[Last updated on January 12, 2020, at 1:53 p.m.]
The State is threatening to fire between 1,200 to 1,600 hundred teachers if they attend the “Take on Tallahassee” rally scheduled to take place on Monday, January 13, 2020.
Currently, Florida has a massive shortage of teachers, with hundreds of vacant positions, in which no one has even attempted to apply.
In an email to the school board and teachers, the State alleges that the rally is an organized failure for teachers to report to duty.
Here is the email that the Department of Education sent on Friday at 9:30 p.m.
“Concerning an Organized Failure to Report to Duty by Potentially 1,600+ Polk County Teachers:
“The proposed failure to report represents a lack of commitment and focus on what is most important—the educational success of Polk County students. Of paramount importance for both the educational benefits of students and the professional credentials of teachers, the provisions and merits of ss. 447.201-.609, F.S., must be considered urgently by Polk County educational leadership and teachers.
Per the statute, a concerted failure to report for duty constitutes an illegal strike under Florida law. When teachers collectively decide not to show up for work on a specific day, children suffer as learning slows or even stops altogether.
A strike by public employees includes any deliberate and concerted failure of employees to report for duty that adversely affects the services of a public employer. This behavior is prohibited by the Florida Constitution and Florida Statutes.
An employee organization that violates the strike provision is subject to any damages suffered by a public employer as a result of the violation, a fine by the Public Employees Relations Commission up to $20,000 for each day that a work stoppage continues or the total cost to the public due to the strike, and have its certification as the bargaining agent for the employee unit revoked or suspended.
A public employee violating the strike provision may be terminated from their public position, subject to reemployment upon particular significant limitations. As the Department of Education, we have highest obligation to ensure that Polk County educators are advised of the risks associated with participating in a coordinated effort to not report for duty.”
Matthew H. Mears
Office of the General Counsel
Florida Department of Education
325 W. Gaines St., Suite 1544
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400
Polk County School Board member Billy Townsend replied by saying, “Everybody has to think closely about what they’re doing. There are times when people have to make momentous choices. I’m an elected board member with nothing personal on the hook. I will support my people — the employees of Polk County Schools in whatever they decide.
I would urge everyone who cares about this to call Matthew Mears immediately. I would urge everyone to call their legislators.
Senator Kelli Stargel, do you think these teachers should be fired and fined $20,000.”
Teachers across Florida say the actions taken by the State have nothing to do with the regulations of a “strike,” but rather silencing teachers to prevent parents and the rest of the public from knowing the truth about what is happening within the school system.
“The state has taken away a teacher’s ability to teach. Students are not learning to write and they are certainly not learning to read at the rate they should. The state has wasted millions of taxpayer monies on programs like iReady. Students are becoming robots. While reading starts at home, schools are definitely failing students and it’s not the fault of the teacher,” said Schoolteacher Tamika Johnson.
“The state has been failing students since the introduction of standardized testing. Teachers are no longer allowed to teach by textbook, but rather by a program. By the time a student reaches sixth grade his or her reading ability is far below what it should be and the state knows this. It’s all about money to the state.”
Johnson says that parents have no idea what is really going on and the State wants to prevent parents from finding out the truth.
“The problem is not just with teaching,” Johnson said. She went on to say, “There are massive behavioral problems with today’s generation as well. Many of these kids come to school as if they are the boss. They talk to teachers like we are trash and disrupt the entire class. Kids today are spoiled and do not receive discipline at home. It’s almost like the discipline is left up to the teacher and law enforcement, but, when a student gets handcuffed, parents cry foul.”
According to statistics, education has in fact been declining since the FCAT was introduced around 1996. Standardized testing has gotten more vigorous and stressful for students.
Teacher Jason Kline, wrote, “The State has been trying to reinvent the wheel for years with all of the standardized testing and the Common Core failure. What the State actually did was destroy the basic principles of teaching. I mean, come on, 6+6 equals 12, it’s that simple. A student should not need a full sheet of paper to do that math problem.” He added, “The state representatives have no idea what it means to be a teacher, or even what it takes. They dictate, collect their big salaries, but have zero common sense when it comes to what it takes to teach a child.”
According to officials, the State says that the school was never notified of the rally, however, that statement is false. The State was notified in writing but refused to close any schools on January 13. The State said they would not close any schools, but instead, get substitutes. That plan fell through when substitutes did not sign up for the shifts. Now, the State is threatening to fire anyone who speaks out against them.
The Florida Education Association, wrote, “Florida’s parents, educators and community supporters will carry their message straight to lawmakers’ doorstep, rallying in front of the Old Capitol to demand improved funding for students and schools, fair pay for all education employees, and an end to the misguided policies that have led to the over-testing of students and the loss of local control in our districts.”
According to school board members, the State is targeting school districts that have the least funding and are hit the hardest by poverty, which is why Polk County was targeted.
According to Townsend, Polk County Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd requested that the State send the e-mail to teachers. Byrd is now being accused of using the State to intimidate her own employees.
Teachers say that Byrd and the State merely do not want the voices of the teachers to be heard by the public and that, the State threatened to fire them if they spoke to the media.
Florida has been voted the worst state for education when it comes to taking control away from the teachers, which is not surprising, considering Florida is listed as number one for most corrupt governments in the United States.
In an Integrity Florida report, titled, “Corruption Risk Report: Florida Ethics Laws,” it lists the Sunshine State as the country’s most corrupt, with having had the highest number of convicted public officials.
Byrd and the State refused to comment.
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