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Legislature sent back to square one

Teachers, students and parents rally at the Seminole County Education Complex on April 13 in protest of Senate Bill 6, which was vetoed on Thursday by Gov. Charlie Crist.

Teachers, students and parents rally at the Seminole County Education Complex on April 13 in protest of Senate Bill 6, which was vetoed on Thursday by Gov. Charlie Crist.

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Gov. Charlie Crist has vetoed Senate Bill 6, the bill that would change the way teachers in Florida are paid to a merit-pay system.

In a press conference last week, Crist said he made the decision to veto over concerns of content.

Teachers across Central Florida have rallied in opposition to the bill, flooding Crist's office with phone calls and e-mails.

On April 13, more than 150 teachers and parents rallied at the Seminole County Education Complex, as cars on Lake Mary Boulevard passed by and honked in support.

"We are pleased with the decision," Regina Klaers, spokeswoman for Seminole County Public Schools, said. "I know they have expressed that if a revised plan is submitted in the future, we would look forward to working with our teacher organizations for details on any kind of future plan."

"We are so excited," said Judy Wiant, of the Seminole County Council of Parent Teacher Association. "I think enough of us actually contacted the governor to let him know this is our preference for him to veto it, that it was not a good bill, and I think he saw that."

Parents and teachers weren't the only ones cheering about the governor's veto — the Orange County School Board was supportive of the decision as well.

"The governor's veto now allows legislators, teachers and school district administrators to come together to work on a merit pay plan that has a chance at success," said Daryl Fynn, vice chairman of the Orange County School Board. "Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 7189 was an unfunded mandate, challenged local control and pitted school boards against teachers.

"The veto gives both sides of the issue the opportunity to bring clarity to several worrisome parts of the bill, collaborate with teachers and local district officials and, hopefully, identify a funding source."

The main issue many teachers had with the bill was that their pay would be based on the success of their students instead of on experience and higher education degrees.

"What's happening is, he's going to drive teachers out," said Oviedo High School teacher Erica Segrest.

"To base someone's pay on someone else's abilities doesn't seem right to me," said Christina Morris Smith, a teacher at Sanford Middle School.

Some teachers even said the bill would drive them out of the state.

"I don't want to teach to a test," said Jill Iracleanos, who's finishing her education degree at the University of Central Florida. "I'm willing to move. I won't be able to teach authentically."

"Anybody who can get out of education will," said Karen Doddridge, a teacher at Lake Brantley High School. "No young person will be foolish enough to go into it [education]."

Crist vetoing the merit pay bill won't be the end of education reform. Teachers said they're open to new ideas, as long as lawmakers go about it the "right way."

"It's imperative that teacher input be invited when developing a successful merit-pay system," Flynn said. "The issue isn't going away. Both sides must come to the table to work together to achieve a workable system."