Hundreds of teachers packed the House Education Policy Council meeting room in Tallahassee yesterday for an eight-hour hearing on HB 7189, the House companion to the John Thrasher led SB 6 that would make it easier for experienced teachers to be fired and base more of their salaries on student test scores.
The bills have clearly received the most attention and (in some quarters) scorn of the session, as it further attempts to place standards on teachers that many in the education field believe is far too heavy handed and not "teacher friendly."
One of the arguments that supporters of the controversial legislation point to is the state's abysmal high-school graduation rates. As one critics said yesterday, as reported today in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:
"I don't know how you can be satisfactory and have 60 percent of your high school students unable to read at grade level," said Arthur Rothkopf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the numerous business groups supporting the legislation.
Rothkopf said the legislation is "squarely aligned with mainstream" education reforms around the country.
The legislation would require that by July 1, 2014, school districts would have to implement pay plans based on a teacher-appraisal system. The bill would not take tenure away from current teachers or lower their salaries, but would put new teachers on one year of probation, followed by four one-year contracts. After five years in the profession, teachers would have to be graded "effective" or "highly effective" to keep their jobs.
The bill passed 12-5 in committee, though one Republican who voted "yay", Hillsborough District 47 Representative Faye Culp says she will vote against the bill when it comes up for final passage later this week unless come changes are made, according to the St. Pete Times:
Rep. Faye Culp, a GOP lawmaker representing a moderate Tampa suburban district, sided with Democrats on for a handful of amendments that sought to protect teacher certification and reward teachers who seek higher degrees. She eventually voted for the bill, but warned: "If it does not change, I will be voting no on the House floor."