Orlando Democratic Sen. Darren Soto has introduced a bill establishing a minimum salary of $50,000 for all "instructional personnel."
Beginning teachers would earn at least a $50,000 salary – starting next school year – under a bill filed this week in Tallahassee.
Sen. Darren Soto (D-Orlando) filed the bill, SB 280, which cites a need for the state to attract and retain teachers. It seeks to increase their pay without affecting other personnel and programs.
Lawmakers would have to put enough money into education to guarantee the minimum starting salary for teachers and to ensure that districts have enough money to maintain other services. The base salary would be adjusted each year for inflation.
The bill doesn’t explain how lawmakers should come up with the money to boost all of those salaries. It makes no mention of teacher evaluations – which impact salaries. It also doesn’t say whether experienced teachers would get a pay increase since beginners would be bumped up considerably.
While the starting pay varies among districts, the state Department of Education says the average salary among all Florida teachers for the 2013-2014 school year was $47,780.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says the average salary for all Florida workers is just over $41,000.
Maureen Yoder addresses students at the School of Arts and Sciences in Tallahassee.
The School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) in Tallahassee has just over 300 students, and the waiting list to get in is much longer.
Maureen Yoder is one of the founders of the 15-year-old K-8 charter school.
“We started this school with the intent of keeping it small because we want to create a school family,” Yoder says. “We believe that the relationship between the teacher and the students is the primary reason students succeed – besides a good home base.”
This is sixth grader Mary Stafford’s first year.
“I think I’ll stay. I didn’t want to at the beginning of the year. I wanted to go to a bigger school.”
The Florida Standards Assessment replaces the FCAT. Students will take the test online.
“Opt Out” groups are pushing back against what they say is too much standardized testing in Florida. The tests are changing as the state transitions to Florida Standards - an offshoot of the Common Core standards being implemented around the country.
Two-dozen groups have been formed at the district level to help parents learn the procedure for opting their students out of the tests.
By following a specific procedure (which may vary depending on the district), the student’s test is invalidated. The result is that the student doesn’t fail, school grades and teacher pay aren’t impacted, and the district is forced to find an alternative means of assessing what the student has learned.
Cindy Hamilton, co-founder of Opt Out Orlando, talked with StateImpact Florida’s Gina Jordan about why she wants an end to so much testing and what she’d like to see happen instead.
Althea Valle teaches a class of ELL's. She says of the new federal requirement, "I think it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the schools to get these kids where we think they should be."
A 10th grader born in Haiti struggles to read in his class at Godby High School in Tallahassee. The student is more comfortable with Haitian Creole than English. Teacher Althea Valle has students of various nationalities trying to master the language.
“It’s a challenge,” Valle says. “There’s a lot of gesturing, and you know sometimes I feel like I’m onstage and sometimes I have to be onstage to make myself understood.”
Valle is the ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) coordinator for Leon County schools. Her developmental language class is offered as an elective for students who want the extra help, like Anas Al-Humiari from Yemen. His native language is Arabic, and he’s been studying English for 5 years.
“First of all, the words are the main things that get me down and the time, me trying to understand the sentence and what is the article or text actually means,” Al-Humiari says, trying to find the right words.
The ACLU is worried single-gender classes might reinforce stereotypes of the 1950s.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed federal complaints against school districts in Broward, Hernando, Hillsborough and Volusia counties over the use of all-girls or all-boys classes. The ACLU wants the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights to investigate the programs.
StateImpact Florida’s Gina Jordan spoke with Galen Sherwin, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, about the complaints.
Q: Galen, what do the complaints say?
A: Schools shouldn’t be in the business of making crude judgments of children’s educational needs based solely on whether they’re a boy or a girl – that’s the definition of sex discrimination.
They’re using different teaching methods, environments and even curricula.
Reinaldo Camacho finished his two-year degree from Miami Dade College while he was still in high school. He's the first member of his family to pursue post-secondary education.
Sixty students from the Hialeah area will graduate from high school this month like thousands of others in Florida, but these students have done something especially remarkable.
They’ll receive their high school diplomas almost a month after graduating from Miami Dade College.
The students took advantage of the dual-enrollment programs offered at Mater Academy and Mater Lakes Academy. These are publicly funded charter schools that operate independently of the district.
Both campuses have large immigrant populations.
“They’re located in Hispanic, working-class, low-income neighborhoods in Miami,” says Lynn Norman-Teck with the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools. “So the administrators really started pushing dual enrollment more as a cost saving program for these kids because they could get a lot of college credits out of the way.”
Senate President Don Gaetz sat down with StateImpact Florida to talk about some of the biggest education issues for lawmakers this spring, including what kind of test will replace the FCAT.
Q: Florida is in the process of implementing Common Core standards. The state still hasn’t determined how students will be assessed on what they’ve learned. Plus, you still have critics who say this a national take over of education. You’ve said you would not support legislation to repeal common core. But are there any plans to change it this year?
A: When you look at materials used to teach students, that’s where some of the criticism has come in. So there’s legislation that would make clear that the selection of instructional materials is up to the local school board.
“With the idea that children all learn differently, this is a way that we can provide those parents – that don’t have the resources to send their students to a private school or a parochial school that has a gender specific setting – a local public school where they have access to it,” Diaz said.
A handful of public schools around the state already have single sex classrooms.
“They’re great standards. They’re higher level standards. They’re common sense,” Ford said. “They allow teachers and students to dive deep into the subject matter as opposed to covering a variety of issues very, very thinly.”
But he’d like more time for students and teachers to make the transition.
“Teachers are going to have to have time to retool absolutely everything they’ve been doing because these standards are so much better,” Ford said, “but they’re higher level and they require different ways of teaching.”