On April 15, 2010 Governor Crist (R) vetoed Senate Bill 6. Some see his decision to veto the controversial legislation as a sign that Crist will run as independent in the primaries for US Senate.
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Senate Bill 6 Outrages Teachers
In late March, teachers were outraged when Florida chamber voted 21-17 to pass Senate Bill 6. The bill is sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher (R) with the support of former governor Jeb Bush, and requires teachers to be evaluated and paid primarily on the basis of “learning gains” on standardized tests, although the language is still unclear about the methods. The bill would also require that experience, professional certification, and advanced degrees not be considered when paying teachers. Teachers would be put on a 5 year probationary period and then work one-year contracts, allowing principals to easily fire teachers on a year by year basis. New tests would be created to include every subject in the annual testing lineup.
House of Representative Passes House Bill 7189 64-55
The Florida House of Representatives began debating the bill Thursday, April 8 at 5 p.m. and, after hours of debate, concluded at 2:26 am Friday with a final vote of 64-55 in favor of the bill. The bill is just one component of the rewrite of the state’s educational system. The package includes the removal of class-size caps as well as an expansion to the state’s voucher program.
According to the Sun Sentinal Speaker-designate Dean Cannon (R) called the bill one of the most “transformational policy changes that our state and our nation has ever seen.” The bill, if signed by Governor Crist would make Florida the first state in the nation to pass such a reform of teacher tenure. Democrats like Rep. Keith Fitzgerald called the bill “discouraging and insulting” to teachers.
Even teachers that support merit pay such as Florida Teacher of the Year Richard Ellenburg have spoken out against this experiment and agree that placing teacher livelihood in the hands of standardized test scores is invalid at best and harmful at worst due to external factors such as students home life, test anxiety, poor policies, etc.
WWCD: What Will Crist Do?
The bill is now on the desk of Governor Crist, awaiting a sign or a veto, which will occur sometime this week. Crist had planned to sign the bill, but, in light of thousands of teacher calls and emails to his office, he is now on the fence.
Students and Teachers SICK with Outrage
After learning that the bill had passed the House of Representatives, students were as outraged as teachers. Many walked out in protest against the bill in an effort to raise awareness about how sb6 will negatively affect teachers and students. Protests continued today with sit-ins and other protest activities.
Teachers also took to the streets last Friday, April 9. One middle school teachers insists, “We are not in this for the money, we could be doing far better things with our talents… I am worried about what education is going to turn into. It is our job to try and make it better.”
On Sunday, the Miami-Dade Public School District estimated 5% of teachers would be out sick. Under Florida law, teachers are not allowed to strike, but this morning Miami-Dade public schools were open and only about 75% of teachers showed up for work. Teachers were sick with outrage and took to the streets in Miami to protest the controversial teacher bill. Parents were called to pick up their students and many chose to take their students home. Remaining students were placed in cafeterias, large media centers, gymnasiums and multi-aged classrooms.
The school board discouraged the teacher “sick day”, but according to the Miami Herald, teachers like Stephanie Farrington are not calling out to hurt the kids. She urges, “We’re actually doing it to help the future of the profession.” Other school districts, such as Broward County School District, are also protesting the bill. Broward County teachers and students are wearing all black to show their frustration with the teacher bill.
Over 10,000 teachers and parents have already signed the petition urging Governor Crist to veto SB6. If you agree that Governor Crist should veto the bill, click here to sign the petition.
Photo 1 from wptv.com and Photos 2-3 taken by Ozzy Fortich
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