Teachers and students protest Senate bill 6
BY ARIEL SMILOWITZ
On April 15, Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the highly controversial Senate Bill 6 (SB 6), drawing a collective cheer from teachers and students around the state of Florida.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Senator John Thrasher, would have mandated that a teacher’s pay would be determined by their students’ performance on standardized tests. End-of-year standardized tests would have been implemented for every subject in order to evaluate a student’s progress.
In addition, teachers would be working on annual contracts throughout their careers, meaning that seniority and advanced degrees, including the prestigious National Board Certification, would not have contributed their salaries.
Along with Thrasher, several others supported the bill, including former Governor Jeb Bush; initially, Governor Crist supported the bill as well.
The bill had passed through the Senate with a 21-17 vote and the House of Representatives with a 64-55 vote. However, due to the statewide wave of protest from teachers, students, and concerned parents, Crist decided to veto the bill.
Before Crist made his decision, several student and teacher protests took place throughout the state of Florida. Cooper City High School students and teachers took an active role against the bill, including writing letters and emails to Governor Crist, staging walkouts, and participating in various demonstrations.
According to The Miami Herald, nearly 120,000 emails and letters were sent to the governor’s office; of the messages read, about 65,000 were against the bill, while only 3,000 supported it.
As an act of protest, CCHS students staged a walkout on April 12 to speak out against the bill, as well as attended after-school demonstrations.
Freshman Aaron Smith not only participated in the walkout but many of the after school demonstrations as well.
“I wanted to show my support for teachers and public schools,” Smith said. “The government should pay more attention to public input.”
Several CCHS teachers also took part in protesting the bill.
“I joined civic groups so that I had additional avenues to make my voice heard,” English teacher Suzi Margolin said. “I also called and emailed Crist, Thrasher, and Martin Kiar, the state representative for the area, and spoke with parents and students.”
CCHS Foreign Language teacher Cynthia Turni is a designated steward for the Broward Teachers Union. Her job includes watching out for teachers by staying informed about issues that pertain to them. Along with the Union, Turni frequently showed her dislike of the bill through several protests.
“I participated in demonstrations with the Union at the KC Wright Administration Building and protested with 200 people in the Union offices,” Turni said. “I was glad to see so many people standing up for their rights- the bill was detrimental to the state’s education. The bill was all about merit pay based on student performance; there are too many factors affecting students to make it fair.”
The bill was not brought up after Crist vetoed it for the rest of the legislative session, which ended on April 30, however the issue of education reform is far from over.
“They should talk to teachers and create a focus panel,” Margolin said. “They should go county to county and take field trips in order to get our input. They should look at denied proposals and see if there’s any merit. Start from scratch and come at it with a rational, respectful head.”
Although SB6 has been vetoed, it is expected to be brought up again next year, under different terms and conditions. Until then, factors that determine a teacher’s salary remain the same.