FLORIDA TEACHER CERTIFICATION TEST FEES ARE TOO HIGH
VERY LITTLE DISCUSSION
With only one state public meeting of discussion on May 19, 2009, that was held at a small Tampa community college, Hillsborough Community College, the Florida State Education Department amended rule 6A.40021 of the Florida Administrative Code to drastically increase the FTCE/FELE teacher certification exam fees. The Department gave 21 days for public comments but by all accounts the rule was amended in May anyway. The last increase in these exam fees took place only 5 months prior on January 1, 2009.
A subject area exam that cost $25 in 2008 went to $50 on January 1, 2009 and then $200 on September 1, 2009.
The Florida Department of Education now has “carte blanche” to raise the fees even higher with no end in sight. At the current rate of increase at $250 a year, a subject area test alone may cost as much as $1250 in five years. The Education Department has said nothing about fee caps.
If an individual fails a subject area exam he or she is penalized with a $20 increase in order to take a re-test or $220.
The state General Knowledge or GK exams , that are required of every teacher candidate, that were $50 on January 1, 2009 became $130 on September 1, 2009 with a $20 penalization fee or $150 for a re-take.
HOW THE FLORIDA TEACHER CERTIFICATION PROCESS WORKS FOR NON-EDUCATION CANDIDATES AND THE NEW FEES
1. A candidate fills out the application and has his transcripts submitted to the State Education Department in Tallahassee for review. The cost for this review is $75. (Georgia’s current fee is $25 and South Carolina’s is $95.) If the state review finds the applicants grades and course of study acceptable the candidate will skip the subject area exam. He pays $75 to the state for a “Statement of Eligibility” which is valid for 3 years only as the candidate continues testing. (This document enables the individual to actually teach in a classroom temporarily. If the applicants grades and course of study is not acceptable to the state then the candidate must take the Subject Area Exam. The Subject Area Exams , with the new fees cost $200 on the first try, $220 on a re-take.
3. After passing the Subject area Exam, a Pass/Fail Score Report is generated. If the candidate passes, he sends $75 to the State of Florida for a “Statement of Eligibility”.
4. Next, the candidate must pass the required Professional Exam which under the new fees is $150 on the first try and $170 on a re-test.
5. The next tests to take are the required General Knowledge or GK exams. They consist of 4 parts, English Language,Reading, Essay Writing and Math. The GK tests under the new fee structure is $130 on the first try and $150 on a re-take of any part failed.
6. Upon passing the GK or General Knowledge tests the applicant sends another $75 to the state to receive “A Statement of Eligibility For A Florida Teaching Certificate”.
The total costs for all of these tests, on a first try basis, is now $705.00.
The books that can be purchased to study for these tests either XAMONLINE or Research Education Association (REA) cost fom $34.95 upwards to $59.00 each which raises the costs.
But once a school accepts a candidate with a “Statement Of Eligibility” for teaching there are a series of classes the candidate must attend for example, Classroom Management. There are fees for these classes and its up to the local districts whether to cover them partially,fully or not at all.
It is important to note that even passing all the required tests and paying $705.00 in new fees, no candidate is guarranteed a teaching position in Florida.
There is no posted data from the Florida Education Department as to how many individuals received “Statement’s of Eligibility For A Florida Teaching Certificate” and those who actually have recently found positions and those who are actively looking for a teaching job. Some individuals attain Teaching Certificate eligibility but do not teach or look for positions.
INFORMATION LACKING FROM THE STATE
In March 2009 one of our committee members wrote the Florida State Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith Ed.D regarding the January increase. In response Cornelia S. Orr PH.D stated, “The Department has been able to keep the examinee test fees low because a portion of the cost is used for developing and administering tests is paid by funds allocated by the Florida Legislature from General Revenue”.
Exactly how much that “portion of cost” was, has never been posted or is not available in a Google Search. With it’s September 1, 2009 increase the situation has apparently changed with a statement posted on a webpage https://reg3.nesinc.com/FL.Registration/Register.aspx reading “beginning September 1, 2009, the Florida Teacher Certification Examinations (FTCE) and Florida Educational Leadership Examination (FELE) fees will support all test developement, test administration, and scoring services”.
Again, we have no idea what these costs are.
There were 123 teachers in Broward County who failed to update their certificates in the summer of 2009 and we still do not know why. We don’t know how many statewide did not update their certificates. The Education Department has offered no data as of yet.
There are a number of positions in Broward County that are still not filled, three weeks into the 2009-2010 school year. Broward fired 394 teachers but hired many back but not all. Broward has begun hiring teachers from out of state presumedly because the state doesn’t have enough qualified teachers to come down to Broward, Florida and teach the subjects that are in need.
This situation should ring alarm bells all over the state that somethings wrong.
THE FIELD IS NOT NOW LEVEL IN FLORIDA TEACHER CERTIFICATION
Individuals with jobs now teaching out of their subject area in Florida Schools have funds available to them to offset the costs of subject area tests. Those without jobs do not have this opportunity.
WHY WE OPPOSE THE NEW TEACHER CERTIFICATION FEES IN FLORIDA
There is no data posted as to the number of certification exams that were taken in 2008 prior to the January 2009 increase or how many took exams after that increase. There is no data available as to how the increase may have affected the pool of certified candidates who were ready to teach.
There is no data posted as to how much Evaluation Systems who were hired just prior to the 2009 increase charges the state as opposed to the previous testing company. There is no data posted as to the shortfall of funds from the Florida Legislature or whether private sources were considered to make up the differences.
The data posted at http://www.nesinc.com is insufficient to answer these questions. Prior to January 1, 2009 education in Florida was about “teaching” and “knowledge”. Now Florida certification is about money and lots of it.
Candidates from middle and lower economic backgrounds must struggle to pay for testing while others from well to do families have less problems getting up the fees. A diversified pool of candidates might not be possible under these circumstances.
The Commissioner of Educations posted yearly salary is between $195,416.00 and $275,058.00. At it’s high end, that would fund certification completely on the first try for 390 teacher applicants
Broward School Superintendent James Notter receives a salary of $299,400. This would fully fund about 424 teacher certification exams.(It’s fair to say Mr. Notter’s salary has been trimmed about 8.7% due to the economy.)
Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho receives $275,000. This would fully fund 390 teacher certification exams.
Palm Beach County Superintendent Art Johnson receives $300,000 yearly. His salary would fully fund 425 teacher certification exams.
Hillborough County’s Superintendent Mary Ellen Elia receives $257,971 and her salary would fully fund 365 teacher certification exams.
The salaries of the Commissioner of Education and 4 Superintendent’s equal $1,407,429.00 and could fully fund 1996 teacher certification exams. If you only partially fund an applicants certification FTCE tests by 50% then 3992 certification exams could be funded 50%. That would reduce a subject area exam to $100, a General Knowledge exam to $65 and the Professional Education exam to $75 for the applicant to pay. These fees are much more reasonable.
PLEASE SUPPORT THE FTCE FEES REVOLT
We’re spreading the word across Florida. The State Education Department is spending money it doesn’t have. Instead of fresh ideas to fund their ambitious program, they’re picking the pockets of the very future of Florida education, the young teachers. We believe high fees will “frighten” away a number of people who’s goals are to teach our states students.
In 2002 there was a teacher shortage and we believe history will repeat itself. It is estimated by Yahoo writer Tim Padgett that “at least 58,000 people have fled Florida, in part due to high taxes.” It is “the first net outflow in 63 years for a state that considers itself a new California”.
If people are fleeing the state for high taxes would it not follow that teachers will dry up due to high certification fee’s?
Cigarette taxes have nothing to do with Teacher Certification but the effect of raising fees and taxes shows what people do when they are faced with higher prices.
A South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on September 7, 2009 explains how “state figures show a 28 per cent drop in the sales of cigarette packs in July versus the same month a year earlier. Rather than pay the increase some buyers are crossing state lines into Georgia .”
In another analogy, “certification in Florida has been riding in a Cadillac. It has gotten newly certified teachers to where they need to go. But now the State Education Department wants a BMW but doesn’t have the money to pay for it. It wants the riders to foot the bill and says it needs a new vehicle in a “cash crunched time”. Improving assessment is important but not when you can’t afford it.
With so many questions about the effects of high certification exam fees, the effect of the outflow of people from the state, the seeming glut of positions especially in critical areas that require “out of state” teachers to be hired, a lack of knowledge as to just what the State Education Department is taking in and spending for certification testing , a lack of fresh original ideas to approach the funding problem and a lack of statewide input into the new fee structure, we urge you to sign our petition at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/ftcefeesrevolt
Our petition is aimed at the Florida Legislature to take action to reverse this situation and re-fund again the State Department of Education on testing and assessment exams so the fees will drop once again to reasonable levels. The costs of the State Department of Education must be reined in.
Floridians are emotional about education matters and they have the right to be informed about changes affecting their educational system.
We ask you to join us at firstname.lastname@example.org and to spread the word that Florida needs lower and reasonable teacher certification testing fees.
The Committee for Lower Certification Testing Fee’s, P.O. Box 70335,Fort Lauderdale,Fl 33307