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Teacher Pay, Evaluation In Play in State Elections

By Sean Cavanagh — November 01, 2010 1 min read
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Few education topics today fuel as much passion and rhetoric as efforts to revamp how teachers are paid and evaluated. So it’s no surprise the issue has become a dividing line in the 2010 state elections for governor, superintendent, and other offices.

Over the past year, several states either approved or considered teacher pay proposals, during the scramble to win the federal Race to the Top competition, or independent of that dash for cash.

Now candidates are making their stands. One state where teacher pay is being discussed on the stump is Florida, where the two gubernatorial contenders, Democrat Alex Sink and Republican Rick Scott, have taken very different positions on Senate Bill 6, legislation that would have tied teacher pay to student test scores, among other metrics.

That measure passed the state’s legislature this year, only to die with a stroke of Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto pen. (Crist is running as an independent for U.S. Senate.)

While Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, has publicly backed merit pay, she has blasted Senate Bill 6, saying that would have weakened the authority of local governments over hiring decisions.

"[If] you look at the details and what the parents and the superintendents and the school board members actually knew that it was, it was a takeover by Tallahassee politicians and bureaucrats of local school making decisions,” the Democrat said during an Oct. 25 debate with Scott. “Those decisions ought to be made locally. That was rightfully vetoed.”

But Scott, a former health care executive who has vowed to push for school choice and charter school expansion, says he would have signed Senate Bill 6. He described it as an important tool for holding educators accountable for improving student achievement.

“We need to come up with a measuring program that’s fair to teachers,” he said at a public forum last month. "[I]t’s got to be tied to how you move a child, an individual child, from this level to the next level. So it has to be achievement-based.”

Photo: Alex Sink, left, and Rick Scott hash it out during an Oct. 25 debate. Joseph Garnett, Jr./AP-Pool.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.