Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? Scott Extends Olive Branch to Teacher's Union

Sep 16, 2012

Governor Rick Scott says he wants state lawmakers to hold education funding steady, and he’s open to revisiting issues like teacher merit pay.

Scott continues his education listening tour in the Panhandle this week. Today he’s set to meet with parents and teachers in Fort Walton Beach and Crestview. On Friday he stopped at Tallahassee’s Governor’s Charter Academy, where he spoke with a largely-friendly crowd of parents.

“I want to talk about the choice, and I want to talk about, you know, we only have a limited amount of money and how can we make that money go further?”  Shanin Speas-Frost is a parent whose daughter attends the charter school. She said she was pleased the Governor came, because she’s concerned that there’s too much pressure being put on teachers.

“Really, the only people being accountable for our children’s education are teachers and it’s not fair. Teachers don’t have the kids but a few hours of the day, and how are they the sole accountability for that child learning when learning starts at home?”    

In recent years, charter schools and public schools have fought over shrinking state resources. In his first year in office, Governor Rick Scott proposed more money for charters while recommending budget cuts to traditional K-12 schools. During the last legislative session, he supported more funding for both. Jeanne O’Kon whose grandchild goes to the school, said she questioned the governor about his views on Charter Schools.

“And he had a very good answer: He said, I support good schools. Charter schools are good schools, public schools are good schools. My priority is to have good schools and good education for every child," she said.

Friday evening the Governor seemed to extend a small olive branch. He met with the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union which has been a vocal opponent of many of Scott’s education policies, such as tying teacher pay and evaluations to student test scores. After meeting with the Governor, FEA President Andy Ford said he’s hopeful it’s the start of more conversations to come.

“I think we can always find opportunities to improve things on the books, we’ve done that in the past. So, I think we’ve always got to look forward to opportunities to redesign what we’re currently looking at to try and make it better.…I think tonight was a good first step of having some dialogue that probably should have happened a long time ago.”

And Governor Scott said he’s open to more meetings.

“This is our first opportunity. We started the conversation. Nothing happens without trust. Nothing happens without conversation. The next meeting we’ll have some things to talk about and it won’t be the last time.”    

The union wants to improve on a law that calls for tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. It won a lawsuit over the way the state has gone about implementing the law. The judge in the case said the state was wrong and suggested it start over and re-do the process.