Saying it's only polite — but not political — state and local teachers unions are urging members to send their thanks to Gov. Charlie Crist for vetoing the controversial teacher pay and tenure bill.
"Join the tens of thousands of Floridians who are sending a Thank You to Governor Crist for the SB6 Veto,'' says a message on the Florida Education Association website. "Pledge Your Support.''
Unions have stopped short of endorsing Crist in his bid for the U.S. Senate. For now, he is trailing fellow Republican Marco Rubio in the primary but has confirmed that he is mulling an independent run.
That would be good news for Wendi Werther, a longtime teacher and lifelong Democrat who told Crist she would switch her party affiliation to vote for him in a Republican primary if he vetoed the bill.
"We're all standing behind it gritting our teeth praying that he becomes an independent,'' said Werther, who teaches science at Miami Palmetto Senior High. "I would be happier if he were an independent. This way I don't have to change parties. But he has my vote no matter what.''
Crist has until April 30 to decide how he will run.
Werther was one of a handful of Miami-Dade teachers who trekked to Tallahassee last week to share their concerns about the bill, which would have tied teacher pay to student test scores and eliminate tenure for new teachers. Crist invited the group into his office for a chat. He vetoed the bill the next day.
Since then, he has received more than 15,000 thank-you messages. He had gotten more than 120,000 messages, mostly in opposition, before the veto.
The FEA, the state's largest teachers union, is running a 30-second television ad in Tallahassee today thanking Crist and pushing for collaboration on future education reform efforts.
"Specifically about the campaign, it's not a decision we've made yet,'' said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the FEA.
The union endorsed Kendrick Meek in the Democratic primary, but Pudlow said a decision would be made about the full race after the legislative session ends.