United Faculty of Florida-Florida Atlantic University Chapter
April 18, 2012. FAU community voices concerns over M J Saunders administration’s arbitrary decisions on summer classes, increased class sizes
UFF-FAU Chapter President Chris Robe begins rally to “Save Summer” Outside Williams Admin Building
Numerous students addressed rally participants on how the summer cuts have affected them
FAU Faculty donned their regalia to express concerns over administrators’ heavy-handed approach to summer
April 13, 2012. Nearly a third of summer session classes have been canceled
(April 12, 2012)
College students in Florida are getting a real-world lesson in economics as the effects of $300 million in budget cuts are starting to hit home.
At Florida Atlantic University, nearly a third of classes in the normally bustling summer session have been canceled, after the school took a nearly $25 million hit. Florida International University is deferring some maintenance projects and delaying hiring while the University of Florida has asked its departments to cut about 5 percent from their budgets.
At the same time, state universities are expected to increase tuition by 15 percent for the fourth year in a row.
“To have 15 percent increases year after year is unfair to students,” said Ayden Maher, president of FAU’s student government.
Read more and watch video report at sun-sentinel.com
April 13, 2012. CBS News 12 reports chanting students storm administration building with bullhorn
(April 12, 2012)
BOCA RATON, Fla. — Students at Florida Atlantic University gathered today to protest against budget cuts that are forcing some of their classes to be cancelled.
Students protested outside the administration building Thursday afternoon. They’re angry over what they call unfair and arbitrary reductions in summer courses. Almost 1,000 courses have been cut this year.
Protestors held signs and chanted “cut our courses, cut our future.” They stood on the administration building steps and at one point even went inside to confront school officials, but they got kicked out by FAU police.
The Florida Legislature hit FAU with an unprecedented $30 million in budget cuts for the coming year. For some students the cuts will delay graduation by a semester or a year because a required course is not offered in the summer. They also say classes were slashed by administrators with no input from students or faculty.
“It’s really depressing, it’s sad. I got my undergraduate from FAU and I decided to come back here. It is just a shock the university wouldn’t go through their own staff, let alone their students,” said Monique Paramore, FAU graduate student.
Read more and view video report at cbs12.com
April 11, 2012. Chorus grows stronger over MJ Saunders’ high-handed style and forced austerity
Responding to deep cuts in the summer course schedule at Florida Atlantic University, faculty and students are planning protests against what they call unfair and arbitrary reductions which will hurt students, faculty, and academic programs.
In response they are planning protest rallies on the west steps of the administration building on the Boca Raton campus. The first, organized by students, will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 12.
The second, organized by the UFF-FAU and supported by students, will be held on Wednesday, April 18 at 12 noon. In addition, everyone is invited to make protest signs in the lobby of the Culture and Society Building at 5 on Monday, April 16.
Administrators have cut almost a thousand courses from 2011, about a third of the total.
FAU was hit by the Florida Legislature last month with an unprecedented $30 million in budget cuts for the coming year. In all, the eleven public universities have lost $730 million in state funding since 2008, and will lose another $300 million this year, half from appropriations and half from their own reserves.
This last legislative move prompted Moody’s Investors Service to take the unusual step of publicly criticizing the Legislature for damaging the universities’ credit. Meanwhile, the Legislature and Governor gave corporations another $80 million in tax breaks in addition to the billions they’ve received in recent years, while cutting hospitals and nursing homes in addition to universities. State colleges have endured similar cutbacks.
“It’s bad enough that the Legislature and Governor are undermining our state’s future by slashing higher education. But the university is compounding the problem by using a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to summer cuts,” said Chris Robe, president of the faculty union, the United Faculty of Florida – FAU.
Robe points out that cuts have been imposed unilaterally from the provost’s office with virtually no regard for students’ needs or faculty advice in particular programs. The cuts are also insensitive to the needs of FAU students, many of whom are non-traditional students who have jobs and families, and cannot afford to delay graduation for a semester or a year because a required course is not offered in the summer, and who are thus more likely to drop out.
In her message to students and parents on the front page of FAU’s web site, President Mary Jane Saunders says that “the most important thing you need to know is that nothing has changed for you at FAU. Students are still our first priority, and we remain committed to helping you progress steadily toward your degree. As in the past, we will continue to offer all courses needed for graduation.” http://www.fau.edu/explore/homepage-stories/2012_03budgetcut.php.
However, a March 21 memorandum from Provost Brenda Claiborne instructs deans and chairs to cut all courses from the summer 2012 schedule which during summer 2011 did not enroll at least 24 students in undergraduate courses or 11 students in graduate courses. While the provost leaves room open for exceptions, some programs have been hurt very badly, others not at all.
According to faculty and students in various departments, this edict ignores the need for small classes in lab and studio courses with prerequisites, many of which have simply been cancelled because they did not enroll 24 students last summer. While some programs have accreditation requirements which protect their course sequences from arbitrary disruptions, some of these programs were cut anyway, while others were not.
Students in Education, Business, Science, the Visual Arts and elsewhere have had their progress toward graduation interrupted and their lives put on hold. In other departments, students and faculty have had their class sizes arbitrarily increased, with little regard for academic quality, to accommodate the smaller course offerings, and the problems promise to compound themselves in the fall and spring terms because of delays to student graduation.
In a follow-up memorandum dated April 10, the provost appears finally to begin to listen to faculty and students and add some courses, but much unnecessary damage has already been done. Many students have already opted to enroll elsewhere this summer, and faculty summer plans have been disrupted. Faculty and student leaders remain determined to keep the pressure on until their voices are heard.
Monique Paramore, a graduate student in Education who is organizing the protest to be held April 12, also created a petition to FAU administrators at http://www.signon.org/sign/students-in-opposition/. In addition to attracting over 700 signers so far, the petition contains comments from students in numerous programs describing the negative consequences of cancelled courses. Ms. Paramore describes her protest in these terms: “I and several other students are concerned with the university’s decision to cut certain courses necessary to our graduation. On Tuesday the 27th, I created a petition concerning this matter. I currently have 723 signatures and comments. I/we understand the need for certain cuts but I feel that when this decision was made the university failed to take into consideration the differences among departments, the different class schedules, and the specific needs of each program.
I received my undergraduate degree from FAU and have continued to be a dedicated Owl. I am hurt and upset at the way the university has handled this matter. I created this petition to bring attention and awareness to this situation. Even after the petition gained several hundred signatures, the administration refused to answer our questions, listen to our suggestions or simply apologize. So I decided to continue my protest by leading my fellow students in a rally against the course cuts. All I/we want is the opportunity to get some questions answered and to figure out our options as it pertains to future class offerings and graduation. We simply want the chance to suggest other options and to have our voices as well as those of our department leaders heard!”
February 10, 2011. “Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to change the FRS for current state employees is the same as defaulting on those obligations to the employees.”
(February 08, 2011)
By Stanley Smith
As people discuss the Florida Retirement System, they should differentiate between current employees and future employees.
Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal to change the FRS for current state employees is the same as defaulting on those obligations to the employees. Investopedia describes default as follows: “Default occurs when a debtor is unable to meet the legal obligation of debt repayment. Borrowers may default when they are unable to make the required payment or are unwilling to honor the debt.”
The state employees accepted, as part of their compensation, a financial obligation from the state identifying what payments the retirees would receive if they put part of their compensation with the FRS instead of in a defined-contribution plan with different investment companies.
Those employees who chose the FRS did not expect the state to default on its financial obligations to the employees when they were counting on those payments to have some dignity in their retirement years.
Read more at orlandosentinel.com.
December 6, 2010. The fall semester has been positive for FAU in many ways, but stormy weather lies ahead
This week we conclude a very noteworthy semester that has seen the installation of Florida Atlantic University’s new president, Dr. Mary Jane Saunders, the beginning of a search for a new provost, ratification of the 2009-2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University’ Faculty and Trustees, and the renewal of UFF’s Consultation with the President.
Close to 300 Bargaining Unit members cast ballots for ratification, with 97% voting in favor of the new CBA. The Board of Trustees vote was unanimous. And, in mid-November, President Saunders and Interim Provost Diane Alperin met with UFF representatives to discuss several issues of mutual interest proposed for consideration by UFF’s Executive Committee. Matters that both sides saw eye-to-eye on included having at least one faculty-administrator on the BOT’s Bargaining Team that genuinely understands faculty life, as well as establishing a task force to look at ways in which the status of FAU’s instructors might be addressed.
The Consultation with the President, provided for in Article 2 of the CBA, allows for one visit per semester. However, the practice was stopped abruptly several years ago during Frank Brogan’s administration, and the controversy that ensued during and after Mr. Brogan’s departure made it difficult to renew regular meetings. With this in mind, UFF-FAU sees the November meeting as an important step in renewing and strengthening relations between the University’s Faculty and Administration.
FAU faculty will likely need administrative leadership that recognizes the significance of professional autonomy and academic freedom, particularly over the next few years. Faculty members must also be more engaged than in the past, and their voices must be heard regarding FAU’s imminent plans for reorganization, now well underway. In contrast to our recent past, the administration and Trustees are encouraging active involvement in the process. This degree of involvement has never been more important than now, since the forecast for Florida’s higher education system is hardly as rosy as things have been this fall at FAU.
By a narrow margin Florida voters elected Rick Scott as governor, while strong Republican majorities were returned to the state’s legislative chambers. Many of these new leaders are not the moderate Republicans that recently populated the House and Senate–those who appreciated the arguments made by Florida Education Association, United Faculty of Florida, as well as the Board of Governors, that investing in education was tantamount to investing in Florida’s future economic viability. Rather, these individuals will likely be moving to initiate strict programs of “accountability” and “austerity” (read: undermining state employees’ benefits, job security, and professional autonomy), and there’s little reason to believe that such measures will be restricted to K-12 teachers although, as the passage of Senate Bill 6 last spring suggests, they are especially vulnerable.
The available evidence of the new Republican leadership’s extreme agenda for state employees and Florida’s already beleagured education system is not comforting. As Florida Republican Party Chair and State Senator John Thrasher recently remarked, “There is no way in our state right now that the dadgum unions are going to agree with this kind of stuff. So you either bring them to the table and tell them what you’re going to do, or you run over them.” The Republicans’ plans were also recently on display with governor-elect Scott’s appointment of Michelle Rhee to lead the Education Transition Task Force.
The Trustees of Florida’s colleges and universities will also likely be called on to prove their mettle in the fight to dictate workplace conditions in no uncertain terms or, as Senator Thrasher so eloquently put it, to “run over them.” This is because each Trustee’s individual (re)appointment must be approved by the new Republican governor and senate. Therefore, faculty should be vigilant over the next several months on campus matters, as well as those taking place in seemingly distant Tallahassee. Regular updates from Florida Education Association on how the Republican legislature is proceeding will be made available at this website as quickly as they are received.
Faculty members are also encouraged to become more proactive in affairs of faculty governance and observing how the University is managed. Trustees and administrators who see faculty members as detached and uninvolved conclude (perhaps quite rightly) that they care little about their workplace conditions and professional autonomy. At the same time, however, we are also well aware that there are clear limits to what faculty will tolerate, as suggested last spring when the legislature proposed sticking its hands in the FRS cookie jar to balance the budget. There will likely be similar provocations in the coming months, and they will surely come to pass in the 2012 session.
Now more than ever it is time to become involved in the truly independent voice for faculty at FAU and across Florida’s higher education system. It’s time to join UFF and have the piece of mind of standing together as one while we have a profession we are still able to believe in and defend. “We can accomplish together what we cannot accomplish alone.”
September 9, 2010. On overcoming challenges to tenure, truth, and what the profession at FAU is worth.
It is not entirely good form to “toot one’s own horn,” especially when victory or defeat are undecided. Yet if one doesn’t take a bow once the final whistle has sounded those in attendance may not recollect what parties, if any, deserved recognition. This is especially the case for FAU faculty.
To sum things up, it has been we have been through a great deal over the past sixteen months. You will recall that in the spring of 2009 under the tutelage of former Republican Lieutenant Governor and FAU President Frank Brogan, the FAU Board of Trustees spurned a modest salary increase recommended by an impartial arbitrator. “The University can’t afford it,” the already demoralized faculty were told. “After all, times are tough and we all have to pull in our belts.” Also at the time, there seemed to be no prospect of Brogan departing FAU anytime soon. Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s difficult to beat a $340K-per-year gig that comes with free rent.
The following month, as if to add insult to injury, the Brogan administration terminated five tenured faculty members. The firings were justified under a shotgun reorganization of the College of Engineering and Computer Science. In terms of publicity and any semblance of professional decorum, the terminations were a colossal blunder for all involved–including administrators. Less than one week after they occurred, the Faculty Senate held an emergency meeting condemning the actions. A week before they took place, concerned about the administration’s opacity and evasions, I made numerous public records requests to find out more about Engineering’s alleged reorganization and what this meant for faculty in the College and the University as a whole. UFF subsequently filed grievances on behalf of the faculty and chapter, and the entire affair was watched closely by the local press. In two subsequent Trustees’ meetings the Faculty Senate President struck poignant (though arguably too short-lived) stances opposing Engineering’s reorganization.
I also wrote angrily about the salary decision and firings on the “pages” of this blog. Both actions were personal for me as they were for many other faculty members. They were also wrought with professional implications. But to paraphrase a political figure whom I’ve seldom felt much affinity with, Extremism in defense of the profession is no vice. In other words, to accept the severe potential compromises to academic freedom and free association symbolized in these actions would be to turn one’s back on what we as faculty have essentially devoted our professional lives to, regardless of our discipline. And, if the move to render tenure meaningless was not vigorously contested, the damage to the institution would be immense since an FAU faculty position would be perceived as an increasingly empty promise, subject to the unchecked designs of those who are often far-removed from the everyday task of carrying out the University’s instructional and research missions.
Along these lines, another thing that stuck in my craw was the University’s alleged budget crisis–a crisis under which broad reorganization of colleges and departments was proposed (and which may still proceed under somewhat different auspices). There was no question that FAU and other state universities have lost some funding from the state. Yet the University also possesses many millions in reserve assets, stocks, and other securities that could have been utilized to shore up certain shortfalls, particularly as these related to instructional quality, while providing much-needed salary increases for faculty.
My suspicion that something was rotten in the state of Denmark was confirmed in the release of FAU’s 2008-09 Financial Audit, which revealed that when the administration and its attorneys were busy pleading poverty and dismissing tenured professors, FAU’s unrestricted net reserve assets increased by twenty percent. This canard endured through April and May of 2010, when a few professors even proposed forfeiting a portion of their retirement benefits to bolster the University’s coffers. Lo and behold, the following month the sea parted and faculty and staff were informed of potential 3% salary increases.
So, how much has changed since last year? Perhaps a great deal more than we realize (or wish to fully acknowledge in polite company). The five professors who were stripped of their tenure and shown the door have since been given new appointments with their seniority and tenure intact. Because of these actions UFF has chosen not to proceed with filing Unfair Labor Practice charges and a lawsuit to compel arbitration. We may safely conclude that the re-appointment of these professors was done with the prompting of some very “squeaky wheels” from both UFF and a handful of those in faculty governance.
Although painful, the past year’s events also led to a positive outcome in terms of restoring FAU’s leadership and direction; the Board of Trustees embarked on a painstaking process to appoint a new university president. In fact, the Trustees’ lengthy and careful discussion on the final candidates’ merits and drawbacks for FAU should be considered among the University’s finer moments. They acted independently and impartially to conclude the process that at least some of us were skeptical about from the start.
As noted, when the Trustees’ choice took the reins in June there was almost immediate movement on faculty and staff salaries–in other words, an attempt to address what UFF had been pointing to in its newsletter, at the bargaining table, and on this blog for the past three years. We regret that there was not a greater effort to distinguish between the less-well-paid faculty and already highly-compensated administrators. Yet as things proceed further we remain hopeful that this may be a step in the right direction toward not only more equitable corresponding pay scales with our peer institutions, but also renewing and strengthening relations between FAU’s faculty, administrators, and Trustees.
May 1, 2010. Time to hunker down! FAU Administrators appear to be laying groundwork for reorganization and faculty layoffs.
“’Knock-knock-knock!’ Professor Tracy, are you in?” someone calls outside my office door. “Oh, yes,” I reply. “But like most other faculty, I’m hiding underneath my desk, waiting for FAU’s reorganization, where I may or may not find myself booted from the the University plane and careening toward earth with little-if-any parachute.”
These are, after all, tough times, or so we are told. Faculty and staff must once again pull in their belts, our well-compensated leaders tell us. Pay no attention to that pesky 2009 Financial Audit that shows the University’s $20 million increase in unrestricted net assets as it proceeded to terminate tenured faculty. That’s a tidy sum that would easily allow for a much-needed salary increase for Florida’s most poorly paid professors who reside in the state’s highest cost-of-living region. In fact, the administration is moving in the opposite direction, opening what will likely be a costly medical school and anxiously looking to place a whopping $60 million for a football stadium onto the University’s credit card. This is not to mention that administrator positions have grown far beyond those of instructional faculty since the early 2000s.
Augustine once remarked that hope has two beautiful daughters. One is anger and the other is courage. For most FAU faculty faced with the facts yet also demoralized and dealing with “battered faculty syndrome,” it is understandable to be hope-less. In fact, staying underneath one’s desk in these turbulent times certainly isn’t courageous, but it’s not entirely unwise either. Heck, it’s gettin’ ugly out there.
Consider the pronouncements of Interim President John Pritchett, who at a forum on the budget on April 5 told faculty that “layoffs are still on the table.” Such threats will likely be repeated at the May 3rd forum. Last October, however, Pritchett remarked in the College of Arts and Letters Faculty Assembly that if you “were to read a certain blog” (the one you’re presently reading, by the way) you’d think layoffs were right around the corner. What a bunch of alarmists—those union folk! The Interim President continued to emphasize to those gathered that there would be no layoffs. Instead, administrators simply wanted to reorganize the university with the faculty’s helpful feedback and guidance, “from the ground up,” as they say. This was to be a collective “visioning” process, you will recall, done with the assistance of efficiency expert Susan Clemmons–“a fresh set of eyes.” We are now told by the same individual that layoffs are essentially not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
The threat of a substantial reorganization of the University leading to faculty terminations was again expressed in no uncertain terms by Pritchett at the College of Arts and Letters Faculty Assembly on April 23. At that time the faculty from that venerable FTE-generating dynamo—which, given this status, you may also recall , was to be “defended” from such personnel reductions—were told of forthcoming programs where professors would be offered “retirement incentives.” On a less generous note, the President remarked, it would be a priority to allow terminated faculty “more than 30 days notice” to find another job, short-sale their home, pull their children out of school, load up the car and Tom Joad-it out of South Florida. Yes, the unnerving prospect of being wheeled out to the curb is one of many endearing feature of “belonging” to the “FAU family.”
It is probable that such plans for reorganization and additional layoffs have gone forth in stealth form since mid-2009. You may recall that at that time the administration had to back track and regroup after the seriously botched attempt to layoff faculty in the College of Engineering. Not surprisingly, given the University’s considerable resources, administrators miraculously “found” the money to rehire these colleagues and avoid costly extralegal and legal actions. With Pritchett’s probable reappointment as provost it is almost a certainty that this planned reorganization and set of layoffs will be carried out like clockwork by FAU deans. And such a set of events, my dear colleague, may also tell us a great deal about FAU’s new leadership.
If you are an in-unit faculty or staff member I encourage you to review Article 13 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement: Layoffs. This article is by no means perfect. However, it does require that administrators follow certain procedures if layoffs are to take place, the most important of which is the matter of rank and seniority. When administrators and their highly-paid attorneys laid off faculty in Engineering in 2009 they set up bogus “functional units” to get around this element of the CBA. This was obvious even to the casual observer, and may be attempted again, so for the foreseeable future please be especially attuned to any abrupt changes in the organization of your department, unit, and/or college.
The continued planning of any reorganization resulting in layoffs will likely ensue over the summer and be implemented in fall. I encourage you to become a member of UFF-FAU for assistance in the grievance process should that avenue be necessary to protect your position and contest any wrongful termination. Please remember that you need to be a Union member for at least thirty days prior to any incident. If you choose not to go that route and you have reason to believe you may be targeted by the administration for layoff, it may be appropriate in the near future to consult with an attorney who will be able to act swiftly and vigorously on your behalf should such an unfortunate sequence of events come to pass.
See related posts:
March 27, 2010. SB 6 passes Senate while House counterpart HB 7189 begins ascent, Assault on Florida Retirement System stems from legislators’ burning desire to balance budget without raising taxes.
(Received March 26, 2010).
Quote of the week:
“Every success in our public schools is credited to some program with a tortured acronym crafted in the halls of Tallahassee…while every failure is laid at the feet of our hard working teachers,” Senator Charlie Justice (D-St. Petersburg) in Floor debate before casting his vote against SB 6.
Week four of the 2010 legislative session
This is how Week Four started out: “In a galaxy far, far away, a psychopathic emperor and his most trusted servant – a former Jedi Knight known as Darth Vader – are ruling a universe with fear. They have built a horrifying weapon known as the Death Star, a giant battle station capable of annihilating a world in less than a second. When the Death Star’s master plans are captured by the fledgling Rebel Alliance, Vader starts a pursuit of the ship carrying them… the Rebels must quickly find a way to eliminate the Death Star before it is too late!”
Ok, the Star Wars comparison might be a bit over the top… Jeb Bush (the brains behind SB 6) is not a psychopathic emperor and Sen. John Thrasher (RPOF Chair and sponsor of SB 6) is not Darth Vader— and SB 6 and HB 7189 are not the plans for a Death Star. But we could have sworn FEA President Andy Ford and attorney Ron Meyer were a little like Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi wielding light sabers against a never-ending battalion of Storm Troopers… and FEA and the locals are looking a lot like the Rebel Alliance these days!
Next week will be a short week for the Legislature due to observance of religious holidays. The Senate and the House will be in session on Wednesday and Thursday to pass the budget bills. We’ll let you know how that goes in next week’s Frontline.
In this issue:
SB 6 passes Senate – starts House journey as HB 7189
The venomous SB 6 sponsored by the chair of the Republican Party of Florida, Sen. John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville) went to the floor of the Senate this week for a full Senate vote. The bill passed by a vote of 21 to 17.
Voting against the bill were Senators:
Aronberg (D-Greenacres), Bullard (D-Miami), Dean (R-Inverness), Dockery (R-Lakeland), Deutch (D-Delray Beach), Gelber (D-Miami Beach), Hill (D-Jacksonville), Jones (R-Seminole), Joyner (D-Tampa), Justice (D-St. Petersburg), Lawson (D-Tallahassee), Ring (D-Margate), Smith (D-Oakland Park), Siplin (D-Orlando), Sobel (D-Hollywood), Villalobos (R-Miami), Wilson (D-Miami) (Sen. Nan Rich was absent this week).
The House version – now filed as HB 7189 — was heard in the House Education PreK-12 committee on Thursday – passing by a vote of 9 to 6. Republican Rep. Mike Weinstein (Jacksonville) was the lone Republican casting his vote against the bill with the Democrats. The next stop for this bill has yet to be determined – it could go straight to a full vote of the House or it could be referred to a committee or two, or it could sit in limbo as a negotiating tool for the House to get something in return from the Senate.
SB 6 and HB 7189:
· Eliminates due process and places all new teachers on annual contracts – these contracts may be non-renewed for any reason or no reason without recourse.
· Permits non-renewal of a teaching certificate if a teacher cannot demonstrate student learning gains in 4 of the preceding 5 years.
· Links learning gains —measured by a means yet to be determined and end of course exams that don’t yet exist— to teacher pay and recertification. Performance appraisals will be required to be based upon 50% student learning gains.
· Prohibits recognition of years of service or advanced degrees in determining teacher salaries.
· Ensures that the National Board Certified Teacher program will end in Florida by requiring individuals to be NBCT certified by July 1, 2010 and stipulates that bonuses will be paid if funding is available and if they are continuously employed in a public school.
· Ends college grant and loan forgiveness programs for critical need areas.
· Will lop off 5% of districts’ state funding to be held for performance pay, but first the funds will be used to develop the tests and processes to determine learning gains. It amounts to about $900 – 950 million. In essence, all teachers are paying for the cost of test development and performance awards which may become due under SB 6.
· Shifts more and more control away from local school districts to the state, removes local decision-making by elected school boards or through collective bargaining on matters which relate to wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment.
· Carves out any school district receiving $75 million or more in private grants so they are exempt from complying with the provisions of the bill until July 1, 201.6
In previous alerts and Frontlines, we did not adequately thank those who testified against SB 6/HB7189 – they all did a fantastic job! Our thanks to:
· Ron Meyer for his impassioned testimony against the many ill-conceived premises of SB 6
· Rich Templin from the Florida AFL-CIO speaking as a parent against the bill
· Candace Gautney – a 5th grade Science teacher from Ruediger Elementary School in Tallahassee
· Melissa Olson – a 5th grade Writing teacher from Ruediger Elementary School
· Jennifer Barnhill who teachers in Tallahassee at the PACE Alternative Center, Special Education/Emotionally Handicapped
· Jason Flom from Cornerstone Learning Community
· UTD President Karen Aronowitz and her many members who were part of UTD’s Target Tallahassee group
· The many teachers and parents who turned in speaker cards to the committee from all around the state, but we were not able to get all their names
There is no way to adequately describe what they said and the intellectual and emotional impact their words had on that committee and those who sat in the audience!
SJR 2 Class Size passes Senate
The Senate passed SJR 2 – the 2010 legislative scheme to renege on class size reduction. The House version HJR 7039 could be placed on the House session calendar at any time. A 3/5 vote of the full body (all 40 members), or 24 votes was required for passage of SJR 2 to place the proposal on the November 2010 ballot. The final vote was 26 to 12; one Democrat voted for the Amendment – Senator Ring (D-Margate) with the Republicans… and one Republican – Sen. Alex Villalobos (R-Miami) voted against the bill with the Democrats. Note: two Democrats were absent – Rich and Bullard.
Voting against SJR 2 were Senators:
Aronberg (D-Greenacres), Deutch (D-Delray Beach), Gelber (D-Miami Beach), Hill (D-Jacksonville), Joyner (D-Tampa), Justice (D-St. Petersburg), Lawson (D-Tallahassee), Smith (D-Oakland Park), Siplin (D-Orlando), Sobel (D-Hollywood), Villalobos (R-Miami), Wilson (D-Miami) (Sen. Nan Rich was absent this week).
The proposed amendment would keep class-size caps at the school average and then allow schools to add three extra students in the kindergarten to 3rd grade level and five extra students at grades four through 12.
Here’s what the bill could do to our classrooms:
· In 2002-03 Pre-K-3 averaged 23 students. Now 16 students. If the amendment passes classes may have 21 students.
· In 2002-03 Grades 4–8 averaged 24 students. Now 19 students. If the amendment passes classes may have 27 students.
· In 2002-03 Grades 8-12 averaged 24 students. Now 22 students. If the amendment passes classes may have 30 students.
That moves past the sought-after “flexibility” right on over to “gutting” the class-size provisions voters approved eight years ago.
Retirement bills starting to move
As the 2010 Legislative Session begins to hit its full pace, we’re starting to see only a few of the 29 filed retirement related bills – plus a few more committee bills – pick up traction. The really bad bill HB 1319 has fallen by the wayside – although we have to be on the lookout for any of its provisions popping up in other bills through the amendment process.
These changes to FRS are prompted by the legislature’s burning desire to find more ways to balance the state budget without raising taxes. As you well know, to balance the budget over the past 3 years they have been making huge cuts to state funding for education, public safety and human services … the one thing they haven’t touched is – you guessed it – the Florida Retirement System (FRS). So get ready for another promise to be broken by our elected leaders. Here’s a quick rundown on one moving through the process:
SB 2022 by Sen. J.D. Alexander (R-Lake Wales) was voted out of the Senate Ways & Means Committee Thursday. FEA opposes this bill. The bill changes the FRS from a non-contributory system to a contributory system by requiring each active member of the FRS to contribute 0.25% of gross salary to fund retirement benefits, effective January 1, 2011.
This bill impacts every active member of the FRS, the Senior Management Service Optional Annuity Program, the State University Optional Retirement Program and the Community College Optional Retirement Program.
Senators voting in opposition to the bill were: Gelber, Hill, Justice, Lawson, Lynn, Sobel, Wilson, and Deutch.
This contribution rate applies to both FRS defined benefit plan participants and investment plan participants. Public testimony in opposition to the bill emphasized the points that the 0.25% contribution rate is merely the camel’s nose under the tent, and the employee contribution will, in effect, be a tax free loan to the state.
After Sen. Evelyn Lynn (R-Daytona Beach) asked the bill sponsor “what does this bill do for teachers?” Alexander responded: “It requires them to make a 0.25% of gross pay towards their FRS retirement plan which means that if they make $45,000 per year, their annual contribution would total $112; and if they make $75,000 per year, their annual contribution would total $187.50.”
Senator Gaetz (R-Niceville) insisted that this was the only way to raise funds to make FRS actuarially sound. Senator Alexander replied that he wished they didn’t have to make these tough decisions — but the Legislature has to balance the budget.
Member lobbyists visiting Tallahassee
Big thank you to all our visiting member lobbyists! It was quite a week! If this was their first time in Tallahassee they certainly got a view of the legislative process they won’t soon forget! Thanks to: Alachua, Brevard, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Lake, Leon, Martin, Orange, Pasco and Pinellas!
Questions? Call FEA Public Policy Advocacy at 850.224.2078
Thanks to all those who contributed to this report: Debi McDaniel, Pat Dix, Kevin Watson, and Ron Meyer.
Thursday, March 18, 2010, 4:05 PMDear Colleague:
Legislative leaders are moving rapidly to pass a bill, HB 1319 (Grady), that could cut your Florida Retirement System pension in half. By changing rules about how pensions are calculated, they can cut your average yearly pension from $30,000 to $15,000, for example. Tell your legislators to vote against HB 1319.
(See pdf of HB 1319 below for details.)
Legislators are also preparing to destroy tenure (continuing contracts) for K-12 teachers when they vote on Senate bill 6. (See link to FEA analysis of SB 6 below.) This bill abolishes continuing contracts for teachers (earned after a probationary period), places them on annual contracts, and makes both reappointment and pay raises contingent on test scores of students. School boards will actually be punished in funding if they pay teachers more for earning advanced degrees rather than rewarding teachers for test scores of students. Tell your legislators to vote against SB 6.
Over time, the economic effect of SB 6 will be to eliminate graduate programs in education when funding is taken away for advanced degrees, and make it impossible to adequately fund undergraduate education degrees by imposing unfunded mandates (expensive reporting mechanisms) to check on test scores of graduates. In other words, it is an attack on the funding and potential enrollment in public universities and colleges at the same time that it is an attack on teacher tenure and professional achievement. It severely jeopardizes recruitment of both faculty and teachers when legislators strip away professional compensation and restrict the academic freedom of educators by abolishing tenure.
Moreover, if legislators abolish tenure for K-12 now and get away with it without resistance, we can expect higher education will be next — losing tenure and finding ourselves subjected to the latest testing scheme to decide if we have the professional standing to continue. Contact legislators now to stop attacks on the conditions of employment of educators. The loss of professional standards now will make it impossible for us to retain and recruit both teachers and faculty in the future.
President, United Faculty of FloridaClick here to view pdf of HB1319 (Grady)Click here to link to FEA analysis of SB 6.Read and Sign Defend Tenure Now Petition, by Henry Thomas, UFF-UNF President
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