State lawmakers expect marathon sessions on teacher merit pay, tenure

Members of the Florida House of Representatives are preparing for what could be back-to-back marathon sessions over the next two days to debate a bill that would require merit pay for public school teachers, and put an end to tenure for new hires.

The House is slated to be in session for nine hours this afternoon – 2:45 p.m. until 11:45 p.m. – and 12 hours on Wednesday – 1 p.m. until 1 a.m.

HB 7019 would require teacher evaluations to be based at least 50 percent on student learning, as measured by statewide assessment tests. Performance evaluation results would be the basis for employment decisions and workforce reductions, rather than seniority.

Under the bill’s provisions, beginning in July new teacher hires would be placed on one-year contracts.

The Florida Senate passed its version of the controversial bill last week.

Also this week, Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, will have a tort reform – “crash worthiness” – bill on the Senate floor. The bill would allow juries in product liability cases involving automobile crashes to hear evidence of a driver’s negligence in the crash.

Richter has said the bill will help send a signal to the business community that Florida is “open for business.”

“Today, if there is a car driven 120 mph into a brick wall or into a tree by somebody that’s drunk, 15-years-old, high on drugs, whatever, and the car hits the tree and the airbag doesn’t deploy correctly, Ford Motor can be sued for a product liability case. That’s fine,” Richter said. “If there’s an enhanced injury that’s not necessarily inappropriate.

“What is inappropriate in today’s environment is that the jury cannot hear … any of the circumstances that caused the car to hit the tree.”

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