News in Brief: A State Capitals Roundup
Fla. Teachers Taking Action Against Bush's Bonus Plan
Six classroom teachers and a principal at Gulf Gate Elementary School in Sarasota, Fla., say they will protest a new state grading system by returning the $500 bonuses they each received for getting high marks on Gov. Jeb Bush's A-Plus for Education Plan, while a neighboring teachers' union has filed suit against it.
Under the accountability system, which grades schools on an A-to-F scale based on state test scores, more than 300 schools received a total of $30 million in rewards from the state this fall.
The staff and advisory committee for the 850-student Sarasota school decided to devote 60 percent of its $86,000 reward to bonuses, and use the remaining money for classroom improvements. But Principal Catherine Kitto and six teachers say they plan to return their bonus checks during a public hearing about the A-plus plan, scheduled for Dec. 14 in Tallahassee.
"It's very discouraging to low-socioeconomic schools who work very hard and still get D's and F's," Ms. Kitto said last week.
In nearby Pinellas County, the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association filed a lawsuit against the A-plus plan in state court Dec. 1. The National Education Association affiliate charges that the practice of awarding bonuses to teachers violates state constitutional provisions requiring teacher pay to be determined through collective bargaining.
—Jessica L. Sandham
Bill Proposes Teacher Stipends
A Florida legislator, concerned that the state is facing a shortage of teachers, has introduced a bill that would give career-switchers $5,000 stipends to pursue teacher training and go to work in hard-to-staff schools.
The bill, filed by Rep. Lesley Miller Jr., a Democrat, would allocate $13.5 million to allow 2,700 people to receive the stipends. The money would pay for them to take 15 credit hours of education classes, after which they could start teaching.
The teachers would be required to become fully certified within two years.
"Florida needs 10,000 teachers very soon, and the colleges of education will not be able to supply them," Mr. Miller said last week.
As for concerns voiced by teachers' unions and others that the state's low-performing schools need highly qualified teachers rather than novices, Mr. Miller said he was open to amending his bill.
Race Disparities Found at Academy
A state study in Illinois concludes that, compared with their numbers in the general population, black, Hispanic, and white students are underrepresented—and Asian-Americans are overrepresented—at the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora.
The report by Auditor General William G. Howland points out that the enrollment disparities exist even though the academy, a state-run residential school for talented 10th through 12th graders, long ago stepped up efforts to recruit and admit more black and Latino students. Now, the report concludes, school officials need to continue and enhance those efforts.
Last year, for example, African-Americans constituted 22 percent of the statewide population of 9th graders, but only 12 percent of the academy's incoming class. Asian-Americans, representing 3 percent of 9th graders statewide, made up 27 percent of that group.
School officials said last week they were satisfied with the findings, which resulted from a much broader, eight-month-long investigation. But some minority lawmakers, presented with the report earlier this month, called the results "horrendous."
Mich. Bans Unionization for Some
Michigan lawmakers have prohibited Detroit school administrators from belonging to unions.
The new law, passed in the waning moments of the legislative session last week, was requested by the Detroit public schools interim chief, David Adamany. Mr. Adamany, who took control of the 180,000-student district last spring under a state-devised arrangement that gave power over the schools to Mayor Dennis W. Archer, said his reform efforts have been hindered by unions that protected incompetent administrators.
The measure was criticized by Detroit-area lawmakers, who charged Republicans with trying to take over the state's largest city. Other Democrats in the legislature accused the GOP of union-busting and racism.
Vol. 19, Issue 16, Page 20