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FEA: Survey Shows Many Republican Voters Reject Teacher Merit Pay Bill

April 5, 2010

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida House will hear today from both sides on a controversial bill that would tie teacher pay to student test scores. Amid protests from teachers and parents, SB6 passed the Senate. The House version, HB7189, cleared its first committee and is now being considered by the House Education Policy Council in public hearing.

But Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, says their statewide survey of Republican voters found overwhelming opposition to the bill, and nearly three-quarters of respondents believe the current system of evaluating teachers should be kept.

"SB6 would put much more influence for schools in the hands of the Department of Education, and there would be more testing. These are things that even the most dedicated Republicans say they don't want to see happen to our schools."

More than half the Republican voters said teachers are doing a good job and are underpaid, Pudlow says. They also thought lawmakers were headed in the wrong direction with the education bills and control of schools should remain local. A whopping 86 per cent thought their local teachers were good to excellent, he added.

"By a large margin, they were very happy with the schools in their local counties, and very happy with the quality of the teaching profession."

If passed, the bill could make it tough to keep teachers in a state that pays $7,000 a year less than the national average, and also could mean residents would have less local control of schools, Pudlow warns.

"Teachers with a lot of experience are going to find that maybe they might want to move someplace else or perhaps find another profession. But more than that, you won't in your local communities have much control over your schools because Tallahassee is going to be making all the rules."

Supporters of the legislation say a more objective means of evaluating teachers would be good for students, arguing that current student performance is unacceptable.

The House Education Policy Council public hearing is scheduled today from noon until 8:15 p.m. in Webster Hall, 212 Knott Building, Tallahassee.

Gina Presson , Public News Service - FL