Should Teachers Have Tenure?

That has been a hot topic in Florida this past week, because the Florida legislature passed a bill that would remove job protection from tenure for teachers, prohibit teachers from being paid more for holding advanced degrees, or for being paid more for number of years on the job, and require merit pay based on the performance of their students.

Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill today.

Despite the rhetoric on both sides of doing what’s best for Florida’s schools, there were some politics involved on both sides.  Teachers’ unions lean strongly Democratic, and Florida’s Republican legislature was, at the very least, not concerned about passing legislation the teachers’ unions opposed.  Democrats, of course, supported the union line on this and opposed the bill.

A host of Republican heavyweights in Florida came out in support of the bill, including former Governor Jeb Bush and two former Speakers of the Florida House of Representatives.  There was a clear partisan divide on this bill: Republicans in favor; Democrats against.

The veto by Republican Governor Charlie Crist is interesting in the context of the upcoming election, as Governor Crist has decided not to run for a second term as governor, but to run for an open U.S. Senate seat instead.  He is being challenged (on the Republican side) by former Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio, who now leads Governor Crist in the polls.

It appears that Crist’s veto will cost him even more Republican support, making it more likely he will lose the Republican primary.  Meanwhile, a poll indicates that if Crist did lose the primary and ran as an independent in November, he would win a three-way race.

Despite rumors that Crist might run as an independent, he has said he is a Republican and will be running as a Republican for the Senate.  But his veto of this legislation with strong Republican support suggests he’s setting himself up to win a three-way race in November, should Rubio win the Republican primary.

Setting aside all the political maneuvering, it’s also worth considering whether it’s a good idea to pay teachers based on the performance of their students rather than on years on the job, with a pay premium to advanced degree holders, and whether job protection for tenured teachers is a good policy.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University. His Independent books include Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis (edited with Benjamin Powell); and Writing Off Ideas: Taxation, Foundations, and Philanthropy in America .
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