Friday, April 16, 2010

Should teachers have tenure?

That has been a hot topic in Florida this past week, because the Florida legislature passed a bill that would remove job protection from tenure for teachers, prohibit teachers from being paid more for holding advanced degrees, or for being paid more for number of years on the job, and require merit pay based on the performance of their students.

Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill today.

Despite the rhetoric on both sides of doing what’s best for Florida’s schools, there were some politics involved on both sides. Teachers’ unions lean strongly Democratic, and Florida’s Republican legislature was, at the very least, not concerned about passing legislation the teachers’ unions opposed. Democrats, of course, supported the union line on this and opposed the bill.

A host of Republican heavyweights in Florida came out in support of the bill, including former Governor Jeb Bush and two former Speakers of the Florida House of Representatives. There was a clear partisan divide on this bill: Republicans in favor; Democrats against.

The veto by Republican Governor Charlie Crist is interesting in the context of the upcoming election, as Governor Crist has decided not to run for a second term as governor, but to run for an open U.S. Senate seat instead. He is being challenged (on the Republican side) by former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio, who now leads Governor Crist in the polls.

It appears that Crist’s veto will cost him even more Republican support, making it more likely he will lose the Republican primary. Meanwhile, a poll indicates that if Crist did lose the primary and ran as an independent in November, he would win a three-way race.

Despite rumors that Crist might run as an independent, he has said he is a Republican and will be running as a Republican for the Senate. But his veto of this legislation with strong Republican support suggests he’s setting himself up to win a three-way race in November, should Rubio win the Republican primary.

Setting aside all the political maneuvering, it’s also worth considering whether it’s a good idea to pay teachers based on the performance of their students rather than on years on the job, with a pay premium to advanced degree holders, and whether job protection for tenured teachers is a good policy.


Now prosecute my accuser, says teacher at top British boys' school cleared of seducing 6th-former

A teacher accused of seducing a sixth-form boy while working at a leading public school was acquitted yesterday - and then demanded that he be prosecuted. Oxford graduate Hannah McIntyre, 25, said she never wanted to be in the company of another school pupil as long as she lived.

A jury took only an hour-and-a-quarter to clear her of having sex with the 16-year-old.

He had claimed the public school-educated classics teacher had 'passionately' kissed him for a dare after letting him and his friends into her flat and plying them with cider before taking him up to bed.

She was charged with unlawful sexual activity with a child while in a position of trust, an offence which carries up to five years in prison, and sacked from her job at £8,000-a-year Merchant Taylors' Boys' School, in Crosby, Merseyside.

But her trial this week heard that her accuser, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had previously been suspended for being rude to female teachers. The defence suggested he had made up the sexual liaison to ensure he was allowed to finish his A-levels so he could go to university.

The case will reinforce fears that teachers' careers are being ruined by bogus allegations by pupils.

After she was cleared yesterday, Miss McIntyre called for her teenage accuser - whose anonymity continues to be protected by law - to be prosecuted himself. 'Anger is not first among my thoughts right now,' she said. 'But he has, with no accountability, made an accusation and I would like to see him have to realise the effect he has had on me.'

Miss McIntyre, who had denied the charge, said she was 'ecstatic' at the verdict. 'I now need to go and have a large drink and sleep for a week,' she added.

After a celebratory kiss with her boyfriend, who gave his name only as Pete, she was asked about her future career. She said she had 'a few things in mind', and that she had found the legal process 'incredibly interesting'. But she added: 'Right now I don't think I would ever want to be in the company of another school pupil in my entire life.'

Miss McIntyre went to the leading Scottish public school Fettes College - which Tony Blair attended - before studying classics at Balliol College, Oxford. Without taking a teacher training course, she went straight to Merchant Taylors' - whose ex-pupils include former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Runcie and rugby World Cup winner Ben Kay - to teach Latin, Greek and classical civilisation.

But Miss McIntyre, who was described as 'painfully shy', soon found herself incapable of controlling the disruptive behaviour of some boys in her classes, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

The young teacher, who stands only 5ft tall, said they nicknamed her 'the Jock Dwarf' and would lock her in cupboards, put her mobile phone on top of lockers where she couldn't reach it and use it to send text messages without her knowledge.

On January 21, 2008, the 16-year-old - who sometimes 'sat in' on her classes - and two friends decided to call at Miss McIntyre's flat in the Waterloo district of Crosby for 'a laugh'. They found her drinking wine in her pyjamas.

The boys - all over 6ft - had been drinking. According to Miss McIntyre, they barged inside in an intimidating fashion, rummaging through her possessions and grabbing her pet lizard.

She told the court she agreed to accompany them to an off-licence and buy them bottles of cider in the hope that they would leave her alone, but they followed her back.

According to the teenagers, after a £20 'dare' that one of them should kiss her wasn't acted upon, one of the boys 'dared' Miss McIntyre to kiss his 16-year-old friend which he claimed she did, 'passionately'.

But she described their account as 'rubbish', saying he kissed her without warning, leaving her feeling 'repulsed' and so panicky that she had to go up to her bed, on a mezzanine level above the living area.

But he followed her simulating 'moans of ecstasy' to amuse his friends, she said. She began hyperventilating and played the game Tetris on her mobile phone to calm down. Eventually, she fell asleep, and when she awoke they had gone. She informed the school's head the next day that the boys had spent the evening at her flat, but both she and they denied anything improper had taken place.

It wasn't until almost a year later that the teenager - now a 19-year-old whose ambition of going to university has been fulfilled - told his mother they'd had sex, and Miss McIntyre was arrested.

The boy - who was a virgin at the time - said he got into bed beside her and that they had sex, but he admitted his recollection of how it had happened was 'far from clear'. Under cross-examination, he said he hadn't enjoyed the kiss as she had been 'chain-smoking', adding: 'I did not think she was all that attractive.'

She was sacked by the school after being charged, and although an appeal has been lodged she does not intend to return to teaching.

Miss McIntyre's mother Irene, herself a teacher in their home town of Falkirk, said after the verdict that malicious allegations were now a sad reality in the profession. 'It's become a more obvious hazard,' she said, adding that she was 'overwhelmed and delirious' at her daughter's acquittal.

Last month Teresa McKenzie, deputy headmistress of a school in Cheshire, appeared in court accused of seducing a 16-year-old boy and having sex with him at the British Library and in a hotel after sending him steamy love notes. But she was cleared after the boy was exposed as a serial liar with a history of making sexual advances to teachers and social workers.

In 2007 Andrew Riley, a PE teacher and head of sixth form, at a school in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire, was left with his marriage and career in tatters despite being acquitted of having cocaine-fuelled sex with a promiscuous 17-year-old girl pupil.

In 2008 Chris Keates, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said consensual liaisons between teachers and pupils aged over 16 should be considered disciplinary matters, not criminal ones.


Australian Labor Party aiming to cut private school funding?

Private schools in Australia receive Federal grants to cover part of their costs. It's likely the Leftist Feds will freeze funds going to private schools while increasing funding elsewhere. Roughly one in three pupils in Australia is now privately educated at some stage so it would take a bold government to attack private education head on. The campaign by former Labor leader Mark Latham to do so was undoubtedly a major reason for his resounding election defeat

TONY Abbott has questioned the point of the education funding review flagged by Julia Gillard and claimed the government would cut funding for private schools if re-elected.

The Australian reported this morning that the Education Minister told the Sydney Institute she would launch a review into education funding at the end of the month. She also guaranteed schools would maintain their funding until 2012 and said there was no suggestion that non-government schools would lose funding.

But Mr Abbott has today questioned the purpose of the review if it simply recommended more money for schools. “What's the point of having an inquiry if it's just more money for everyone?” Mr Abbott asked on the Today program on the Nine network. “Where's the fiscal responsibility in that?”

Mr Abbott pointed to the Rudd government's broken promise not to means test the private health insurance rebate before the 2007 election as evidence it would seek to strip funding from private schools. “You just can't trust these people,” he said.

“They don't like private education. They will, after the election, if they're re-elected as sure as night follows day, they will try to cut private schools funding.”

But Ms Gillard said she was prepared to go to fight the next election on the issue of trust on school funding. “I'm happy to fight the next election on the issue of trust,” she said. “School funding, we have almost doubled the amount of money going into schools.”

In a speech to the Sydney Institute last night Ms Gillard said her plan was to use information gathered through the My School website to ensure all schools were adequately funded. There is widespread criticism the existing model favours elite schools over public schools.

“We have given a funding maintenance guarantee. I gave it last night. This is not about taking money of schools,” Ms Gillard said this morning. “The school funding review that I opened up last night is about all schools. We currently have a system where we don't look across at all schools and say `how are they being funded?' I want to do that, I want to get it right for every child and every school.”

The government has promised to review schools funding before 2013 when the current Howard government model expires.


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