Florida needs to protect teacher tenure

Rick Scott’s new plan to eliminate teacher tenure could be bad news for state educators and many future education graduates. Teacher tenure may need some improvements, but eliminating it altogether is a terrible idea.

Scott announced his plans to eliminate teacher tenure earlier this month. Tenure laws were originally passed to protect good teachers from arbitrary actions, yet Scott continually claims that tenure allows “bad” teachers to keep their jobs.

At an event in St. Petersburg in December, Scott said, “If you were guaranteed you didn’t have to do anything, just showed up, and you didn’t have any obligation other than showing up every day, you think you would get better or worse (at your job)?”

Contrary to popular belief, tenure for K-12 teachers does not shield them from dismissal. Instead, it is a guarantee that if a teacher is fired it will be for a just cause that has tangible supporting evidence.

Job security is a constant concern for teachers across the state. With an average salary of about $46,000, more than $7,000 below the national average, many educators would like to know that their job will never be threatened.

The loss of tenure could also create a loss of teachers. Recent education graduates may be persuaded to move to other states to obtain job security. Educators across Florida already face budget cuts, small salaries and now the loss of job protection. Soon there will be little incentive for a teacher to stay in Florida.

Scott’s plan also calls for students’ standardized test scores to be factored into teacher evaluations.

“You make sure you measure the effectiveness of teachers and you make sure the teachers who are most effective are paid the most so they continue to teach,” Scott said in January at an economic summit.

In addition, Scott has proposed a statewide bill that calls for $3.3 billion in budget cuts to state school districts and universities. While “effective” teachers may not lose pay, some schools may now have to cut school programs.

These measures will only serve to discourage qualified teachers from investing in Florida students – children who determine the outcome of their salaries. Not all students do well on standardized testing, nor do all students come in with a mindset to learn and complete work. Evaluations need to be based on more than minute details.

Scott should not limit his focus to questioning the necessity of tenure, but also toward how to make the education system effective for everyone involved.

Marina Golden is a sophomore majoring in history.