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FCAT ordeal far from over due to SB 6

The marquee at Kinnan Elementary School had the same message for two weeks:

“FCAT March 10-19.”

Yet Friday afternoon I noticed the last date.

FCAT was over.

The students at Kinnan and across Manatee County had to be relieved.

Their teachers, too.

Yet the FCAT ordeal is far from over.

Particularly for teachers.

Not if draconian state legislation becomes law.

Last Wednesday the Senate OK’d SB 6, a merit pay bill that would tie a teacher’s salary to how well their students do on FCAT and end-of-year testing.

That’s not all.

SB 6 would also do away with job security for new teachers, who would be placed on yearly contracts that would only be renewed if they were judged high performers.

It would withhold state funding from school districts that don’t adopt the merit pay system.

It would also direct them to create end-of-course exams to judge teacher effectiveness.

Another unfunded mandate from Tallahassee.

That’s the Florida Legislature for you.

Public education in our state is embarrassingly underfunded as a matter of course.

Then the Legislature targets it for more cuts every budget session, especially the past three years.

“Stack ’em high and teach ’em cheap,” Palm Beach County School Superintendent Art Johnson, an old acquaintance, used to joke.

It’s not a joke anymore.

The political environment has made teaching in this state a difficult proposition — and now teachers may be facing SB 6?

“This bill does more to damage teacher morale than anything I have seen in a long time,” said Wayne Blanton, the Florida School Boards Association chief.

State Sen. John Thrasher’s defense of the bill he sponsors is laughable.

“It’s a Nixon-goes-to-China type thing,” said this consumate strong-arm politician and new head of Florida’s GOP.

No, it’s not.

Nixon engendered a cultural and economic breakthrough by opening a door with diplomacy.

Thrasher will accomplish the exact opposite by slamming the door in teachers’ faces.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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