“You can’t just buy teachers with $2,500,” Wright said. “Our members are going to look to see where the governor stands on charter schools, on the trigger, on merit pay. Then, we’ll decide whether to support him.”
Some observers believe signing those bills would undo any political capital amassed by spending $480 million on teacher salaries.
“He’s going to have to be very careful about what he opposes at the end of session,” said Wayne Blanton, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association. “He knows he can’t keep kicking public education around and have a positive public opinion.”
But Bush and the powerful school-choice lobby will put pressure on Scott, too. Already, Republican leaders have signaled that expanding choice will be a top priority. House Speaker Will Weatherford, for example, designed an education subcommittee to focus specifically on “choice and innovation.”
What’s more, supporting charter and virtual schools could win over some teachers.
“Ultimately, what is going to cause teachers to move closer to the governor is his doing things that allow them to more be innovative and creative,” said Doug Tuthill, president of Step Up for Students, a nonprofit organization that supports the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. “Charter schools, virtual schools and magnet schools give teachers that flexibility.”
Scott isn’t tipping his hand.
Asked where he stood on various education policies, Scott replied: “My focus this session is $2,500 pay raises for classroom teachers, increasing the funding for the debit card for teachers to buy supplies, the money for professional training, and the $1.2 billion overall [increase] for K-12 education.”
Pushed specifically on the parent trigger, Scott would not say whether he might veto the bill.
Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, who sits on several House education committees, said he does not expect the governor to take a strong stand on education policy.
“That will be left up to the Legislature,” Fresen said.
The governor’s most important bargaining chip may be delaying the merit-pay system. Teachers want the launch postponed. And some key Republican lawmakers, including Gaetz, have already said they could support a slowdown because deploying the new system entails deploying a new curriculum and student assessments.
Martin, the Wakulla County teacher, said she would be paying close attention.
“He’s really reaching out to educators and moving education in the right direction,” she said, noting that she could support Scott in a potential bid for reelection.
But Roxanna Elden, a creative-writing teacher at Hialeah High School, said she is skeptical.
“It’s going to take a lot more for [Scott] to convince teachers that he cares about education,” she said.
Herald/Times staff writer Tia Mitchell contributed to this report. Kathleen McGrory can be reached at kmcgrory@MiamiHerald.com.