SoFla Students, Teachers Rebel Against Merit Bill

Word of walkouts, no-shows at Miami-Dade schools after controversial bill passes

By Brian Hamacher
|  Saturday, Apr 10, 2010  |  Updated 7:45 AM EDT
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Just hours after the Florida House passed the controversial teacher merit-pay bill in the wee hours of Friday morning up in Tallahassee, teachers and students in South Florida began to show unrest at the measure they say is unfair.

Teachers calling in sick and student walkouts have been reported throughout Miami-Dade this morning, mere hours after the bill which ties teacher pay to student performance was passed.

At Manuel C. Barreiro Elementary in Kendall, only about seven or eight teachers showed up to work today, with the rest calling in sick, a source said. Students were either sent home or left to wait out the school day in an extended recess.

There are also reports that teachers throughout the state are being encouraged to skip work Monday to protest the bill's passage.

There was at least one student walkout at a Miami-Dade high school and rumors of planned walkouts at two more.

Union officials say the obviously organized protest does not violate their "no strike" contract clause with the county because it isn't an official strike.

Students at American High School in Miami Lakes were seen pouring out of classrooms, leading cheers against the bill outside the school building.

Students at Ronald Reagan/Doral Senior High are expected to stage a protest at 1 p.m. Friday, and students at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High are expected to walkout some time today

The bill, passed around 2:30 a.m. Friday by a 64-55 vote, will give teachers pay raises based on student performance on standardized tests. Bad evaluations could cost teachers their certifications.

The vote on the bill was essentially split on party lines, with all Democrats opposing it and all but 11 Republicans supporting.

Now that it's passed through the House, the bill goes to Gov. Charlie Crist, who had been a supporter but now isn't sure whether he'll sign or not. he has seven days to sign or veto the bill.

"There are things about it that I like and things about it that give me some concern," said Crist. "I'm listening to the people of Florida, my boss."

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