Using Florida’s merit-based pay legislation as an example, Peter Licari reflects on the importance of actually reading legislation that affects us.
By Peter Licari
The United States has experienced a multitude of societal issues which have sparked debate and instigated protest. Our nation has wrestled with the most poignant problems humanity has ever faced. From tackling sexual inequality to defining what it means to be a free and equal regardless of nationality and creed. Now, our issues have primarily boiled down into economic circumstance. Although it is not a new occurrence (our nation has been on the brink of bankruptcy a handful of times before), it remains our primary policy shaper as we move onward in the 21st century.
These monetary issues have instigated a new round of discord which primarily resides in the public sector. State legislatures in all corners of the nation have been pushing new policies with the intent to improve society and our fiscal foot print. Of course, there comes a point where financial “responsibility” results in social degeneration. It is fatal line to cross and it is one which has been guarded, traditionally, by the unionized layman.
Historically, it was the responsibility of such individuals to protect the common workers from the avarice of often malevolent multi-million dollar corporations in conjunction with the government which constantly (and falsely) claimed to represent and speak for its constituents. They have been the instigators of benevolent social revolution and change, and for their actions we and our posterity should show a great deal of gratitude.
Here now arises the issue that weighs more upon our future generations then our own: education. Across the Union, state governments have now been setting their sights on improving education in terms of quality and cost. The primary legislative base for such action tends to center around the idea of merit-based pay for teachers. The words conjure images of standardized testing and, depending on political affiliation, either brilliant success or a conflagrations of failure.
The media and party leaders paint black and white portraits of a world with or without bills of this nature, yet it is an ineffective picture. This world, in all of its aspects, is not monochromatic; it is not a land of black and white but a ocean of glorious shades. The simplistic dualism presented to us is merely rhetoric geared towards favoritism and eventual re-election. The truth is much less evil — and similarly, much less of a panacea — than either party will lead us to believe.
Florida has the distinction of being the most recent state to mandate merit-based pay for educators, the bill being approved by Governor Rick Scott on March 16th. Predictably, the 37 page bill has sparked heated debates across the state. While debate and discord are necessary for the advancement of an intelligent culture, the proper facts are necessary to relevant conversation. Such specifics are hidden behind stone walls of partisanship and the extremes those barriers represent terrify a populous genuinely concerned with the welfare of our future generations.
The unabridged truth, that which can annihilate any politically-based obscurity, lies in the text of the actual legislation; and it shows that much of what we have to fear is purely unfounded.
Thousands worry about instructors teaching only to standardized tests and thus compromising the education of our youth. However, the bill mandates that in order for a teacher to be considered competent they must adequately teach all aspects of a curriculum; not just what the test will examine. Similarly, educators fear leaving the future of their jobs in the hands of a class who, frankly, may not care to give enough effort into advancing into a new percentile. Yet, the bill mandates that a formula be created which not only judges a teacher based on their professional performance, but which also takes the disciplinary history and relative resolve of the student population into account.
Others still fear that this is giving too much power to the state government when each individual county performs on different educational wavelengths, but the bill actually grants a large amount of power to the local school boards and administrators. Pay for teachers is not to be cut by a tremendous amount, but they are actually given several opportunities to prove themselves worthy of pay raises: all while saving the tax-payers money in the long term.
While this is not the entire list of solved misconceptions, these examples epitomize the true nature of this merit-based revolution. Beneath the often false-truths, the damning rhetoric, and the political fog-screens lie the complexity of actuality. The facts are there and reality is oftentimes not the simple debauchery our media (conservative, liberal, and otherwise) will lead us to believe. It is there for us to discover ourselves, because we are the common man, the guardians of our collective future. It is time for us to take responsibility, read the legislation which affects us for ourselves, and engage in the necessary debates which will undoubtedly advance our society to the next issue to be resolved — all for the benefit our ourselves and our posterity.
Guest Author Bio
Peter Licari has been published by A Word with You Press and has co-authored a piece which has recently appeared in National Surveyor. He lives in Chuluota, Florida with his dog, Buster.
Teachers and other opponents of the merit pay legislation protest in a walk from Lee Middle School to the CTA/OESPA office in Orlando on April 8, 2010. (JACOB LANGSTON, ORLANDO SENTINEL / April 8, 2010)
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