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Education climate reaches new lows as Scott tours state

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One week ago, Gov. Rick Scott embarked on a state-wide “listening tour” to talk with Florida’s teachers, parents and students amid state- and nationwide concern about education sparked by the Chicago teachers’ strike.

Alachua County teachers union president Karen McCann said she thinks he’s only listening because he’s afraid to lose his job.

“I think it’s just political — just doing what his party is telling him to do,” McCann said.

Before he left for the tour, Scott appeared in a commercial paid for by the Republican Party of Florida that said he increased the education budget by $1 billion and has heard parents’ concerns about FCAT.

“You can study all the numbers you want, but listening to parents and teachers is still the best education,” Scott says in the commercial.

All of Scott’s tour stops have been invitation-only. Last week, he visited a Jacksonville elementary, a Miami high school, a Fort Myers middle school, a St. Petersburg magnet elementary, Orange County middle and elementary schools as well as Madeira Beach Fundamental School.

While McCann said Scott needs to listen to education stakeholders like parents and teachers, she called his recent effort for dialogue “too little, too late.”

She said teachers are retiring early and that morale in faculty lounges across Florida is reaching an all-time low. A lot of the stress is due to pressure from Scott’s new evaluation system, which is partly based on student tests in subjects instructors may not teach.

“It’s very frightening to see what can happen to our public schools,” McCann said. “I know of no other profession where the government comes in and controls it without talking to the people who work there.”

McCann said teachers work on weekends as well as five to six additional hours outside of the classroom each week, grading papers and preparing for lessons.

“Teachers love what they do, so they’ll go to these extremes,” she said.

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