for teachers and would provide higher pay for critical shortage areas, for those who transfer to the worst schools and the teachers that get results. In the long run the students would get better teachers and that if you were a good teacher, tenure would not be an issue. Those teachers that already have tenure would retain it. I then thanked them for letting me speak and urged them to pass this bill. The bill passed 6-2 with Senators Wilson and Bullard, both from Miami Dade voting against it. Afterwards Senator Thrasher thanked me from the dais for speaking in favor of his bill.
The message of education reform and accountability was offered and accepted.