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School Board member calls teachers union leaders ‘thugs’

Photo: Indian River County School Board Member Shawn Frost

Open hostility has broken out between Indian River County School Board Member Shawn Frost and teachers union President Liz Cannon after Frost called teachers union leaders “thugs” in a recent Twitter posting.

Cannon fired back at a school board meeting, criticizing Frost’s inflammatory post and accusing him of “cheering on bogus legislation designed to cripple our schools.”

Frost is a founding member and current president of the Florida Coalition of School Board Members, a group formed in 2015 to promote charter-school funding and other educational-reform measures.

He recently returned from Tallahassee where he lobbied for several education bills, including the 278-page House Bill 7069, which is now on Gov.  Rick Scott’s desk.

Frost said the teacher bonuses in the bill would far exceed the $900 a year Cannon negotiated for them through the Indian River County Education Association, with some teachers qualifying for up to $7,200 a year.

Frost also claimed the bill would improve the testing climate, moving the Florida Standards Assessment to the end of the year, “so teachers have more time to teach and don’t have to cram a year’s worth of teaching in before a testing window that opened on February 28 this year.”

He said HB7069 provides $15 million for paper-and-pencil testing for third-through-sixth-grade students, “so what is being tested is content and not technology familiarity, especially important in low-income populations.”

Cannon said many of Frost’s claims about the bill are false. The $214 million in teacher bonuses is mostly “based on a test taken in high school (the college entrance exam) that will neither recruit nor retain teachers.”

She also challenged Frost’s and the coalition’s claim that the bill reduces and improves testing. “It reduces tests by one . . . and nothing is made better,” Cannon said.

In his April 18 Tweet, Frost wrote “Never mistake teachers with the union thugs who take advantage of them! Teachers=awesome, unions=usurpers.”

When told 70 percent of Indian River County teachers were union members, Frost said, “You misunderstood intentionally. Bosses are thugs. Not members.”

Cannon, during public comment, asked if that meant she was a thug. Frost did not respond. 

Frost told 32963, “I don’t blame Ms. Canon, she’s just carrying water for the state organization, but she is literally being paid to attack me in public meetings. Teachers in our district pay half of her salary in union dues. She’s a part-time professional pessimist  ... I am a full-time optimist who has worked hard, by meeting with education committee chairmen, the speaker of the House and president of the Senate to shape the best possible outcome for teachers, parents and students contained in HB7069.

“Being willing to stand against the status quo makes me a target to the guardians of the status quo and the greatest of these is the Florida Education Association,” Frost said. “I apologize if any teacher or volunteer union member took offense at the way my comments were misrepresented. I certainly meant no offense to our outstanding teachers whom I referenced as ‘awesome’ in the Tweet.”