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Best and Brightest program may on its way out.

Headlines

Teacher bonus repeal, stalled in House, teed up for first Senate panel

Gov’s proposed replacement faces resistance from House Speaker, teachers’ union.

Repeal of a controversial teacher bonus program is on a Senate committee agenda Monday.

SB 486, filed by Sen. Rob Bradley, would repeal the teacher bonus program known as “Best and the Brightest.

The bill, to be considered by the Education Committee, would fully remove the sections of Florida law defining the program and strike it out of other sections governing education funding.

Should the bill clear Monday’s panel, the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education would hear it next. If favorably reported there, the Appropriations Committee (chaired by Sen. Bradley) is the last stop before the House floor.

The Fleming Island Republican’s repeal bill comes after teachers filed a lawsuit against the Florida Department of Education alleging the bonus program was discriminatory toward black and Hispanic teachers.

Part of the bonus program’s formula includes teacher’s scores on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Lawyers representing teachers in the class-action suit argued that using those scores disproportionately affected black and Hispanic teachers.

The state has agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle the suit.

The bill from Bradley is a necessary precondition to a proposal from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The Governor’s budget proposal for FY 20-21 included a $300 million proposal to replace the Best and Brightest Award Program teacher and principal bonuses, which totaled $285 million this year. The Governor envisions $600 million for new teacher pay, pushing minimum salaries up to $47,500 in every district.

“This takes Florida to Number 2 in the nation,” DeSantis said, noting that “everybody in Florida will be at the minimum” or higher.

DeSantis wants  a “tier” system, a proposal strongly opposed by the Florida Education Association.

The proposal outlines three tiers for teachers and principals and bonuses based on these tiers and school title status.

Tier 1 would include schools that earn at least 85% of possible points or gain at least six points in the A-F school grading calculation. Tier 2 schools would gain three to five points and Tier 3 schools gain one or two.

Teachers in Title I schools would earn up to $7,500, $3,500 or $1,000 by tier while principals in Title I schools receive up to $10,000, $5,000 or $2,500. Teachers and principals in non-Title I schools would be eligible for up to half of the bonus of their corresponding tier.

It remains to be seen, however, if that full $47,500 is achievable as proposed.

Sen. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, filed legislation (SB 1088) last week that would spread the spend with an eye toward allowing districts that already have starting teacher pay near that number to boost the pay of veteran teachers.

The House also looks like it will have its own ideas.

“I am in receipt of the Governor’s statement regarding teacher compensation as I am of the over $2B of new spending requests from his agencies,” asserted Speaker José Oliva, on the October day the Governor floated the teacher bonus proposal.

Currently, no House version of the legislation exists.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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