Politics

Rick Scott Signs Teacher Performance Pay Into Law

SB 736 is first bill signed by new governor
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: March 24, 2011 11:03 AM
Governor Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott / Photo: Mark Wallheiser

On Thursday morning, at a school in Jacksonville, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law SB 736 -- legislation that reforms the way teachers are paid in the state of Florida. A similar measure, SB 6, passed the Legislature in 2010 but was vetoed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist.

The new law reforms teacher pay to rely on performance and assessments instead of seniority. The new law places new teachers on annual contracts as opposed to having tenure and makes half of a teacher’s evaluation reliant on assessments in a four-tiered system.

“I am proud that the first bill I sign is this important legislation that will give Florida the best educated work force to compete in the 21st century economy,” Scott said. “We must recruit and retain the best people to make sure every classroom in Florida has a highly effective teacher.”

The sponsors of the bill, Sen. Stephen Wise, R-Jacksonville, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, cheered the news.

“The passage of Senate Bill 736, ‘The Student Success Act,’ would not have been a success without the months of collaborative committee work and public input from teachers, administrators and parents,” said Wise. “I’m thankful for the cooperation from the many groups and individuals who contributed to the discussion on instructional quality, along with the dedicated committee members. Our teachers are incredibly influential and important to the success of our children and our future as a state. I believe this bill will attract top-quality educators to Florida and foster a student-centered, world-class education system.”

“This is a momentous occasion for our state’s education system,” insisted Fresen. “Excellent teachers are the driving force behind student success and this bill provides for a system that recognizes those highly effective educators and rewards them appropriately.”

The governor’s allies also praised the news.

“This landmark bill recognizes that teachers are the most important factor in schools when determining a child’s success,” said education reformer Michelle Rhee, the founder and CEO of Students First and an adviser to Scott on education issues. “We applaud Florida for its adoption of bold and comprehensive education measures that put students first.”

“The action taken today recognizes that quality teachers are the fundamental component of a first-rate education,” said CFO Jeff Atwater, who presided over the Senate during the 2010 debate on SB 6. “Exceptional teachers will now be distinguished, celebrated and rewarded for their dedication and skill to impart knowledge that inspires our students.”

Leaders from the Democratic ranks continued to attack the reforms, arguing that they hurt teachers.

“It is indeed a cruel hoax that SB 736 promises pay raises with everything but the pay or the raise,” noted former Sen. Dan Gelber on Thursday -- the Democratic nominee who lost to Pam Bondi in the attorney general race back in November. “As a father of three public school kids, I am angry that Florida insists on educating on the cheap. I am offended that so many politicians who pray to the altar of ‘market principles’ believe that those normally inviolate rules somehow don’t apply to public education.

“But I am most worried that the rush to tether teacher pay to the FCAT will only result in an even greater emphasis on teaching to a test that has already narrowed our curriculum, dumbed down our schools, and resulted in one of the worst high school graduation rates in the nation,” continued Gelber. “The FCAT is not a solution (it is a test) and testing should never be confused with teaching.

“I don’t know when underpaid schoolteachers became public enemy No. 1,” Gelber concluded, “but I know it’s wrong. If anyone needs to be demonized it is the Florida Legislature and the governor who apparently believe that cutting school budgets and educating on the cheap is justifiable if it pays for special interest tax breaks.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.


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