Teacher Firing Rhee is Celebrity to Florida Lawmakers

Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle  Rhee on Wednesday pressed Florida lawmakers to abolish tenure and fire ineffective teachers in the state’s quest to overhaul its education system.

** FILE ** In this July 17, 2008 file photo, Washington Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Education and Labor Committee. Just a year on the job, Rhee is making bold changes as she tries to accomplish what six would-be reformers in the past decade could not: rescue one of the nation's most dysfunctional school districts. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Tallahassee, FL - Former D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee on Wednesday pressed Florida lawmakers to abolish tenure and fire ineffective teachers in the state’s quest to overhaul its education system.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate met Wednesday with Rhee as they prepare to vote on legislation that would change how teachers are paid, partially basing salary bumps on test scores and allowing school boards to put new hires on one-year contracts.

The proposal, a controversial part of Republican lawmakers’ agenda, ran into enormous opposition from teachers last spring and was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist.

The Florida Senate Prek-12 Education Committee started to take testimony on the bill Wednesday and will continue Thursday for five hours, culminating with a vote on the bill, it’s first in a legislative committee this year. The panel’s chairman, and bill sponsor, Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, acknowledged there’s still plenty of work to do on the bill. Lawmakers worked through several amendments Wednesday.

“We just have the skeleton and not the bones and meat on it,” Wise said.

Wise and other legislative leaders invited Rhee, who now serves as an informal adviser to Gov. Rick Scott, to testify before the Senate committee and the House PreK-20 Competitiveness Subcommittee. Lawmakers gave her celebrity treatment and asked for her advice on how best to make over Florida’s schools, despite the state’s recent No. 5 ranking in Education Week.

Rhee wasn’t impressed with that ranking – because it was limited in scope.

“No. 5 in this nation? This nation is not where we need to be in the global marketplace,” Rhee said.

Rhee gained fame, admirers and plenty of enemies in her attempt to shake up the D.C. public schools under former Mayor Adrian Fenty, who lost his re-election bid this fall. She fired long-serving public school teachers who she thought were not performing well and pushed a plan that gave high performing teachers more money if they agreed to give up tenure.
This week, however, an independent arbiter told D.C. public schools that they must rehire 75 teachers that Rhee fired because the district had not properly informed the teachers of why they were being dismissed. Rhee said she is confident that the decision will be overturned.

Some teachers are still wary of Wise’s proposal, noting that attempts around the state and country to create a fair way to measure teachers performance have failed.

Patricia Gardner, the president of Sarasota Classified Teachers’ Association, admitted to teachers that she has been excited about the concept of merit pay for teachers, but has not seen a quality assessment system that would treat teachers fairly. If lawmakers push ahead with an inadequate system, the “best ones [teachers] will leave the state and they won’t come back,” she said.

“I guess what I’m here to ask you, and I hate to be rude, but don’t screw it up,” she said.

The Senate PreK-12 Education Committee meets at 1 p.m. Thursday to continue testimony and vote on the bill.

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  • by Anonymous on Feb 10, 2011 at 12:15 PM
    The teachers should be graded on wether or not the kids in their class progresses. If they come into the class below grade level and leave below grade level, then the teacher is not doing a very good job. You can take attendence into account. If the child isnt' in class much, you dont count that child in the group, but you do go after the parents with the laws on the books and charge them, not just slap their wrist. Wether or not the child progresses can be measured in all the schools. you can test them at the end of every year and keep up with their progress. When I was in school, we done testing every year. The schools knew how we were progressing. We need to go back to seperating the kids to, why have slow or low learners in the same class with the high acheivers?? it only holds back the faster learning kids. Go back to having advance classes, average classes and slow learning classes. Get the polical correctness out of the schools and out of everything else.
  • by Anon on Feb 10, 2011 at 08:27 AM
    Yes other jobs are "performance" based...coaching/sports, you are coaching athletes at the top of their game who were motivated to be the best before any interaction with the coach so of course they will follow the instructions of the coach without problems....paving roads, parking lots are based on your own motivation and desire, you don't have 30-100 different personalities to deal with all with different learning styles and different motivation levels. No matter how great a teacher is if the student doesn't want to learn and is not in school on a consistent basis to grasp the material they will never be recognized as an accomplished teacher until they move to schools with bright and motivated students with supportive parents.
  • by if Location: fl on Feb 10, 2011 at 07:48 AM
    grace tall.please look around preformance base pay is used in many jobs,sales.sports,coaching,laying cable per feet.paving roads,parking lots,and many outher jobs that you do not want to think of.
  • by Alice Location: crawfordville on Feb 10, 2011 at 07:47 AM
    Rhee, you go girl, George Washington has said this over 221 yrs ago. Wake up America
  • by teachers has a hard job. Location: usa on Feb 10, 2011 at 06:17 AM
    i would say she is right.BUT some of the childrens parents should step up to the plate. i cant imagin what it is like trying to teach some of these children. it looks like we are going to have to put military style guards in our school system. the children are out of control. they are gang connected. drug dealing useing parents. afriend of mine son in the 4th grade said some of them were selling crack in school.
  • by Anon on Feb 10, 2011 at 06:03 AM
    I don't know about other cites but in Tally there is such a huge difference in schools. How can you properly rate the performance of a 7th grade teacher at Nims compared to a teacher at Swift Creek? Or a 2nd grade teacher at Bond compared to Killearn Elem. On paper it may appear that the Killearn or Swift Creek teacher well surpasses the others. How will they factor in economics, student environment and motivation, availability of school resources? This will cause ALL teachers (good or bad) to only accept positions at schools with thriving and motivated students. It's so much easier to teach a bright, motivated child but does that mean you are a superior teacher. Should teacher be penalized because they choose to work in schools where parent involvement is low, poverty is high, and resources are scarce? Until all schools in a district are more in line with each other, this Bill will do more harm than good.
  • by truth Location: fl on Feb 10, 2011 at 05:52 AM
    Rhee is a great speaker for education in florida and our kids,but the teachers and their unions hate her.give our kids vouchers and get out of the way stop holding them back.
  • by Anon on Feb 10, 2011 at 05:36 AM
    Of course the Florida legislature want to fire teachers, how else can they keep the money for themselves and keep the people stupid enough to reelect them. It's a win-win for them!
  • by why??? Location: tally on Feb 10, 2011 at 05:34 AM
    Why would any young person even want to teach in Florida after this yahoo gets through with the system? We may see a shortage of new teachers period. What good will it do to create a new eval system and put teachers on 1 year contracts if you have no teachers to choose from?
  • by dog Location: gone on Feb 10, 2011 at 04:26 AM
    Fire the PARENTS for kids not doing homework and having NO DISIPLIN , and not teaching me how to spell.
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