On April 15, Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist vetoed Senate Bill 6, spawning a strong element of disapproval from his GOP colleagues and high praise from teachers’ unions and state Democrats. The bill would have established a stronger link between student standardized test scores and teacher pay, doing away with key employment protections for teachers in failing schools.
Former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, expressed his criticism of Crist’s move to veto the bill, which had a strong conservative backing. Bush said that Crist’s action “has jeopardized the ability of Florida to build on the progress of the last decade.Florida’s sustained improvement is the result of bold reforms that were challenging, controversial and sometimes even unpopular.” Bush chairs the non-profit think tank called the Foundation for Florida’s Future, which seeks to influence public policy at the grassroots level.
In vetoing the bill, Crist voiced his concerns with the legislation, stating, “We must start over. This bill has deeply and negatively affected the morale of our teachers, our parents and our students. They are not confident in our system because they do not believe their voices were heard.” This move came with little surprise as Crist, who originally supported the bill, had begun to distance himself over the past weeks upon receiving nearly 120,000 messages. At the time of the veto, only 65,000 of the messages had been read, and only 3,000 of them supported the passage of SB 6. The bill passed the Florida Senate 21-17 and the State House of Representatives 64-55. GOP leadership had given forceful support to the measure, but some Republicans joined Florida Democrats in opposition to it.
Some have said that the passage of SB 6 would have spelled disaster for the public school system in Florida, where the standardized test, the FCAT, is used to gauge student academic progress. Even prominent politicians felt that Crist’s decision was comment-worthy, and after Crist turned against his GOP counterparts in the veto, Democratic candidate for governor Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink said, “I am pleased that Gov. Crist stood up for parents and children by vetoing the radical bill passed by the Legislature. … This harmful proposal dictated a rigid, one-size-fits-all policy to our local schools.”
Jack Lamb, a Hillsborough County School Board Member in Tampa, Florida, stated, “There were some good things in SB 6, and we’re in favor of a lot of the concepts. But they did not listen or want amendments or public input. I was appalled.”
Others in opposition were more vocal, Representative Darryl Rouson (D) claimed, “Anyone who read this bill could not go to sleep at night.”
National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel offered praise as well saying, “The governor recognized that the key to great public schools is great teachers, and the way to keep great teachers in Florida’s classrooms is to empower them, not punish them.”
Aside from the speculation on the bill’s potential repercussions for education in the Sunshine State, this move introduces a new quandary for Crist and the future of his political career. After his term as governor of Florida ends, Crist plans to run for senator, and he has several options. Each presents significant challenges.
He could remain in the Senate GOP primary, in which he is currently trailing in behind Marco Rubio. Rubio has been praised by former US Vice President Dick Cheney, who said, “I am proud to stand with Marco Rubio, and I urge all Florida Republicans, regardless of who you have been supporting, to unite behind him.” Cheney said that Crist “has shown time and time again that he cannot be trusted in Washington to take on the Obama agenda. Lately it seems Charlie Crist cannot be trusted event to remain a Republican…”
Another one of Crist’s current options is to withdraw from the Republican Party entirely and run for Senator as an independent.In removing himself from a party label, Crist would lose a large part of the Republican vote, but possibly gain some of the Democratic vote as well. Either way, the threat to Rubio would undoubtedly be negligible should Crist run as an Independent.
As the situation stands, the bill did not pass because of the Republican governor’s veto of a Republican bill. Merit-pay rules will not come as strongly into effect –if at all. The contention evolving out of Crist’s veto, then, has less to do with the the absence of the repercussions of SB 6and more to do with Crist in his race for the Primary.
Josh is a junior who now misses Florida. Contact him on a beach or at firstname.lastname@example.org