In the most dramatic show of opposition in the state, thousands of Miami-Dade's public school teachers took a personal or sick day Monday to protest controversial legislation that would overhaul their pay.
Though schools remained open and were staffed by substitute teachers, the "sickout'' was large enough to disrupt the day for thousands of schoolchildren in the state's largest school district.
"We don't do it to hurt the kids,'' said Stephanie Farrington, a second-grade teacher. "We're actually doing it to help the future of the profession.''
Tampa Bay teachers took a more low key approach Monday, writing letters, sending e-mails and in Hernando wearing black.
Laurie Seltz, a kindergarten teacher at Brooksville Elementary in Hernando, wrote "Veto SB 6" and Gov. Charlie Crist's phone number in white paint on her black Honda Fit.
Crist has until Friday to sign or veto the bill. The message he's hearing from most people: Veto it.
Between March 1 and Monday, Crist's office logged 15,694 calls, 1,869 letters and more than 18,000 individual e-mails opposing the bill. That's compared to 264 calls, 11 letters and 80 e-mails in support.
Lawmakers on both sides of the debate predict the bill won't have a chance this session if Crist vetoes it.
"If the governor vetoes this bill, the bill's dead,'' said state Rep. Esteban "Steve'' Bovo, a Hialeah Republican who voted for it.
The new legislation would base teacher raises on student test scores, not on years of experience or education level.
Miami-Dade teachers are expected back in class today.
Under Florida law, teachers are not allowed to strike. Malinda Gorham, a fifth-grade teacher at Brooksville Elementary, said she is passionate enough about SB 6 that she would consider staying home if teachers had a right to strike in Florida.
Leaving her principal and students in the lurch by calling in sick, however, would gnaw at the eight-year teaching veteran.
"The students shouldn't be punished. They're not to blame," Gorham said. "It would do more harm than good."
Chad Gibson, parent of two Brooksville Elementary students, said local teachers made a good call in showing up to teach.
He is well-versed in the SB 6: Gibson's brother and sister-in-law are teachers and the fear of what the bill could mean for teachers has come up often at family gatherings.
Still, Gibson said, "Calling in sick is not a professional way to handle it."