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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

House passes SB 6 by a vote of 64 to 55



The decision is up to Gov. Charlie Crist now.

Following hours of frequently impassioned debate that ended just before 2:30 a.m., Florida's House of Representatives voted 64 to 55 early Friday morning to approve a controversial bill linking teacher pay to student performance and ending tenure.

Hailed as a way to reward the state's best teachers, the bill would base half of a teacher's evaluation on students' performance on tests. Instead of the current system, which rewards teachers based on years of experience, advanced degrees and extra certification, proponents say newer teachers could make more money earlier in their career if their students are successful.

With teachers across the state watching live and commenting on Facebook throughout the evening and into the morning hours, lawmakers stood one after another to urge a vote for or a vote against -- all of them beseeching one another to do what's right for kids.

Though the issue sailed through both sides of the legislature thanks to the majority vote of Republicans, there were some who strayed from party lines.

Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, said he'd been threatened about the ramifications of a no vote on his next campaign. But he said the bill is "full of flaws." 

"We should not be afraid," he said, "we are here. And if you don't have the skin or are not brave enough to stand for your principles or your morals, then you don't belong in this chamber."

Faye Culp of Tampa, another Republican, said she has been bombarded with letters and e-mails from constituents.

"Not the first one has urged me to vote yes on this bill," she said. "They have all been please vote no. I am following my constituents' request."

But the vocal proponents said the legislation would put an end to the status quo, force teachers to excel and reward them when they do.

"It's about rewarding good teachers," said Rep. Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill.

And in the early morning hours, just before the vote, bill sponsor Will Weatherford, R-Land O'Lakes, called on legislators to look beyond the noisy naysayers.

"Sometimes," he said, "some people fail to have the vision of that the picture is that we're trying to accomplish. Ladies and gentlemen, I argue that to do what we're doing here today, it takes vision."

The bill now goes to Crist, who has seven days to decide whether to sign it into law or issue a veto. Earlier this week, Crist indicated support for the measure. But since teachers flocked to the capitol, streets and airways to show their displeasure, he's indicated he's uncertain about the bill.

"There are parts of it that I like," he told a group of students at University of South Florida on Thursday, "and parts of it that concern me."

- Rebecca Catalanello, Times staff writer

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:57am]


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