Following protests from angry teachers across the state, Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday vetoed a bill that would have linked teacher pay to student test scores, and that would have eliminated tenure for new teachers.
Crist initially voiced support for the bill, but distanced himself in the last several days as protests mounted.
Some analysts have speculated that Crist's rejection of the measure signals that he is about to drop out of the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, where he badly trails in the polls, and run as an independent.
The Florida Senate passed the bill by a vote of 21-17. The Florida House of Representatives passed it by a 64-55 vote, largely along party lines. The bill had strong support among Republican Party leadership, but some in the GOP joined Democrats in opposing it.
Teachers union leaders cheered the decision on Thursday.
“We applaud Governor Charlie Crist's decision to listen to Floridians and veto Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 7189, and congratulate the thousands of Broward teachers and students who have made their voice heard loud and clear in this long and difficult process,” Broward Teachers Union President Pat Santeramo said in an email.
Broward Schools Superintendent James F. Notter agreed.
“The governor has exercised foresight, leadership and wisdom in vetoing SB6,” Notter said in an email. “I applaud his decision. It's clear that he pays attention to the voices of the thousands of teachers, administrators, parents, students and citizens across the state.”
On Wednesday, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho urged Crist to veto the bill. Carvalho left the School Board’s monthly meeting Wednesday to join about 200 people outside of the building, mostly teachers, in a show of support.
“As we stand together as one single unit, I want to send this honest message to Tallahassee,” said Carvalho, who was joined by Karen Aronowitz, president of United Teachers of Dade. “I am with you, I am proud of you, God bless all of us. I understand that you are delivering the impossible.”
On Thursday, after Crist vetoed the bill, Carvalho said in an email, “The Governor has listened to the people of Florida and has responded to their concerns.”
Florida Senate Bill 6 would have essentially compensated teachers based on their students’ performance. It would not have taken into account a teacher’s years of experience or advanced degree to determine compensation. In addition, new teachers would have been subject to annual contracts, renewable based on performance, instead of the multi-year contracts educators currently enjoy.
Aronowitz called the bill a conspiracy to kill public education in the state of Florida.
“It’s power politics,” she said on Wednesday. “Follow the money. Who stands to gain from this? Test vendors.”
Pictured above is Gov. Charlie Crist.