Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Specter of Senate Bill 6 Hovering over Thrasher's Race; Candidates Agree That Education Is a Priority, but Not on What to Do

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Specter of Senate Bill 6 Hovering over Thrasher's Race; Candidates Agree That Education Is a Priority, but Not on What to Do

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

State Sen. John Thrasher, who came under heavy fire from teachers and teachers' unions as he tried to shepherd his controversial education bill through the Legislature this year, said he's keeping a focus on education if he's re-elected.

That could mean a return of something like Senate Bill 6 next year. Thrasher argues that the framework of the bill could help Florida win $700 million in federal Race to the Top funding, and he said legislative leadership will determine the path to get there.

And although his two opponents argue that Thrasher's bill would have hurt the state's schools, the St. Augustine Republican said education is the single area he would fight to protect if money remains scarce next year.

"It's going to take good, hard leadership to see that we protect education," Thrasher said.

However, he said he remains convinced that better schools will come when schools are more accountable and teachers have incentives to perform at their highest level.

Next year, he said, the focus will likely shift to funding as the state continues to crawl out of a recession and the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico wreaks havoc on tax revenues that have long streamed from Panhandle businesses and tourist hangouts.

Because of Senate Bill 6, a piece of legislation that would have set teacher pay to student performance, Thrasher has drawn opponents who say he's hardly the man to help the state's already beleaguered school system.

Beaches dermatologist Charles Perniciaro is running against Thrasher in the Aug. 24 GOP primary. The winner of that race advances to the Nov. 2 general election to face Democrat Deborah Gianoulis, a former TV news anchor who was at the helm Save Duval Schools as the group protested Senate Bill 6.

The bill was vetoed, but the pay-for-performance debate carried on as education groups predict similar legislation will be introduced in the future.

Senate Bill 6 had backing from business leaders and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Whether another plan like it would surface next year remains in question.

Neither Perniciaro nor Gianoulis is basing a campaign around the Senate bill but both said the legislation was a window into a bigger problem. …

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