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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

SB 736 passes Senate, heads to House



Not surprisingly, the Florida Senate has passed Senate Bill 736 to change teacher contracts, evaluations and pay by a vote of 26-12.

Two Republicans, Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Dennis Jones of Treasure Island, opposed the measure. One Democrat, Gary Siplin of Orlando, backed it.

In her comments, Dockery said the bill takes many positive steps to improve the teaching profession in Florida. Still, she continued, it had three areas that needed improvement, including the need to extend three-year contracts to teachers who receive strong evaluations. Most critical, she said, the bill needs money to back it up.

"We don't even know what it's going to cost," Dockery said, noting the looming costs required to create assessments needed to evaluate teachers.

Other senators acknowledged the bill was not perfect. But they said the state has three years to put meat on the bones.

"Is this a finished work? Is the Sistine Chapel ceiling finished? Perhaps not," said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, calling some of the concerns brought forth "justly raised." The state must move ahead, though, to get the improvement process started, said Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach.

"It is time for all of us to get on the same page and continue with the reforms we started, because we have not gone far enough," Lynn said. "This may not be the perfect bill or the bill you want. Bottom line is, this is a good bill, it is one step in the right direction."

After the vote, the bill was immediately certified to send to the House, where the Education Committee continues to debate its own very similar version.

UPDATE 11:50 a.m.: The House Education Committee voted to recommend the bill by a 12-6 margin along party lines.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 10, 2011 1:41pm]


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