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Posted at 12:16 PM ET, 03/26/2011

Jaw-dropper of the week

This is another installment in an experimental weekly series of posts that will highlight something in education that made my jaw drop. Submissions, to straussv@washpost.com, are most welcome each week.

You can find the first one here. Some readers didn’t think I provided enough background information in that post to make my case; let me know if this is an improvement.

Background:

You have to hand it to Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Just when you think he has set a new standard for gall, he tops himself.

In February, Scott (R) publicized his budget plans, which included billions of dollars in cuts that would lead to nearly 7,000 state layoffs, while also cutting property and corporate taxes by billions. He even wants to get rid of the alligator egg collection permit fee (up to $5 an egg taken).

And, most relevant to this post, Scott proposes cutting public school spending by about $700 per student, or 10 percent, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Said Scott during his budget announcement: “We can’t spend more than we take in.”

Flash forward to this week, when Scott signed into law legislation aimed at public school teachers that ends tenure for new hires, established a merit pay system and requires the creation and implementation of new standardized tests in every subject that does not have a test already attached.

There’s enough in the bill to drop a lot of jaws: the new testing requirements or, say, the fact that Scott thinks he will attract a slew of great teachers by putting all new hires on one-year contracts for the entirety of their careers, or the linking of at least half of every teacher’s salary to how well their students do on standardized tests even though the tests aren’t designed for such use.

And, despite Scott’s constant talk about the need for government to live within its means and not spend more than it takes in, there’s this:

Scott and the Florida legislature didn’t think it was necessary to fund the mandates to school districts in this new law, and it isn’t chump change: Some estimates say that the new law comes with a price tag of at least $2 billion.

So at a time when Scott is slashing the public school budget, he is telling districts that they must spend more on the things he wants them to do.

Scott ran for governor last year as a tea party favorite, supposedly a different sort of politician. But all of this sounds like just another unfunded education mandate. So old school. Still, the new challenges faced by Florida’s school districts as a result of Scott’s policies are enough to make my jaw drop.

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By  |  12:16 PM ET, 03/26/2011

 
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