Crist vetoes Senate Bill 6 after weeks of intense pressure

April 16th, 2010 by

http://www.examiner.com – Florida’s educators, parents and students have finally gotten their way, after weeks of protests, rallies, letters, phone calls and e-mails. Crist claims to have received over 42,000 e-mails in opposition to the bill, and says that he has never been subject to so much pressure over a piece of legislation since he has been in office.
At a press conference today, April 15, around 12:00 PM, Crist announced that he was vetoing Senate Bill 6, the “teacher tenure” and “merit pay” bill that has united teachers, administrators and school board officials in a rare show of solidarity.
The legislation would have based 50% of a teacher’s salary on the results of standardized tests. It would also have eliminated tenure for all teachers hired after July 1, 2010, placing all new hires on annual contracts ad infinitum, and would have made teachers’ recertification dependent upon the results of standardized tests. The bill would have demanded a standardized end-of-course exam for every course offered in the state, which could be created at the state level or district level; the creation, administration and scoring of these exams was not budgeted for at the state level, and districts were told they would have to start withholding 5% of their operating budgets for the creation of these tests.
Though the bill was sponsored by Republicans, and no Democrats in the Senate or House voted for SB 6 or companion bill HB 7189, the issue has proven contentious even among Republicans. While there was intense pressure from Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Florida’s Future to push the legislation through, the bill has not shown itself popular among Republican voters as a whole–which some Republican legislators picked up on, including four state representatives from Miami-Dade.
Speculations on why Crist finally vetoed the bill vary. Some say that he voted his conscience, rather than bending to pressure from top Republicans. Others (including myself) say that, while he may well have been uncomfortable with the bill, he also saw great political advantage in vetoing the highly unpopular bill. In a Republican primary where he is trailing conservative darling Marco Rubio, the veto could push Republican teachers and parents to come out and support his bid for U.S. Senate. The ultraconservative and libertarian Tea Party movement also opposes the far-reaching state takeover of public education inherent in the legislation, which could help Crist in the primary as well.
If he loses the primary, he might be able to count on the support of independents, moderate Republicans and stakeholders in public education in the general election, should he choose to run as an independent.
If, on the other hand, he had chosen to sign the bill or to do nothing (thus allowing the bill to become law), he would not have set himself apart from Rubio, who supports the legislation, and likely would have stood little chance of winning the Republican primary…or a general election as an independent.
While Republicans in Congress will almost certainly work on a very similar piece of legislation for next year, it appears that this bill is dead for this year. Educators have united, flexed their muscle and made their collective voice heard in this crucial matter. However, this unity and voice will be tested come November. Hopefully all of those who stood on streetcorners waving signs and sent thousands of e-mails, letters and made so many phone calls will remember their civic duty in November, and make sure that those who sponsored and supported this bill are taken out of office.
They must also be very careful about their choice of governor, since it was finally he who saved the day this year.
The horizon is certainly not clear for public education. This bill was the most far-reaching in the nation so far, but it does appear to be the general trend. Teachers will have to stay united and organized to ensure that their input goes into any important education legislation.
But for tonight, teachers around the state of Florida will be a little more relaxed than they have been in weeks…and this weekend will be celebrating the demise of the bill that would have caused the demise of the careers that they have chosen and stayed in, despite almost constant adversity, out of love and a desire to effectuate positive change.
Having one’s voice heard is very rewarding indeed.


One Response

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