Senate does away with teacher tenure after angry debateby Dara Kam | March 24th, 2010
The Senate passed a measure that would have a far-reaching impact on teachers’ salaries and job security after a heated debate by Democratic opponents and an angry defense of the bill by Republicans.
Four Republicans – Sens. Charlie Dean of Inverness, Paula Dockery of Lakeland, Dennis Jones of Seminole and Alex Villalobos of Miami – joined Democrats on the losing side of the 21-17 vote.
Sen. Joe Negron, whose father and grandmother were teachers, accused the teachers’ union of fear-mongering about what the bill does to gin up opposition to the proposal.
The education personnel measure (SB 6) would give $900 million to school districts that adopt merit pay plans for teachers based heavily on how well their students do on standardized tests that have yet to be created.
Teachers would also be put on one-year contracts and student performance on the exams would be a part of educators’ certification.
Negron said he’s received thousands of e-mails and at least 400 phone calls about the proposal, many from teachers in his district who had been told their salaries would be cut in half if the bill passes.
“What a cynical ploy by the opponents of the bill…to tell teachers we’re going to cut their pay. It’s not true. It’s never been true. We’re not going to pay you less. We’re going to respect you and pay you more when you do your job better,” an irate Negron, R- Stuart, lectured his colleagues.
But Sen. Frederica Wilson, a former teacher who works for the Miami-Dade County School Board, railed against the bill, saying that it would force teachers to pick-and-choose and wind up short-changing students from less affluent schools whose test scores are lower.
“They will say, ‘Don’t give me Gary Siplin because Gary Siplin is a slow learner. Give me Alex Diaz de la Portilla.’ There will be fights,” Wilson, D-Miami said. Sen. Gary Siplin is a black Democrat from Orlando; Diaz de la Portilla is the Senate Republican Leader from Miami. “This is not good. This is not good legislation.”
Sen. Ted Deutch joined the chorus of Democrats who bashed the bill, saying it would demonize teachers.
“There are bad teachers. This legislation seems to be legislation by anecdote. We’ve heard time and time again, ‘I know of a teacher who sleeps through class. I know of a bad teacher who mails it in every week,’” Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat who is running for Congress. “Let’s be clear about one thing. Testing is not teaching. And when we base this legislation on a whole batter of new tests that don’t now exist…We are taking a step that won’t just demonize all teachers but that fails to respect the job that the overwhelming majority of teachers in this state do.”