The Florida Legislation's new session kicked off with much fanfare on March 5th 2013. Good fiscal governance and consistent austerity measures have created a generous problem for the state, that of deciding exactly how much of an increase should educators within the state of Florida be entitled to receiving? Florida's Governor, Mr. Rick Scott has decided on a $2,500 across the board increase for all teachers, but some state lawmakers are actively collaborating to find alternative ways to disseminate the pay increase.
While Florida's lawmakers will decide within the next 60 days exactly what might be the most efficient, and cost effective manner of distributing teacher salary increases, one important question that will certainly play a major role is the question of "Should the total amount of state surplus be spent primarily on teacher salaries, or should a percentage of it be applied to some other area of needs assessment?" Digital Technology will also be a key issue because of new laws requiring Florida's schools to begin online testing by 2014.
While lawmakers grapple with the details regarding teacher raises, there are four other additional concerns that they must decide on that will impact education both short term as well as in the long term interim.
The second would be that of the new mandate wavier by states to incorporate the Common Core Standards into the curriculum. The Common Core Standards provides for greater accountability regarding meta-cognition and global compatibility for educational standards. Florida, along with many other states have decided to implement the initiative in lieu of the No Child Left Behind Act because of the time-related-flexibility component within the legislation's implementation. There is however, a growing concern that Florida along with other states, might not be Common Core Standards compatible as far as readiness for the 2014 year in which it is slated to be included into the curriculum through standards and testing. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness College and Careers, (PARCC) has stated in its evaluation that schools are not fully bandwidth compliant to undertake online testing at such a huge magnitude, and that additional structural reforms must be implemented before this important component of the Common Core Standards can be implemented. Others have suggested a kind of Plan B Program option, but it basically invalidates the whole precept behind initiating the Common Core Standards.
The third issue would be that of expanding school choice for public and private schools. Many of the bills that have carried over into this session are varied in nature. One in particular rewards and provides incentives for those charter schools that are academically proficient or whose students, when tested, have shown consistent adequate academic progress. Other bills have sought to allow for greater transparency regarding expenditures and budgeting since charter schools are federal block grant recipients.
The fourth item that would impact education would the decision regarding teacher evaluations. Currently, the assessment tools that are utilized to assess teacher proficiency will be utilized to identify the teachers who earn the highest ratings in order to be compensated more than that of their peers. Since students' test scores are a part of the variety of assessment tools, then the lawmakers must decide what course of action to take regarding those teachers whose final ratings are high, but whose students' testing scores are inconsistent.
Finally, the fifth agenda item would be school safety. Many districts and School Boards in other states have already opted to allow their teachers to carry licensed, concealed weapons or generate additional funding for the hiring of armed school security. While some urban feeder pattern schools already have special law enforcement officers on their school sites, this can prove costly for a state already facing lots of additional structural and curricula changes that will require funding that in some cases, most districts do not have access to.
While there are certainly other issues that exist within each of these five, Florida, like so many states, must carefully, skillfully, and effectively maneuver its way through the educational changes that are necessary for a continuing journey on the road to effective, global education.