Reminding Floridians Why They Cannot Trust Will Weatherford on Education Policy

A clear disagreement exists about raising the pay of Florida teachers. Governor Rick Scott wants across the board raise in base pay. Legislative leaders Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and Rep. Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) want the same funding to go toward a merit pay scheme. StateImpact reporter Gina Jordan writes:

House Speaker Will Weatherford met with reporters at the Capitol late Thursday.

He answered a variety of questions, including one that has been plaguing him about proposed teacher raises.

Weatherford told reporters Thursday that most of the billion or so dollars being added to the House education budget next year will go toward teacher salaries.

But he said the law doesn’t allow state government to dictate how local school districts spend money.

“We basically write a lump sum to each school district, and then that money is collectively bargained between the union and the school board and the superintendent,” Weatherford said. “So we can’t really micromanage that process.”

Gov. Rick Scott took a dig at the draft House budget earlier this week, saying “I find it interesting that the Speaker’s against the pay raise for classroom teachers, but he’s okay with an across the board pay raise for state workers.”

Weatherford responded with a tweet: “His staff should reread our budget!”

There’s a chance that Weatherford is being coy as the House could attach stipulation that the funding must go toward a merit pay program as mandated by Race to the Top and it be returned if not used that way. But as Scott may veto the bill, Weatherford may not want to attempt such a stunt.

Weatherford has earned the mistrust of teachers. In a 2009 piece he penned for the Gainesville Sun, Weatherford lied about how Race to the Top funds would be dispersed. He wrote this:

Last week, the President of the Florida Education Association (FEA) issued a public letter to local education associations across the state, urging them to not support the Florida Department of Education’s efforts to participate in the federal Race to the Top (RttP) program and continue reforming Florida’s schools by rewarding excellent classroom teachers. 

Disappointing? Yes.  Surprising?  No.

After all, the FEA has long been in the business of resisting innovative education reforms in favor of protecting the status quo.  Instead of supporting a program that will give Florida’s teachers,  their members,  real financial rewards for excellence in the classroom, the FEA has chosen to play politics and fight to sustain a failing system that rewards teachers only for longevity, not for performance and results.

There was never any intention for RttT funding to give “real financial rewards for excellence.” Palm Beach Post editor Randy Schultz outed Weatherford in 2011. In what Schultz called “another Great Tallahassee Schools Scam,” he wrote that the legislature never had any intention of funding merit pay.

Scathing Purple Musings covered Weatherford’s deceptions and “another Great Tallahassee Schools Scam,” in  posts here, here ,here and here.

Fresh off his rock star treatment at CPAC earlier this month, Weatherford is probably feeling emboldened. Is he being a little to cute with his message about raising teacher pay? He’s smart enough to know that the vast majority of local school boards oppose him on the accountability measures that would dictate merit pay. Moreover, he knows that boards would come to a quick agreement with their unions on how to distribute  funding earmarked for pay raises. If this is another of his deceptions, he’s backed himself into a corner.


About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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