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SB 4 Sparks Quarrel Between Shapiro, Teachers Groups

A bill authorizing a major rethink of teacher evaluation in Texas public schools has teachers organizations scuffling with Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.

Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, speaks to the press on Senate support for Texas teachers and classrooms on March 23, 2011.

A bill authorizing a major rethink of teacher evaluation in Texas public schools has teachers' organizations scuffling with Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano.

After SB 4 passed the Senate on Thursday, the Texas American Federation of Teachers cried foul, saying Shapiro had made "a series of unfounded assertions about teacher groups' support for the bill" during debate on the floor.

From the Texas AFT's "Legislative Hotline" newsletter: 

Something happened on the floor of the Texas Senate today that your Hotline writer cannot recall ever seeing in more than 25 years of watching the Senate in action. A bill was brought up on the floor and misrepresented as one having the support of teacher groups at the very time that teacher groups were still in the middle of ongoing negotiations with the Senate author to address major continuing objections to the bill.

In an interview, Shapiro said she felt sideswiped by the attack. "This is a teacher bill, I'm not going to do anything that the teachers don't like," she said. "Everything that's in that bill was agreed to by the teachers, every amendment that I put on it, every change I did was what the teacher groups asked us to do."

Texas AFT President Linda Bridges said her association felt similarly blindsided, because at a meeting the day before the Senate took up the bill, Shapiro's staff asked them to return the next day — Thursday — with updated language. Instead, they found that the bill had been scheduled for debate on the Senate floor, something Bridges said "surprised everyone."

Shapiro said her staff informed her that the final amendments to the bill were sent to the group two days before, and they had heard no response. 

"I have no control over when the bill goes on the floor," she said. "The only thing that I know of that could have possibly happened is that [teachers' groups] want more changes — not that they didn't like the bill —  but that they want more changes, and we will accommodate that. But the bill passed out of here. Now we have to deal with that on the House side."

The group has a meeting scheduled with Shapiro on Monday to work out their differences. 

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