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Dems can't agree on teacher tenure bill

The Florida Senate Democratic Caucus met early Wednesday to discuss taking a unified position on a teacher pay and tenure bill that's on the fast track in the chamber. But they couldn't agree on what to do.

Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat and head of the Florida Association of Districts School Superintendents, said he will offer an amendment to set three-year contracts for new teachers -- instead of the annual contracts proposed in the bill.

The amendment didn't go anywhere in the committees that previously approved the bill. And Democrats don't expect the change -- which has the backing of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union -- to be approved on the Senate floor. Republicans want to send the bill as is to the House for approval, so it can move quickly to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott, who has pledged to sign it.

Yet the Democrats chose not to take a position on the amendment.

"I'm not convinced that it's a good amendment," said Sen. Gary Siplin, an Orlando Democrat who voted for the bill in one committee where he was the only Democrat to veer from party lines. The teachers union, he said, never laid out its problems with the bill to him, despite his close relationship to Sen. Stephen Wise, the Jacksonville Republican pushing the legislation forward.