Florida teachers fear nothing can stop another SB 6
In the wake of Tuesday's election results, teachers across Florida are growing anxious that nothing can stop another version of SB 6, the controversial teacher tenure bill that passed the Legislature last spring but was dramatically vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist.
"There's absolute fear out there," state Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, told The Gradebook.
Bullard (at left), a high school teacher, said fellow teachers started hitting him with questions about SB 6 as soon as he walked into school Wednesday morning. "Morale is being diminished because it's looming," he said. "No one is stepping to the forefront to calm your fears. It definitely puts an ominous feeling into the school year."
Republican leaders who pushed the bill vowed after the veto to bring back another version in 2011. Opponents pinned their hopes on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, who urged Crist to kill it.
But Sink lost Tuesday to Republican Rick Scott, who indicated during the campaign that he would have signed SB 6. Meanwhile, Republicans increased their already strong majorities in both the Senate and House. And Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine - the bill's chief sponsor - coasted to re-election despite being targeted by SB 6 opponents.
In the aftermath, "everybody's riding a wave of emotion," said Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando County teachers union. "Right now, we're on a surfboard and headed right for the seawall. I'm hoping there's a life guard."
Bullard said he didn't expect that a new version of SB 6 would be substantially different than the original. But he still hoped that the legislative process for considering it would be different - meaning more input from stakeholders, and more changes to address real concerns.
"Hope reigns eternal with me," Bullard said. "As a member of the minority part in a veto-proof House, that's really all you got."
"Obviously, everyone can see the handwriting on the wall," Vitalo said. "The group that supported SB 6 is now in total domination in Tallahassee."