Here is a lesson I learned as a young reporter: Be careful when you mess with teachers.
I learned this from a group of educators who took issue with the slightly snarky tone of a story I wrote about an antidrug and alcohol assembly at a local high school, during which students were warned of the dangers of wine coolers. (Yes, it was that long ago.)
Not that I was for student imbibing. I just quoted kids who found the presentation lame.
Oh, but the teacher types begged to differ, and you should have seen my editor's face as they led him into his own office to give him their thoughts. It was like he was following a pack of Teamsters bearing baseball bats.
So. Will Florida's teachers go to bat, so to speak, for Charlie Crist?
Will they try to save him, even?
The governor did them a solid Thursday by vetoing the Republican-pushed Senate Bill 6, the one Crist said sparked the most passionate and intensive lobbying he's seen since debate over the fate of the late Terry Schiavo.
Wow, you might say that. Though if, like the governor and me, you happen to have educators in your family tree, you have long lived their stories of low pay and misplaced legislative priorities and, in spite of all that, the rewards of doing something as important as educating kids. The passion over this one probably did not surprise you.
Senate Bill 6 linked teacher raises to student performance, not their academic degrees or years of experience. While the bill had some good features, like weeding out the worst teachers and rewarding the best, good questions were raised about state control and other messy issues. And understandably, teachers were not happy about an attack on their tenure.
So protesters rallied, teachers staged a sick-out thousands strong in Miami-Dade, and educators and their supporters lobbied for Crist's veto. And he delivered.
I'm sorry, did someone say politics?
As you know, Crist is in a slugfest with Marco Rubio in his Republican bid for the U.S. Senate, and he's on the ropes big time. Republicans are mad at Crist for supporting stimulus money, for treating the president with warmth (the very idea!) and, well, for just not being Republican enough, I guess. These are sins unforgivable.
Now maybe Crist has a wistful daydream, that many of Florida's 170,000 teachers who rallied and threatened and fought against that bill will do the same for him for standing up for them and killing it. Charlie the White Knight!
Hey, he's already lost the Republicans, right?
Small kink: Teachers who are Democrats can't vote in a Republican primary. They would have to switch parties, which you can do at your elections office at least 29 days before the Aug. 24 primary.
And wouldn't that be a hoot?
Then there's the idea of Crist giving up on a party that looks like it has already given up on him and running as an independent — something he says he won't do. But desperate times and all that.
Maybe it's too late, the polls too far apart, the Republicans too mad.
But wouldn't it be a classic Crist ending, one for the schoolbooks, in the chapter about the weird way American government sometimes works?