Despite FCAT Worries, McCollum and Scott Still Pushing Senate Bill 6

When Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed "Teacher Tenure" Senate Bill 6 in April, teachers prayed the legislation was gone for good. Not so fast.

SB 6 is back ahead of schedule, becoming a central talking point for Bill McCollum and Rick Scott, the two Republican candidates competing to replace Crist. Never mind the fact that the bill relied heavily upon the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), whose accuracy has been called into question.

This year's FCAT scores have been heavily criticized, both for their accuracy and their near monthlong delay. Last week, Florida's Department of Education released two independent audits of the FCAT scores, both of which -- surprise! -- show the scores are OK. Nonetheless, school districts still have doubts over the test results, according to Bill Montford, head of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

SB 6 would have permanently tied teacher pay to student performance on the test, leaving open the possibility of teachers getting fired or facing pay cuts over inaccurate test scores.

"Just imagine what would have happened had Senate Bill 6 passed," says Dr. Gloria Pelaez of University of Miami's School of Education. "That legislation would have been a disaster."

But for Scott and McCollum, a narrowly avoided crisis spells opportunity. Both candidates' campaigns are pushing more or less revamped versions of the bill. McCollum's website clearly spells out his intention to "empower superintendents and principals to remove non-performing instructional staff" (in other words, fire teachers more easily), while Scott has vowed he would have passed SB 6. Neither campaign responded to requests for comment.

McCollum is on a tour of the state with former Gov. Jeb Bush, also a major supporter of SB 6.

State CFO and Democratic nominee for governor Alex Sink has criticized SB 6. She lobbied Crist to veto the bill.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.