Repeal of a controversial teacher bonus program cleared its final Senate committee of reference Monday, queuing it for a full vote on the Senate floor.
The Sen. Rob Bradley bill would fully remove sections of Florida law defining the program and strike it out of other sections governing education funding.
Bradley’s bill, a simple repeal, is a necessary precondition to a proposal from Gov. Ron DeSantis, and the beginning of a “conversation” about teacher compensation.
The Governor’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2020-21 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 and another $300 million for teacher and principal bonuses.
The proposal outlines three tiers for teachers and principals and bonuses based on those 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 would receive $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 salary ask is achievable as proposed.
Education Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel discussed the teacher salary increase proposal that allocates 80% to raising minimum classroom salaries to $47,500. Once that threshold is met, the money could go toward experienced teacher salary increases.
The Senate budget appropriates $500 million for teacher raises, along with $325 million in Base Student Allocation flexible spending, which districts can invest in teachers and school district personnel.
Meanwhile, the House proposal would “increase the minimum base salary for a full-time classroom teacher to an amount that is achievable by the school district’s portion of the $500 million; however, no school district is required to increase the minimum base salary to an amount that exceeds $50,000.”
Bradley noted after Wednesday’s meeting that in 2019, when DeSantis decided to focus on teacher compensation, “I joined him” at a press conference in Middleburg
“It’s important to me, it’s important to my fellow Senators … it’s obviously important to our friends in the House,” Bradley noted.
“If you look at the differences between the House proposal, the Senate proposal, the Governor’s proposal, these are all manageable differences,” Bradley noted, expressing confidence that an accord could be met.