Florida’s teacher unions have played a central role in the debate about how best to improve schools.
The Florida Education Association has organized political opposition to Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed budget cuts in the spring of 2011. The group also fought bills, which later became law, stripping teacher tenure and requiring public employees take a three percent pay cut to fund pensions.
The group is now challenging the pay cuts in court.
Florida teachers have a protection other states do not enjoy — a constitutional right to unionize. Stripping collective bargaining rights would require a three-fifths majority of both legislators and voters in order to amend the state constitution.
But unions are also essential to efforts intended to improve Florida schools.
State law requires school districts design systems to evaluate teachers and pay bonuses to the highest-rated teachers. Unions in Hillsborough and Miami-Dade counties have been central in building support for merit pay among teachers critical of the concept.
Researchers have concluded teacher support for merit pay programs are critical for those programs to improve student performance.