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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Input wanted for SB 6 sequel, Florida Senate chairman says



There's no question that Florida lawmakers plan to write a law that will change the way school teachers are hired, contracted, paid and evaluated. The difference this year from last is the amount of collaboration and input that the Legislature plans to seek in bringing the bill forward.  

In the Senate, at least, change is in the air. The Pre-K-12 committee heard two hours of testimony Wednesday morning from superintendents, teachers union leaders and education activists who offered constructive ideas about how to craft a piece of legislation that might gain wider support than last year's widely feared Senate Bill 6.

"We are taking the testimony today so we can focus in on what we need to do," said chairman Steve Wise, who plans a daylong session with teachers on Friday. He ended the meeting by stressing that he wanted "input and serious discussion, not like last time."

Wise told the Gradebook that he is looking for possible answers to thorny issues such as how to fairly evaluate teachers who do not teach classes that are covered by the FCAT or end-of-course exams. He also said he's not interested in simply taking a slightly rewritten version of last year's bill, which has been circulating in Tallahassee, and jamming it through. He expected a bill to come out next week.

"We may take pieces out of it," he said. "But we are working very closely with all of the component groups."

Wednesday's speakers, among whom were Pasco schools superintendent Heather Fiorentino and Hillsborough schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia, carried a common theme: Change is needed, but it must be thorough, relevant, sustainable and affordable. Several urged the senators to consider using the Race to the Top model that's being worked out in most Florida districts as the starting point, and to proceed from there.

After the session, Fiorentino said she was pleased with the direction that the Senate is taking.

"I believe that they want to hear us," she said. "They don't want to do a bill without input this time. They learned from the mistakes of SB 6." 

A House education subcommittee is slated to discuss similar issues later Wednesday afternoon.

[Last modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:13pm]


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