Current News

Endorsed school board candidates

August 9, 2016

Remember to vote in the Primary to be held on August 30th, 2016  

Members of the Polk Education Association, AFSCME #2227, PEA-Retired and others interviewed the qualifying candidates for school board. Each candidate was asked to submit a questionnaire and then scheduled for an interview. Of the 11 candidates, 9 completed a questionnaire and were interviewed.

 

The candidates were asked a series of questions concerning the school district, positions on school funding, collective bargaining, subcontracting, and more.

 

The committee members then deliberated to determine whether they could make an endorsement of any of the candidates for each school board district.

 

The committee’s recommendations for endorsement follow:

District 1 William ‘Billy’ Townsend; http://billytownsend.com

District 2 Ronnie Clark

District 4 Edwin ‘Ed’ Smith

 

Please strongly consider the recommendations of the committee. School board seats are often determined during the primary election and only proceed to the general election in November if there isn’t a clear majority in the primary election.  

 

unfair labor practice

April 19, 2016

This is an update on the outcome of today’s Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) Hearing. Prior to the start of the hearing both sides (PEA and the District) entered into a discussion surrounding potential resolution. It was agreed that there is a potential to resolve the issues raised in PEA’s charges at the bargaining table scheduled for April 22, this Friday. To preserve our position and our hearing rights, should we not be able to reach appropriate resolution, a new hearing date has been scheduled for May 5th at 9 am (time certain).

As PEA has reported there has been more positive movement at the bargaining table and the District’s objectionable Teacher Evaluation bargaining proposal has been jettisoned. Together we are currently working on new language and processes that will be more advantages to all instructional personnel, work within the parameters of Florida law, and give teachers more impact on their own evaluation. PEA will communicate after Friday’s bargaining session.    

 

Masters degrees

August 18, 2015

As you may recall PEA won an arbitration surrounding the awarding of Master’s Degree pay for any Master’s. PEA then won the appeal the PCSB filed in Circuit Court. Now the School Board has filed with the District Court of Appeals and we are awaiting a date for this hearing. PEA is hopeful that we will prevail in District Court as well. The school board continues to refuse to pay Master’s Degree except where it meets the specific title for the teacher’s course code until the District Court rules. We are still awaiting a court date. We will keep you informed as the case moves forward. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice can move very slowly! 

 

 

END OF THE YEAR ASSessments

May 8, 2015

Recently the district distributed some Frequently Asked Questions about the End-of-Year Assessments that are mandated by the legislature. In that document it implies that the Polk Education Association is in some way blocking the process. I need to reassure you that statement is categorically false. The Polk Education Association has been an active participant in the process since the inception of the Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee (TEAC). We have pushed to hold meetings to discuss the legislative changes and how those changes will impact our teachers. We held our first TEAC meeting in 15 months on April 27, 2015. 

 

Once the district told us that they intended to keep most of the EOY assessments and proceed with testing this year, which is their legislatively mandated prerogative, our discussions turned to changing the percentage of student learning to 33.3% and defining the additional indicators of professional performance that are now allowed. There was NO indication from the district that they were opposed to using the EOY in calculating Student Performance as part a Teacher’s overall rating. Therefore we were completely surprised by the FAQ sheet that said they were “waiting on PEA’s approval” as this was not even discussed at the meeting.   

 

We believe that we need to implement any allowances the legislature has made in the process of assessing students and having their performance tied to teacher evaluations. We have a process in place to reach joint solutions that can then clearly be communicated to the employees. We need the district to use the process with fidelity and know that we will come to solutions that will meet the law, the district policies and the needs of the employees. By working together we can create solutions that we may never come up with on our own.

 

 There are several TEAC and bargaining meetings set on the calendar for May. It is our hope that the committees will continue to meet and share honestly so that a conclusion can be reached before the school year is out. We want you to have this information before the school year ends. 

 

State Budget shortchanges schools

April 28, 2014

The Senate and House conference committees are currently negotiating the education budget. These committee negotiations fell apart and there has been no agreement on the education budget. The negotiations have been turned over to Senator Negron and Rep. McKeel, chairmen of the respective appropriation committees, and Senate President Gaetz and House Speaker Weatherford.

 

 

Florida Dept of education changes recertification requirements

January 14, 2014

During the 2013 Legislative Session, Senate Bill 1108 was passed and signed into law. It added an ESE instruction component — 20 inservice hours or 1 college credit — to the professional certification requirements without increasing the total number of hours needed for recertification. READ MORE 

 

 

Federal lawsuit update

October 1, 2013

As you recall, the lawsuit was brought by seven accomplished teachers and FEA and NEA to challenge the evaluation of teachers based on the standardized test scores of students they do not teach, or from subjects they do not teach.

 

The teachers work in public schools in Alachua, Hernando and Escambia counties. They brought suit against the Florida commissioner of education and the State Board of Education to stop implementation and enforcement of portions of SB 736. The lawsuit also named the school boards of those three counties, who have implemented the evaluation systems to comply with SB 736. The three school boards named were only acting as mandated by the state.  

 

We learned late yesterday that the federal judge assigned to the case found that plaintiffs (FEA, NEA and the seven teachers) do have standing to challenge the evaluation system as alleged violations of substantive due process and equal protection, but asked us to provide more information about the specific harm caused to the plaintiffs by the evaluation system and also to address the impact of the 2013 legislation specifying that teachers may not be evaluated on the basis of students they do not teach. We have until October 21 to amend the complaint. The FEA will continue to work with the NEA to file an updated complaint and continue pursuing these important claims.  

 

New Educator Recertification requirements for 2015

September 5, 2013

FEA is getting a steady stream of questions about the new recertification requirement which became part of statute with the passage of SB 1108 during the 2013 Legislative Session. As you recall, all teachers recertifying after July 1, 2014 must complete one college credit or 20 inservice points in ESE.  

 

As of yet, eligible course work has not been identified by DOE. The DOE has indicated they are working collaboratively with teacher certification and other stakeholders to identify existing courses and to create new options where needed. They plan to have the information available in the “near future.” As soon as information regarding ESE course expectations and criteria is release by DOE we will alert you.

 

A bit of background – a professional teaching certificate is for a five year period beginning on July 1 and expiring on June 30 five years later.

Here’s what teachers need to do:

  • Check their certificate to see when it expires.

    • If their certificate expires on June 30, 2014, they DO NOT have to have 1 college credit or 20 hours of inservice. They do have to complete the paperwork, be sure they have sufficient inservice hours in their certification field(s) and send their recertification fee before June 30, 2014

    • If their certificate expires on June 30, 2015 or later, they MUST have 1 college credit or 20 inservice hours in ESE

  • Every teacher has at least one year and 10 months to get the course work required by this statute.

Teachers can check with the Bureau of Educator Certification if they have concerns – but so far the bureau has very little new information. Note: It is essential that you must include either your social security number or Department of Education number to receive assistance through any form of correspondence.  

To contact the Bureau of Educator Certification: 

Internet Home Page: www.fldoe.org/edcert

E-Mail Address: edcert@fldoe.org

 

 

 

Florida Supreme Court says "NO" to FRS Case

January 17, 2013

 A wise man once said “Don’t just get angry… Get organized!” Let’s mobilize to change the Florida Legislature in 2014!

 

The Florida Supreme Court ruled today against FEA and upheld the 3 percent income tax on public employees’ pensions imposed by the leadership of the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott. But the members of the Florida Education Association won’t give up the fight to make a better Florida for students, public employees and all working families.

 

“This is disappointing news for those who work to make Florida a better place,” FEA President Andy Ford said. “Balancing the state budget on the backs of middle-class working families is the wrong approach for legislative leaders and the governor to take. We’re disappointed that the state’s highest court said this approach was legal.”

 

“I believe our arguments were correct, even if the justices didn’t agree. We still believe that a promise is a promise,” Ford said. “We are more determined than ever to change the face of the Florida Legislature. The next elections in 2014 can turn this decision around.”

 

I agree with President Ford. We can mourn for a moment but then we must regroup and understand that we, the people, can make a difference. We can take this defeat and move forward redoubling our efforts to ensure that the teachers, education support staff, police, firefighters and other public employees in this state have their voices heard loudly and clearly. Balancing the budget on the backs of state employees is equivalent to a payroll tax and we must remember that it is our legislators that now hold the key to our retirement future!

 

letter to teachers

November 26, 2012

PEA is sharing this is important information regarding the finalization of your 2011-12 Teacher evaluation. We remain concerned regarding the VAM data supplied by Florida’s DOE. We have attached a letter we are recommending you attach to your final OAPER. PLEASE take the time to read this important e-mail in its entirety: Starting today and going through Dec. 12, 2012 your principal/supervisor will begin giving all instructional staff the Stage 2 portion of their 2011-12 evaluation. The district feels compelled to do so to meet the letter of the law. PEA has made clear its two main concerns about the FL-DOE’s data:

  1. The VAM data is admittedly inaccurate.
  2. The VAM data was furnished to the District outside the statutory timeline for amending teacher evaluations.  

PEA is provided you with a letter to print out and attach to your Stage 2 to memorialize the fact that the FL-DOE did not do what it was required to do. The district is aware that teachers will be attaching this letter and has sent out a letter to your principals telling them to accept and attach the letter. We feel this is important to formalize these concerns because this evaluation marks the beginning of the three year evaluation cycle and we cannot anticipate how this data might be used in the future.

 

While PEA is sharing this information with you, we will ONLY ASSIST PEA MEMBERS with concerns, and appeals. PEA has bargained every detail of this plan and is uniquely positioned to understand all of the nuisances of the evaluation system. We assisted many PEA members with Stage 1 of their evaluation last June.  

 

 

Appeal to the Superintendent: Don't use flawed vam data

October, 29, 2012

Dear Dr. Nickell,

I request the District not move forward with finalizing teacher evaluations for the 2011-2012 school year. Moving forward may cause irreparable harm to teachers anytime during the next several years. There are three major reasons supporting closing the teacher evaluations for 2011-2012 as is by leaving them incomplete.  

 

The VAM data is admittedly inaccurate. In an e-mail sent by Juan Copa from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) on September 28, 2012 regarding the “Final FCAT VAM data…,” Mr. Copa stated the following: 

“Be advised that it is possible that even after reanalysis, there may be some situations were a teacher’s score may include students who should not be attributed to the teacher, or may be missing students. In other words, when a substantiated conclusion on performance cannot be reached, the district has determined that the rating for the “Performance of Students” score defaults to “effective”. That approach could also be applied to situations where the score is not an accurate reflection of the teacher’s performance due to the inclusion/exclusion of students.”  

Mr. Copa’s statement admits the data is not reliable and may be wrong. In addition, we know that the second verification process was not completed with fidelity in Polk due to many factors, including that FDOE did not notify the District that the process would be offered; many teachers did not have access to their student data from 2011-2012 when the process was to be completed; and there was no process in place for completion.

 

The VAM data was furnished to the District outside the statutory timeline for amending teacher evaluations.  

Florida Statute §1012.34 (3)(a) 4. (b) All personnel must be fully informed of the criteria and procedures associated with the evaluation process before the evaluation takes place. (d) The evaluator may amend an evaluation based upon assessment data from the current school year if the data becomes available within 90 days after the close of the school year. The evaluator must then comply with the procedures set forth in paragraph (c).

Florida Statute clearly states in (d) above that an evaluation may be amended if the data becomes available within 90 days. Since our last day of the school year was June 8th, the 90 day window for amending an evaluation based upon assessment data becoming available ended on September 6th. The data was received on September 28, 2012, well outside the 90 day statutory limit.

 

There is a commitment by both PEA and the District to have a system that is fair, valid, and reliable. This terminology was used in multiple places as the teacher evaluation system was developed. Article 15.1-1 states,   

“As the teacher evaluation system has undergone substantial change, the parties recognize that continued adjustments may need to be made as data becomes available. The parties commit to returning to the bargaining table to address concerns from either party. It is the intent of the parties to monitor this new system to ensure it is a fair, valid, and reliable teacher evaluation system and to make changes, as needed, to achieve this goal.”   

We are addressing the issues for 2012-2013, but Florida Statute §1012.34 quoted in the bullet above makes it clear that it is too late to make changes for 2011-2012. Using the data furnished by FDOE will violate the requirement for a fair, valid, and reliable evaluation as the furnished data is admittedly inaccurate.

 

Since Student Performance is a major component of the teacher evaluation process, the 2011-2012 teacher evaluations must be set aside as incomplete and, therefore, not used or reported for any purpose. The Florida Statute clearly indicates that data must be submitted timely in order to amend a teacher’s evaluation. Knowingly using data that cannot be verified as accurate would appear to violate the intent of statute, contract, and ethical standards. As a constitutional officer, we question how you or anyone on your behalf can submit data for Survey 5 to FDOE that indicates that any teacher evaluation is completed accurately or that the data regarding student performance accurately reflects the work of any given teacher.  

 

I request that you not complete the teacher evaluations for 2011-2012 and instead submit to DOE that Polk was unable to complete the process as designed. Therefore Polk is addressing the issues and will adjust the teacher evaluation process for 2012-2013 to include a student performance component. I know there are other processes through which we can resolve a conflict, but once you have indicated that you believe the flawed VAM data is accurate, that cannot be undone.  

 

Sincerely,

Marianne Capoziello, President

 

PEa members ratify all three contracts

October 23, 2012

Update - School Board members also voted on the proposed changes. They unanimously approved the tentative agreements and salary packages of all three units. These two actions bring this ratification to a close. The language is approved and now in place and the salaries that have been approved will be enacted.  

 

October 22, 2012

Teachers, Paraeducators, and ESPs (Secretaries) all voted by wide margins to approve the tentative agreements presented for ratification. The agreements mainly covered salary increases for all employees. The agreements provide Paraeducators and ESPs their step increase for an additional year of experience. Teachers will also receive a step increase and the teacher scale has been adjusted to both even out the steps and to increase the competiveness of the scale with surrounding counties. We are pleased that we were able to reach agreement with the District earlier this year. President Capoziello stated, “I appreciate the candor of the budget discussions with the Superintendent and School Board Members. I believe we all know that Polk County needs to be competitive with surrounding counties and that these discussions need to occur early in the budget process.” 

The District is prepared to provide the raises for teachers in their October paychecks. Paraeducators and ESPs will receive their raises in their November paychecks.  

 

PEA Bargaining Team Reaches Salary Settlement

September 17, 2012

The Polk Education Association and the Polk County School District are pleased to announce that they have reached tentative agreement on a salary settlement for all employees represented by the Polk Education Association. This agreement represents a new commitment to placing employee salaries up front in the budgeting process. All employees represented by PEA will see an increase in wages. Both the District and the Association know that this is the first step in what will be a multi-year process. However, both agree that this is a positive move toward making wages competitive with surrounding counties while attacking a structural problem in the teacher pay scale that needs correcting.  

 

The salary settlement is not based upon a percentage increase or a specific dollar amount, but rather on implementing common goals of the bargaining teams, making wages more competitive with surrounding counties. The teacher settlement increases beginning and ending salary rates moving the scale as a whole toward improved competiveness with surrounding counties. This is the first time in several years that both beginning and ending teachers’ salaries have increased in the same year. Our Paraeducators and ESPs/Secretaries are also very important and were provided a step increase and a modest 1% increase for those at the top of the scale. This marks the second year that wages have increased in the district; teachers and support personnel received step raises last year as well.   

To achieve these common goals, Dr. Sherrie Nickell, Superintendent of Schools and Marianne Capoziello, President of the Polk Education Association have been meeting throughout the summer to ensure a new transparency in the budgeting process. Dr. Nickell stated, “The School Board and I have examined the District’s needs and have placed an emphasis on raising teacher wages because we know that attracting and retaining the best teachers in our classrooms is extremely important to student success. We also know that our paraeducators and clerical staff are an integral part of the district’s mission and so we wanted to ensure that we acknowledged them as well. This is an important step in focusing our District’s budget to accurately reflect the priority of the School Board’s goals.”  

 

Marianne Capoziello, President of PEA was pleased that this settlement comes early in the school year. “Our goal has been to see wages start to move in a meaningful way. We feel this contract settlement begins that process. We are seeing both teacher steps increasing in value and seeing teachers move forward on the steps—that is a truly positive development! For support staff we are seeing the second year of step movement, again a move in the right direction because a highly trained work force at every level is good for students.”  

 

Both Nickell and Capoziello agree that progress needs to continue to be made as the District moves forward but, with open discussion, transparent budgeting, and laser like focus on common goals both agree that progress will be made. It is imperative our focus remains on our students. A significant part of that means keeping highly effective teachers at the front of the classroom and a high quality workforce to support the classroom.  

 

lawsuit updates

All materials on FEA's legal cases are available at http://www.meyerbrookslaw.com/Litigation.htm

 

Florida Supreme Court to hear oral arguments on FEA lawsuit over pension “contribution”

September 6, 2012

TALLAHASSEE – This Friday, September 7, the Florida Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Scott vs. Williams, the appeal of Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford’s ruling earlier this year that the 2011 pension law changes were unconstitutional.  

When current public employees were hired, the state entered into a contractual agreement. It made a promise to teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters, nurses and other public-service workers that their retirement plan would be funded by the state. Mandating a 3-percent “contribution” breaks that promise and unfairly targets only public employees for a 3-percent tax increase.  

FEA challenged the pension tax on state workers and won a ruling in FEA’s favor. Last March, Leon County Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford struck down the mandatory retirement contributions imposed since July 2011. She ordered refunds with interest for all employees enrolled in the FRS prior to July 2011. Governor Scott and legislative leaders were unhappy with the court ruling and decided to spend more taxpayer money for an appeal. The state spent over 500,000 on the first case.   

The Circuit judge also ruled on the state’s efforts to impose a reduction in the cost-of-living adjustments for those retiring after July 1, 2011. Florida law requires a 3 percent cost-of-living increase during retirement regardless of years of service or dates of service. The trial judge agreed that the changes made by the legislature and the governor violated this contract with current state employees in the Florida Retirement System and also constituted taking private property without full compensation.  

The Legislature broke its promise and broke its contract with current public employees. Legislative leaders deliberately chose to disregard the Florida Constitution and ignored constitutional law. The law says that the state had a contract with all current participants in the Florida Retirement System and could not just take away benefits from participants in the plan.  

The Florida Retirement System (FRS) has been shown to be one of the most actuarially sound state retirement systems in the country. The money derived from the 3-percent tax is not needed to shore up the strength of the system, but was used by the governor and legislative leadership to make up a budget shortfall on the backs of teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters, nurses and other state workers. And it came at the same time the governor and legislative leaders reduced the government’s contribution to the retirement system by more than 3 percent and lowered taxes for wealthy corporations.

The Florida Retirement System (FRS) pension plan gained $19 billion in the fiscal year that ended on June 30, 2012. The 22-percent gain is the biggest in 25 years, reports the State Board of Administration, and larger than the 14-percent gain from last year. The total value of the pension plan has soared to $128.4 billion. Does that sound like a pension system in financial trouble?  

The 3 percent mandate is essentially an income tax levied only on state workers belonging to the Florida Retirement System. For teachers and other public school employees, it is a salary cut that’s compounded by years of budget cuts, layoffs, increasing healthcare premiums and five years without a raise. The stark budget cuts pushed by Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature only deepened those losses. The additional loss of 3 percent of their salary is an insult to hard working Floridians who have dedicated their lives to state employment.  

The leaders in the Legislature chose this irresponsible, reckless and unconstitutional way of balancing the state budget instead of properly addressing the shortfall they created. Over the past decade, the Legislature has chosen to provide tax giveaways to investors and corporations that have accumulated to billions and billions of dollars. If those tax breaks had not been enacted, there would have been no budget shortfall.   

In fact, the Legislature approved further tax breaks for corporations without any public debate during the final hours of 2011 legislative session, while they cut the salaries of hard-working families and enacted severe budget cuts on our public schools. Those tax breaks continued during the 2012 legislative session.   

Legislative leaders have a number of avenues available to address any state budget shortfall, including closing sales-tax loopholes, aggressively collecting sales tax on Internet sales, or repealing the tax giveaways for investors and corporations. Those tax giveaways were widely touted as ways to create jobs and grow the state’s economy, but after billions and billions of dollars’ worth of tax giveaways over the past 14 years under Republican leadership, Florida has one of the highest unemployment rates, and its economy is one of the weakest in the nation.   

 

another successful legal challenge!

August 22, 2012

TALLAHASSEE – An administrative law judge today invalidated in its entirety the rule the State Board of Education had sought to impose upon Florida school districts, teachers and administrators regarding performance evaluations under the law passed last year requiring evaluations to be based in large part upon standardized test scores.  

In the challenge brought by the Florida Education Association, Judge John G. Van Laningham found, among other things, that the State Board of Education and Department of Education had not followed proper procedures in trying to incorporate into the evaluation process a mathematical formula for calculating the effect of FCAT scores on teacher evaluations.  

The judge concluded that the state’s numerous failures to follow correct rulemaking procedures were so significant as to “taint” the resulting rule, and that the flaws “cannot be cured without starting over and redoing the process.”    

“This is a huge victory in our battle for fair, reliable and valid evaluations,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “The State Board of Education and the Department of Education skirted rule-making procedures and exceeded the scope of their authority. It’s time for the state’s education bureaucracy to stop trying to impose its will on teachers and administrators and start having a meaningful dialogue with us to put together a fair evaluation system that is understandable, valid and accepted.” This decision does not mean that teachers’ 2011-12 performance evaluations are invalid under the bargained evaluation systems already approved by the DOE for Race to the Top purposes, nor does it erase the statutory requirement to rely upon the education commissioner’s approved model to measure student learning gains as part of the 2011-12 evaluation process. It does mean that none of the proposed, mandatory 2012-2013 evaluation system changes will become effective at this time.  

 

SB 736 - we will continue to fight!

May 3, 2012

The end of the school year is normally a period of slowing down and wrapping up last minute lessons and paperwork. Instead, it has become a stressful time thanks to the 736 evaluations imposed by Governor Rick Scott and the legislature. Your school district is most likely struggling with the implementation and mandated costs associated with 736. That certainly creates difficulty for teachers dealing with FCAT and now the outcome of their evaluations. ESPs, many who haven’t seen a raise in years, are eyeing more budget cuts as districts scrape up money to cover the costs. In some parts of the state, ESPs are defending against increased attempts at privatization, which has become a key, though misguided consideration for districts looking to resolve fiscal concerns.

Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders will tell you they restored $1 billion to the education budget to help offset those costs. But Scott and legislative leaders won’t talk about the $1.3 billion that they slashed from the budget last year and how this budget won't replace the 1,400 teacher and 4,000 ESP jobs that were sacrificed. It won’t restore the lost programs for students. The budget is far from adequate funding and far from a true commitment and investment in our children. READ MORE...

 

Pension case - next stop the florida supreme court

March 29, 2012

The Florida Supreme Court has voted to accept jurisdiction in the appeal of the pension decision. Oral argument before the court is scheduled for 9 am on September 7. Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justice Ricky Polston voted to decline jurisdiction in the 5-2 vote of the court. This is a very positive development in our quest to reach a final decision in this case. If you want to see the Order of the Supreme Court accepting jurisdiction over the pension appeal, click here.

 

judge rules in fea favor on frs lawsuit

March 6, 2012

Circuit Court Judge Jackie Fulford ruled in favor of the Florida Education Association (FEA) in its lawsuit on public employees’ mandatory pension “contribution” and reminded Governor Rick Scott and the extremists in charge of the Legislature that a promise is a promise.  

 

Last year, FEA filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the 3 percent tax on teachers, school employees and other workers imposed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott. The judge’s ruling confirms that the Florida Constitution requires the state to live up to its promises, including those made to the public workers by the state itself.   

 

Florida law has provided for nearly four decades that pension rights are contractual rights that may not be ignored or abridged. If the Legislature wants to make changes to the pension system, it must do so for employees who come to work after the change in the law. Employees should not dedicate their livelihoods to public service with a contractual expectation of retirement benefits only to have that expectation wrongly taken from them. We are pleased by today’s decision. It once again will stop the Florida Legislature from overstepping its authority by ignoring the state’s constitution. We urge the governor and leaders in the Legislature to embrace this decision and abide by the judge’s ruling. If they decide to prolong this case with an appeal, FEA is prepared to continue fighting for the rights of middle-class families who make our state a better place. 

 

Last year, legislators made the choice to balance the budget on the backs of teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters, nurses and other public service workers so they could give corporations yet another round of tax giveaways. Now the governor and legislative leaders need to “get to work” and address the budget shortfall the right way: by closing tax loopholes and repealing some of the multibillion dollar tax giveaways for corporations and billionaires that they have passed over the last decade. We took this action because we believe that we have to do what is right for the public employees, taxpayers and the rule of law of this state. It is of the utmost importance to us that we protect the constitutional rights of our members. That is what we fight for every day: to protect our members’ rights. However, this goes even further. Florida’s political leaders cannot be allowed to continue to disrespect working people and their families – and those that teach our children, keep our streets safe and risk their lives for us every day. We have to be examples for our children to fight for the rule of law.  

 

Teachers and other school employees have taken smaller salary increases – or no salary increases – over the years to protect their retirement benefits. Retirement plans are every bit as much a part of their compensation package as salaries. Just because CEOs of big corporations have broken promises to their employees – and enriched themselves beyond imagination in the process – does not mean that our state government should do the same. We believe that a promise is a promise and the state of Florida should abide by the promises it makes.

 

Today’s ruling is at the circuit court level. Appellate courts, including the Florida Supreme Court, will probably make the ultimate decision. Any final ruling may be months away. The state has known for months that if the courts order the return of the money to employees it will have to comply with that order and it should be planning ways to do so. In the meantime, the FRS can continue its effective operations while this lawsuit works its way through the courts. The state assured the court it would be able to return the money. We are confident that at the end of this legal battle, the money will be returned.

 

Fighting for the rights of working families is always the right decision. Public employees were being forced to pay an income tax – whether they could afford it or not. This income tax on our teachers, law-enforcement officers, firefighters, nurses and others who provide vital public services that help everyone in the state, comes after years with little or no raises. You are faithfully performing your duties and helping all Floridians despite the fact that you often struggle to make ends meet. In the end, we knew we had to take up this fight. The battle is not over today, but we have every confidence that this lawsuit will prevail in the end. 

 

Judge Strikes Amendment 7 from 2012 Ballot

December 14, 2011

TALLAHASSEE – Florida Education Association President Andy Ford commended a ruling by Judge Terry Lewis in state Circuit Court in Tallahassee striking an amendment placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature that would significantly alter the no-aid provision in the Florida Constitution. Judge Lewis said the ballot summary approved by the Legislature was misleading.  

 

“We applaud the judge’s decision. Amendment 7 would have required taxpayers to fund a broad array of religious programs and institutions,” Ford said. “The judge agreed that taxpayers and voters need to be told the truth and that the purpose and effect of the amendment was not clear in the ballot summary and was misleading to voters.” The constitutional amendment, labeled Amendment 7 by the office of the Secretary of State, would substantially alter the no-aid provision of the Florida Constitution, which has been in effect for more than 125 years. The provision, which is in Article 1, section 3 of the Constitution, protects the religious freedom rights of all Floridians by barring taxpayer-funded aid to religious institutions. In his ruling, Judge Lewis wrote: “It naturally flows from the language deleted and the language added that the primary effect of the amendment will be to make it a lot harder for the state to deny funding or program benefits to a sectarian institution.”

 

Ford said that if enacted, Amendment 7 could open the gateway to school vouchers for all. Ford and the FEA are joined in the lawsuit by Lee Swift of Punta Gorda, who is president of the Florida School Boards Association and a member of the Charlotte County School Board; Susan Summers-Persis of Ormond Beach, who is president of the Florida Association of School Administrators; Rabbi Merrill Shapiro, who is the Rabbi of Temple Shalom in Deltona; the Rev. Kent Siladi of Rockledge, who is the Conference Minister for the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ; the Rev. Harry Parrott of Clay County, who is a retired Baptist minister; the Rev. Harold Brockus of St. Petersburg, a retired pastor of a Pinellas Park church affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ; Rabbi Jack Romberg of Temple Israel in Tallahassee; and the Rev. Bobby Musengwa, who is pastor of Maximo Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg.

 

“The judge disagreed with one contention in the lawsuit and said that the state attorney general should be given the authority to rewrite a defective ballot summary,” Ford said. “We are reviewing his ruling and will decide later whether to challenge that ruling in an appellate court.”   

 

FEA and teachers file lawsuit saying SB 736 violates state constitution on bargaining rights

December 2, 2011

SB 736 suit – State has filed its answer denying our claims. We are preparing a motion for summary judgment, which won’t likely be heard until February at the earliest.

 

September 14, 2011

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Education Association (FEA) and the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association (SC/TA), on behalf of teachers throughout the state, filed a lawsuit today in Circuit Court in Tallahassee contending that provisions of a bill passed earlier this year by the Florida Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott are unconstitutional because they deny teachers their right to effective collective bargaining on wages and terms and conditions of employment.

The lawsuit asserts that the Legislature enacted legislation that was unconstitutional when that body passed SB 736, which substantially changed wages, employment contracts, performance evaluations, promotions and workforce reduction provisions that had been previously negotiated between teachers and local school districts.

“These changes swept away the right of employees to negotiate their wages and terms and conditions of employment, a right that is guaranteed and protected by the Florida Constitution,” said FEA President Andy Ford. “The changes that lawmakers pushed through should have been collectively bargained between school districts and teachers.”

Members of the FEA are named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, as well as members of SC/TA, which is an independent teachers union not affiliated with FEA.

“The provisions of SB 736 radically transform the teaching profession – and not for the better,” said Cory Williams, a middle school social studies teacher from Sarasota County. “The expertise and knowledge of teachers have been ignored throughout this process and our constitutional rights have been trampled. We must turn to the court to tell the Legislature and the governor that they cannot simply take away the rights that are embedded in the Florida Constitution.”

 

 

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