While its understandable that Jeb Bush would receive top billing, the fact that he actually appeared on the same stage with opponents of his ed reform measures is nonetheless astonishing. Along with a Tampa middle school teacher and school board member from Orlando, Kathleen Oropeza, founder of school advocacy group Fund Education Now shared concerns with Bush policies and Florida’s current reform path. In moment of rare candor, Bush may have admitted that Florida’s new merit pay law wasn’t being funded:
Florida’s new merit-pay law was mentioned frequently. The law ends tenure-like
job protections for new teachers and creates evaluation systems for all
educators based on student growth on tests. Eventually, pay plans based mostly
on seniority will be phased out.
Bush, who said he supported it, said at
least twice, however, that it would not be successful if the Legislature did not provide money to pay top teachers more.
“You cannot have a merit pay system unless you are funding merit,” he said.
As its fair to include the cost that districts incur through establishing new test-based evaluation systems as part of Florida’s new merit pay system, Bush is signaling that its not being funded. Nevermind whatever future merit pay a teacher might get.
Incoming Florida House speaker Will Weatherford misled voters in a December 2009 op-ed piece by saying that the $700 million which came from Race to the Top Funds would be going toward merit pay. The sponsor of the new law, Steve Wise, specifically told Paula Dockery that it wouldn’t, but it would be used for establishing “infrastructure.”
Yesterday in Orlando, Bush essentially confirmed Wise’s plans for RttT funds. “Infrastructure” is code to mean a big chunk of the money would be finding its way to the usual crony contractors who, um, “establish” these pathways of educational excellence.
Last week’s Florida Independentstory revealed that $900 million in federal grants had gone toward the establishment of Florida’s common core standards. When combined with RttT funding, we see that a mind-boggling $1.6 billion in taxpayer dollars has been spent far away from the classroom – the bulk of which has enriched corporate education monsters. Like say, Pearson, who in desperate economic times registered a 31 percent increase in profits already this year.