NAPLES — Collier County School District Superintendent Dennis Thompson had called Senate Bill 6 a disaster.
But as Gov. Charlie Crist continues to wrestle over whether he will sign the state’s most controversial education bill in recent years, Thompson said he supports making Senate Bill 6 law.
“It’s known that I am not wild about performance pay legislation,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “I have sent letters to our legislators, the Florida Association of Superintendents and I have asked the School Board to express their displeasure with the Florida School Boards Association. That said, I would prefer the governor sign the bill because I do not want to give up the tenure provision in the bill.”
The bill would do away with tenure for newly hired teachers and require school districts to establish merit pay plans for teachers, which would be based on how much improvement their students show on standardized tests.
Poor evaluations, though, could cost teachers their jobs through denial of recertification.
Thompson, said he believes the district could sort out the problems with merit pay for teachers, but said tenure reform was too important to lose. He said he believed if Crist vetoes the bill, he idea of reforming tenure of teachers could be lost forever.
“This is something that makes sense,” he said. “We need changes in the rules.”
Cal Boggess, president of the Collier County Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers, said Wednesday evening that the news was confusing because Thompson had been an opponent of the bill.
“So, he wants to do away with due process for teachers then? It’s just pure and simple as that. He’s willing to take the bad so he can get rid of a teacher without due process,” he said.
The union and teachers have argued that proponents of the legislation are using a misnomer to sell it to voters — namely, the legislation will rid schools of bad teachers by putting them on annual contracts.
Once teachers have a professional service contract, known as “tenure,” they can still be fired, Boggess said. The contract just guarantees the teacher the right to due process.
Crist has until Friday to make a decision on the legislation.