UFF-FAU

United Faculty of Florida-Florida Atlantic University Chapter

  • Sep
    14
    September 14, 2011. United Faculty of Florida readies “to fight the changes in how [professors and higher ed professionals will be] expected to do their jobs,” Frank Brogan continues to trumpet his support for plan

    Source: Chronicle of Higher Ed (09/13/11)

    By Audrey Williams June

    In Florida, college professors, presidents and lawmakers are preparing for a vigorous debate about faculty performance, pay, and productivity.

    That’s because Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has made it clear that he’s looking toward Texas for ideas on how to revamp higher education in his state. In Texas, a controversial plan—backed by Gov. Rick Perry, another Republican, and his allies—proposes to do more to measure faculty productivity, emphasizes teaching over research, and advocates paying faculty members based on their effectiveness.

    Governor Scott, who has spoken publicly in recent weeks about his interest in the Texas proposal, hasn’t yet talked specifics about which pieces of that plan he would push lawmakers to adopt. But he’s actively soliciting feedback on Texas’s “Seven Breakthrough Solutions,” which was written by the Austin-based Texas Public Policy Foundation, a research institute. Just a few of the solutions have been adopted, most of them at Texas A&M University.

    Governor Scott has shared the plan with enough people, including the chancellor of the state university system, the appointees he has made to college governing boards, and the presidents of Florida’s 11 public colleges, to jump-start what is sure to be a lengthy conversation about what kinds of changes should be made.

    The governor’s spokesman, Lane Wright, said that there is no plan in place to make changes in higher education in Florida and that Governor Scott has simply been “talking about his ideas” as a way to generate discussion on the matter. The governor has had no formal talks at this point with legislators about ways to overhaul the system, Mr. Wright said.

    It isn’t yet clear how much traction the governor’s higher-education ideas will get in Florida, but people are taking the push to revamp higher education in the state seriously. The union that represents about 20,000 public university professors and professionals in Florida is gearing up to fight the changes in how they’re expected to do their jobs, which, they say, would ultimately drive talented faculty away from Florida colleges. The Texas-style higher-education proposals are also expected to be discussed during the next legislative session, which begins in January.

    A Counterproposal
    In a move to counter what he saw as major shortcomings of the Texas solutions, a Florida university president has created a detailed alternative, which he calls “Florida Can Do Better Than Texas.”

    Eric J. Barron, president of Florida State University, said he came up with the alternative plan after reading a copy of the Texas plan sent to him by Governor Scott. “My immediate thought was that we can do better,” Mr. Barron said. “I took each of the proposed Texas solutions and did an analysis and then I thought about how they could be stronger.”

    The governor has asked for a copy of the plan, said Mr. Barron, who shared his ideas with his trustees last week.

    Mr. Barron said his plan (which offers eight solutions, instead of seven) ensures that colleges are held responsible for their students’ success, while allowing colleges in the state to “still be on the cutting edge.”

    For instance, the Texas solutions focus on measuring the productivity and effectiveness of faculty by how many students they teach, how highly they are rated on student evaluations, and how many A’s and B’s they award to students. Critics say the Texas model wants colleges to operate like businesses that offer degrees as their main product. But such metrics, Mr. Barron said, could have unintended consequences, among them larger classes that could limit learning and faculty’s pandering to students to positively influence student evaluations.

    A better way to measure efficiency, according to Mr. Barron’s plan, is to look at freshman retention and graduation rates, survey students about their university experience after graduation, test them for how much they know about a subject before and after a course, and calculate cost per student per credit hour. Among other elements of Mr. Barron’s plan are an emphasis on performance-based pay and less weight on student evaluations as a litmus test for awarding tenure.

    Mr. Barron, who is scheduled to discuss his plan at the Faculty Senate meeting this month at Florida State, said he hopes his ideas “start a discussion about what we could do differently in Florida.”

    “My belief is that this plan will get improved as it goes along,” he said, “and hopefully what will emerge is an even stronger document that we can talk about.”

    No Room for Debate?
    But some professors are concerned that the window to discuss the pros and cons of the Texas plan is a narrow one, if it exists at all. The governor’s consistent promotion of the Texas ideas as a possible template doesn’t bode well, they said.

    “He’s already finished the conversation all by himself,” said Tom Auxter, president of the United Faculty of Florida and a professor of philosophy at the University of Florida. Mr. Auxter wrote a letter to union members last week that outlined several challenges the union expects to face when the legislative session begins anew, including the likely reintroduction of bills that would make it harder for public employees to keep their union going. Yet, Mr. Auxter wrote: “The most ominous threat to higher education comes from the governor.”

    “Faculty are talking about this across the state,” Mr. Auxter said in an interview of the governor’s push to consider the Texas ideas in Florida. They’re not against a plan that tries to increase efficiency since it’s clear that “we don’t have enough money to go around,” he said. But at the root of critics’ worry, just as in Texas, is how that efficiency will be achieved.

    “The ideas are often general ideas that people may or may not agree with,” Mr. Auxter said of the Texas plan. “But when you look at the implementation, all the duplicity is in the details.”

    Mr. Auxter and others say that a key component of the Texas solution, its merit-pay plan, would push professors away from Florida colleges. Under the Texas plan, faculty who are top-notch teachers would be given a bonus, but that amount, Mr. Auxter says, would not be added to the base pay that professors get. So the salaries of high-performing faculty wouldn’t increase over the long run.

    Faculty will say, “‘I’m going to have this salary for the rest of my life,’” Mr. Auxter said. “You need people who are on the cutting edge in their research and can teach well. They’re saying you don’t have to invest in talent.”

    Mr. Auxter added that “I think we’re going to have to fight this all year long.”

    Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, has met with Governor Scott to discuss the changes the governor has in mind for higher education. Mr. Brogan was not available for comment, according to his spokeswoman. However, he told the News Service of Florida last month that he supports “accountability-based funding,” and thinks that scrutinizing the quality of programs is key. He also acknowledged how fast-moving—and divisive—discussions about overhauling higher education were in Texas and he hopes talks about the issue will take a different tone in Florida, the news service reported.

    The Board of Governors, which oversees public colleges in the state, meets Thursday, and Mr. Brogan is on the agenda. Kelly Layman, a spokeswoman, said Mr. Brogan will give a report, during which he will weigh in on the talk surrounding potential changes in Florida’s higher education system, and will also lead a discussion on national trends in higher education.

    “The Florida Board of Governors is excited that this dialogue is occurring in the context of work it has dedicated itself to the past 18 months on updating our strategic plan through 2025,” Ms. Layman said in an e-mail. “We will build whatever additional performance metrics to our existing annual report the board feels are necessary.”

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  • Mar
    27

    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

    SJR 2 Class Size passes Senate

    Retirement bills starting to move

    Member lobbyists visiting Tallahassee

    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.

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  • Mar
    19

    Thursday, March 18, 2010, 4:05 PM

    Dear 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.

    Sincerely,

    Tom Auxter
    President, United Faculty of Florida

    Click 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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