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Manatee protest against teacher bill set for Wednesday

BRADENTON — A teacher protest is set this week in response to the recently passed teacher tenure bill, which if signed into law this week by Gov. Charlie Crist will dramatically change the way teachers are evaluated and paid.

The rally will take place 4:30-6 p.m.Wednesday on Manatee Avenue West between Ninth and 15th Streets.

It’s sponsored by Fund Education Now, an Orlando-based advocacy group concerned about cuts in education funding.

Christine Sket, who heads up the Manatee branch of the group, said the rally is open to teachers, parents and the public.

She asked those who plan to attend to bring a sign designed to “inform the public of the need for Gov. Crist’s veto.”

Rally attendees are also asked to wear red for visibility and to show how they feel about lawmakers’ actions.

If Crist signs the controversial bill into law, it will place new teachers on annual contracts, link pay raises to student test scores and require school districts to divert 5 percent of their budget into a performance fund maintained by the Florida Department of Education.

Manatee County school administrators would be required to set aside $14 million in the budget, a move that some fear would mean cuts in areas like elective classes.

District officials already are expecting to slash the upcoming school year’s budget by $15 million.

Manatee School board members voiced concerns Monday night about Crist signing the bill.

“It’s being rammed through,” said Jane Pfeilsticker. “I’m in favor of requesting the governor veto this bill.”

Fellow board member Walter Miller called it a poorly conceived bill and said this week the board will send a letter to him expressing disappointment in the move made by the house and senate.

“We would definitely support him vetoing it at this time,” said school board member Barbara Harvey.

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