Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Teacher tenure bill headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk

TALLAHASSEE — A major law intended to reward the best teachers with better pay and weed out bad teachers won final approval in the Florida House on Wednesday, handing a victory to Republicans who pushed similar reforms through the Legislature last year only to be rebuffed by former Gov. Charlie Crist.

This time, the bill is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott, who will sign it as likely the first legislation of his administration.

But what makes teachers worthy of a pay raise — and how much more they would be paid — is still up in the air.

The bill stipulates that half a teacher's evaluation is to be based on student test scores, like the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, known as FCAT. The other half will be up to school districts.

As for pay, the bill mandates that effective teachers receive the first and highest raises when a school district can afford them. But there's no indication of how much higher those salaries could be increased.

At a news conference celebrating the bill's passage, neither Scott nor Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, could answer the question of how much teachers should be paid. "More than they are currently," Haridopolos said, refusing to elaborate.

Said Scott: "There's no set answer for that. It depends on what we can afford, what other people are getting paid. So it's always relative."

The shortfall in the state's preK-12 education budget is at least $1.6 billion, according to Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who told the education committee he chairs that they will struggle to provide the same level of school funding in the next budget year.

The House voted 80-39 along strict party lines for Senate Bill 736, which will also wipe out so-called tenure in favor of one-year contracts for new teachers and do away with layoffs based on seniority. The Senate signed off on the bill last week.

The law marks the next phase of high-profile educational reforms that began more than a decade ago, with the creation of the FCAT and, later, former Gov. Jeb Bush's plan to grade schools based on students' performance on the exam.

The latest changes come as states, prodded by the federal government, have moved to measure teacher effectiveness by tying it to students' performance in the classroom. Last year, Florida received $700 million in competitive grant funding from the federal Race to the Top program, which requires states and school districts to revamp how they link student test scores and teacher pay.

The award came after Crist vetoed Senate Bill 6, a contentious proposal with similar reforms that prompted protests from teachers who said the law was rammed through the Legislature with little public input. Most school districts and many teachers unions later worked together on Race to the Top.

In their bill this year, Republican sponsors Sen. Stephen Wise of Jacksonville and Rep. Erik Fresen of Miami said they tried to make the reforms more palatable to critics. The new law leaves room to reward teachers who work in high-poverty schools or teach in subjects where there is a shortage. They can also earn more pay by having extra certification or advanced degrees in the field they teach.

And the pay-for-performance plan will only affect teachers hired after July 1. Current teachers can opt into the plan if they give up tenure.

"More teachers have said to us they want to be measured, they want to be recognized for their excellence," said Rep. Richard Corcoran, a New Port Richey Republican.

But Democrats argued the bill will create a funding hardship for school districts that have to come up with new ways to evaluate teachers. And annual contracts will make it difficult to attract and retain good teachers who will no longer have job security, they said.

"What type of message are we sending home to our teachers right now?" asked Rep. Betty Reed, a Tampa Democrat. "What type of message are we sending them — that we no longer need you?"

The sentiment was echoed by teachers and their local unions that fear already steep budget cuts. "The biggest problem with them is there's no money to go with any of this," said Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association. "And that's on top of the governor already cutting billions out of the budget for education."

Liza Johnson, 50, a veteran special education teacher at Calvin Hunsinger School in Clearwater, was back in Tallahassee on Tuesday campaigning against the bill, just like she did last year with Senate Bill 6. Johnson teaches second- and third-grade students diagnosed with emotional behavioral disorders and said she's baffled by how she would be evaluated given her students' academic and behavioral challenges.

In the House, like in the Senate, the bill's passing was never in doubt. Republicans hold veto-proof majorities and made teacher reform one of their priorities.

After 3 1/2 hours of debate, all Republicans voted for the bill and all Democrats against it, with one GOP member, Rep. Michael Bileca of Miami, absent.

Times/Herald staff writers Marc Caputo, Rebecca Catalanello and Thomas Marshall contributed to this report.

Teacher tenure bill headed to Gov. Rick Scott's desk 03/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 11:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Kushner to testify before two intelligence committees

    Politics

    WASHINGTON— President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to make a second appearance on Capitol Hill — he will speak with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, one day after he is scheduled to speak with Senate Intelligence Committee investigators behind closed doors.

    White House senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  4. Exhumation of Dalí's remains finds his mustache still intact

    World

    FIGUERES, Spain — Forensic experts in Spain have removed hair, nails and two long bones from Salvador Dalí's embalmed remains to aid a court-ordered paternity test that may enable a woman who says she is the surrealist artist's daughter to claim part of Dalí's vast estate.

    Salvador Dal? died in 1989 leaving vast estate.
  5. Sessions discussed Trump campaign-related matters with Russian ambassador, U.S. intelligence intercepts show

    Politics

    WASHINGTON — Russia's ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, current and former U.S. …

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after meetings with an ambassador were revealed.