Saturday, April 9, 2011

Drug Testing Teachers & the Poor for Fun & Profit in Florida

Latest in Ed Deform, More Tea Party Lunacy, or Just Gold Old Capitalism at its Finest? 

Image by Francis Storr
Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott has signed an executive order requiring drug tests for all state workers and welfare recipients. According to the OB Rag, Scott plans to test at least 100,000 workers on the state payroll at least four times a year, as well as 58,000 welfare recipients, who would have to pay for their own drug screening. Rita Solnit, of Parents Across America, says that the drug testing will also apply to teachers.

This is not really news, as it has been reported extensively over the past few weeks, particularly by Chris Guerrieri, at Education Matters. Yet Scott’s hubris and his success up until now are so astounding I couldn’t resist writing about it. In order to become governor, Scott had to do more than just ride the wave of anti-Obama hatred that got so many Tea Party candidates elected. He also had to successfully whitewash a sordid past that included his forced resignation as CEO of the massive healthcare company Columbia/HCA over illegal business dealings and Medicare theft. The Miami Herald reported that the company ultimately admitted to fourteen felonies and had to pay a record $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud, while Scott, himself, was found to have taken part in illegal business dealings.

This history of corrupt medical business dealings set the stage for Scott’s current foray into the anti-drug side of healthcare. In 2001, Scott founded an urgent care clinic called Solantic, which offers drug and alcohol screening tests. During Scott’s election, he disclosed that he had holdings in Solantic worth $62 million. The company was transferred to his wife’s name when he was elected governor and he assured the public that Florida would not do business with the company, thus implying that there would be no conflict of interest. Yet the Palm Beach Post News reported that Solantic had received $110,657 from the state in 2010 and $20,061 so far in 2011, mostly in Medicaid payments. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Scott is expected to force millions of Medicaid patients into managed care organizations, which could funnel millions of dollars more into his family’s business.

According to Education Matters, the ACLU of Florida is calling Scott’s move an attempt to resurrect a policy that a federal judge found unconstitutional back in 2004. Clearly there is no public benefit to drug testing workers who have no direct responsibility for public safety, while it is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars to screen everyone, especially welfare recipients, who have no responsibility whatsoever for public safety. Imposing anti-drug morality on teachers and welfare recipients is the epitome of Nanny State invasion of privacy. Interestingly, the ACLU has come out on the side of state workers but, according to the OB Rag, has not provided much support for the rights of welfare recipients to keep their urine private.

All this comes on the heels of so many other attacks on students, teachers and working people it makes the head spin. (See Solnit’s article here for more).
Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons
  • Teachers in Florida will now have 50% of their evaluations based on student test scores, which will force many of the best teachers to transfer out of low performing and low income schools and/or to focus even more heavily on test prep, at the expense of critical thinking, inquiry-based teaching and the promotion of student curiosity and love of learning. 
  • Teachers and judges will be compensated through merit pay schemes, yet there has been no money allocated to pay for it. Thus, those teachers and judges deemed “excellent” will possibly see their wages remain constant, while everyone else will either be fired or get pay cuts. This too will exacerbate teaching to the test and flight from low income schools, while it will encourage judges to ram through cases quickly, without regard for justice or fairness.
  • All new teachers will be on one-year contracts, with no job security, while existing teachers must choose between keeping their existing contracts, with the possibility of never seeing another raise, or joining the newbies with yearly contracts that may or may not be renewed. Of course, this is not a real choice. Anyone who has been in a district for more than a few years will have higher pay than the newbies, so giving up their existing contract will likely result in either not getting hired again, or having to accept entrance level wages.
  • Seniority rights for teachers will be eliminated.
  • Private charter schools will be expanded.
  • Support for the developmentally disabled will be slashed.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the mention. Things are really scary here, out of control. Florida is well on its way to ending both public schools and the teaching profession and elections... sigh...