Putting Education Reform To The Test

Why Florida Is Not Likely to Pick A Fight With Unions This Year

Scott Olson / Getty News Images

Teachers and other union members camped out at the Wisconsin state house last year to protest a law stripping collective bargaining rights.

What a difference an election can make.

Last year Legislatures across the country – buoyed by a Tea Party sweep in 2010 elections — challenged teachers and other public employee unions over their ability to collectively bargain pay and other benefits. Florida Gov. Rick Scott wanted to limit collective bargaining in his initial 20-page education plan.

The battle was nationwide news in Wisconsin and later in the year in Ohio, where voters easily overturned a state law stripping collective bargaining rights for public employees.

That fight doesn’t appear to be coming to Florida this year, according to an education expert who previously advocated the legislation.

Patricia Levesque, director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, said she’s heard no talk of trying to strip collective bargaining rights in the Legislature this year.

“I don’t,” Levesque said when asked if she thought the issue would come up in the Legislative session that opened Tuesday. “I haven’t heard that the collective bargaining issue will come up.”

Levesque supported the idea as recently as August.

The issue is more complicated in Florida than other states because collective bargaining is a constitutional right. That means lawmakers would have to challenge all public employee unions — including politically popular professions such as law enforcement.

It also means that a supermajority of lawmakers and voters must approve a constitutional amendment.

Scott has struggled with low approval ratings since taking office a year ago, and has recently changed his approach toward schools by advocating for $1 billion in additional funding. Some suggest Scott’s support for schools is politically motivated.

Lawmakers are completing their once-every-ten years redistricting and dealing with a $2 billion budget shortfall. Florida is also hosting a possibly decisive Republican presidential primary at the end of January.

Add that all up and even advocates say collective bargaining is a fight best left for another day.


  • LBL

    Since Gov. Scott’s ratings are the lowest in the country, I’m guessing his agenda his strictly politically motivated and has no basis in what is best for the people of Florida. I do not trust him one iota!

    • Tracey

      It’s extremely tough to change one’s first opinion of some one. Scott went in gung-ho on
      cutting budgets, when all he did was cut people’s throats. Now that it’s election year all of a sudden Mr. Egghead(sorry, couldn’t stop myself) is changing his mind about his cuts. Why didn’t he do his his homework first? Now he wants people to believe that he’s going to make changes for the people? I still don’t understand why someone would spend all of that money(that could have helped Florida as a charitable contribution some way) to get elected governor for a governor’s salary. Can anyone explain the reasoning behind that to me? Is he like Trump? Has to be in the limelight for whatever reason. So he’ll go down in the history books…just like George W. Bush..the lowest ratings in history. I agree, he cannot be trusted!

  • Anonymous

    It’s certainly a touchy issue, and as you saw in Ohio, if you’re too aggressive in your approach, things can backfire quickly (http://eng.am/z3xDfA). That said, looking into public sector compensation is vital to sustained economic harmony. Some of the trends we’ve seen recently are simply unsustainable. During the recession, while private sector compensation expectedly struggled, public sector compensation rose (http://bit.ly/pn5weF).

    If you continue to ignore this problem you’re bound to only exacerbate the problem. Rhode Island was on the brink of total insolvency due to a total lack of foresight in managing their pension fund (http://nyti.ms/wn7HlE).

    Florida may not want to be gung-ho like Wisconsin or Ohio, but avoiding the problem will only lead to larger problems in the long term.

    • Anonymous


      Great response, thanks.

      Do you think public sector compensation has declined since that Manhattan Institute report was written because of the end of federal stimulus funding? Some school districts (Marion, Seminole) are expecting the next school year will be their toughest for budget decisions.

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