TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who’s considering a run for the White House, told Republican lawmakers Wednesday they’ll be national leaders in education reform if they finally put into law a teacher merit pay bill former that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed last year.

The bill would have tied teacher raises to test scores, made it easier to fire teachers and provided more school choice. Crist vetoed it and soon after changed his voter registration from Republican to no party at all. He then lost an independent bid for Senate.

Pawlenty, expected to announce his presidential plans in the next two months, said the veto denied Florida a chance to set an example for the country.

“This issue of teacher recruitment, preparedness, training, effectiveness, accountability and removal is one of the most important things the nation can do and Florida is in a position to lead the country on that issue,” Pawlenty said to applause. “I hope you do it. I plead with you to do it.”

After his remarks, Pawlenty again talked about how important the bill would have been.

“That bill was one of the leading pieces of legislation in education reform in the nation and if the Florida Legislature and the governor can sign anything close to that they would do a great service to the cause of education reform and accountability for the entire nation. I and many other would stand up and cheer and applaud,” Pawlenty said.

The bill was a top Republican priority and Crist initially said he supported it. He later changed his mind, saying teachers convinced him it wasn’t good for schools. He was loudly criticized by Republican leaders, including his predecessor Jeb Bush, when he vetoed it.

“I would salivate, I would dream about a bill like that having come to my desk when I was governor. I wish I could have gotten a bill like that,” Pawlenty said.

The Legislature is expected to pass a similar bill this year and it will likely be signed by new Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos is inviting all prospective 2012 GOP presidential candidates to come to Florida to talk to lawmakers. Pawlenty was the first to do so.

Florida, already an important state in presidential elections, will gain two electoral votes in the 2012 election, giving it 29. President Barack Obama carried Florida in 2008, but the state is expected to be a battleground when he seeks re-election.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (7)
  1. Linda LeBoutillier says:

    Why should Tim Pawlenty tell Florida what to do with their schools, when he didn’t even get it right in his own state when he was Governor?

    1. Wendell in Mpls says:

      cuz Florida may be full of nitwits who’ll listen?
      pretty weird to have the T-Paw chatting like he did things right and has better ideas. 😉
      kinda like Michelle Bachmann yapping like an untrained weiner dog. both about as smart as one too

  2. Troy says:

    Education Minnesota pretty much killed any hope of us ever getting it right.

  3. getaclue says:

    TPaw needs help. All he did was borrow, take, cut educaion and rail on teachers. Gee, wonder why education isn’t flourishing?
    However, If this is such a good idea, let’s apply it to our legislature. Performance pay for our own senators and reps and the governor too.

  4. Joe says:

    Timmeh! Shut up!

    It would help if the media would ignore this attention-seeker like the rest of us are trying to.

  5. dunnski57 says:

    Politicians and their narrow minded agendas have done more harm to our public schools than any single force. Timmy is the perfect example. The Union? Not really – it has zero effect on how teachers interact with students every day.

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