Just days before leaving the Republican Party and becoming an Independent (though still a self-proclaimed Jeb Bush conservative at the time) Governor Charlie Crist vetoed a dangerous teacher tenure bill. This one action seemed to cement the loyalty of Florida’s Teachers Unions to him, leading to a stunning split-endorsement between Crist and US Rep. Kendrick Meek, who had been perhaps the state’s most vocal elected advocate for teachers, students and parents in the 2010 US Senate race.
Given this backdrop one would think Crist had been a strong supporter of teacher tenure throughout his long career. Evidently not the research finds. In 1997, Crist voted in favor of the amended version of a bill that made it easier to fire tenured teachers. The Palm Beach Post wrote of the controversial bill, “It would shorten from two or more years to 120 days the time needed for a school district to get rid of an incompetent teacher.” (SB 340Florida Senate Journal, 5/2/1997, Page 1821, 3/6/1997, Page 124; Palm Beach Post, 3/6/1997).
Some other highlights of Crist on this issue:
Crist Voted to Make Firing Teachers Easier and Against Tenure. In 1997, Crist voted against an amendment that ensured that teachers with at least three years experience could be removed only for ‘just cause,‘ a move that would give less discretion to school boards, according to the St. Petersburg Times. a compromise on the issue of teacher tenure. 13 Republicans, including Senate President Jennings, joined 15 Democrats in favor of the amendment, according to the report. [Amendment 10 to SB 340, Passed 28-12, 3/5/1997, Page 110; St. Petersburg Times, 3/6/1997]
Crist Wanted to End Tenure for College Professors. In 2001, the St. Petersburg Times reported that, “In an interview with the Gainesville Sun, Crist said it might be time to review the use of tenure for university faculty, an academic tradition designed to protect theability of professors to do controversial work, or make controversial statements, without fear of being censored or fired. Crist suggested increased pay would be a better method of rewarding professors than lifetime employment.” [St. Petersburg Times, 4/19/2001]
Crist Voted For The Legislature To Determine The Total Number Of Tenureships Available For Award Each Year. In 1993, Crist voted for SB 1706 – Faculty tenureships in the Education Committee. The bill provided for Legislature to determine total number of faculty tenureships available for award each year. The bill passed 6-3. [Florida Senate Education Committee, SB 1706, 1993]
Crist Voted to Require that Some of Teacher Pay be Based on Merit. Crist voted for SB 342, that required superintendents recommend and school boards set up pay schedules basing a portion of teachers’ salaries on performance. [Florida Senate Journal, 3/6/1997, Page 123]
Crist Wanted Test Scores Linked to Individual Teachers. According to a 2001 South Florida Sun-Sentinel story, Crist circulated a memo in February 2001 requesting that all Florida school districts prepare lists linking math, reading and writing teachers to individual student scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests (FCAT). Teachers unions and school districts criticized the memo. Compiling the lists, they said, would hurt teacher morale. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 2/25/2001]