Charlie Crist Talks Merit Pay During Stop In North Fort Myers

Jul 24, 2014

Charlie Crist in a round table discussion with Fort Myers teachers.
Credit Ashley Lopez / WGCU

A group of teachers met with former Republican Governor and now Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist during his stop in North Fort Myers Thursday.

Charlie Crist has been on an education listening tour the past two days. On Wednesday, he stopped in Sarasota where he talked to a small group of teachers. In North Fort Myers, nine teachers spent a lot of time talking about teacher pay. They mostly had concerns about the very first piece of legislation Gov. Rick Scott signed into law during his first year in office. The law ties teacher pay to how students perform on standardized tests. Crist said the law is hurting teachers and that’s why he vetoed a similar bill when he was governor a few years ago.

“We do have to take a measure, but you have to do it reasonably and it’s why when I was governor before when testing got out of control I vetoed Senate Bill 6 because it wasn’t the right thing to do and it had gone too far,” Crist said.

Crist’s running mate—Annette Taddeo-Goldstein—joined him for the event. Former state Senator Dan Gelber was also part of the discussion. He said merit pay has been a big issue since he was in the Florida Legislature.

“When you talk to teachers, it has decimated the profession,” Gelber said. “I have a sister who teaches history—a lot of her merit pay is determined by children she doesn’t see in a subject she doesn’t teach.”

Jason Thomashefsky is a music teacher at Rayma C. Page Elementary in Fort Myers. He was also a Teacher of the Year Candidate. He told Crist he had a lot of concerns about merit pay.

“It creates a culture that is not conducive to learning,” Thomashefsky said. “It’s not something that makes teachers happy. It’s a stressful environment and that reflects onto the students.”

Scott has argued merit pay is a good way for the state to increase teacher accountability.