Senate OKs Best and Brightest bonus program repeal

teachers (Large)
The House and Senate are trying to get on the same page on teacher pay.

Elimination of a controversial teacher bonus program cleared the Senate Wednesday, a priority of the outgoing budget chair and prerequisite to larger salary changes.

SB 486, a repeal of the teacher bonus program known as “Best and the Brightest,” was passed by the full Senate.

Lawmakers approved the bill unanimously, which is a partial victory for Gov. Ron DeSantis. The House is also expected to approve the repeal, but neither chamber has included a replacement for the bonus program which was in the governor’s recommended budget.

Sen. Rob Bradley’s bill would fully remove the sections of Florida law defining the program and strike it out of other sections governing education funding.

The bill is a simple repeal, a necessary precondition to begin the “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 another $600 million for teacher raises to push minimum salaries up to $47,500 in every district.

The Senate is proposing spending $500 million on teacher pay raises, with $325 million in flexible funding, which would be spread out for several years. The House has proposed $650 million for the raises. Of that, $500 million would go to raising the minimum teacher base pay. The other $150 million would go to local school districts, allowing them to raise salaries for veteran teachers and other staff.  It doesn’t have a plan to address some concerns that districts already paying a minimum salary of $47,500 would not benefit, which the Senate has included in its approach.

While state workers requested a 5% increase in wages, only the Senate included in its budget a 3% across-the-board raise for road crews, janitors, Department of Motor Vehicles clerks and office workers who answer the phones and work the counters at state agencies.

The proposal outlines three tiers for teachers and principals and bonuses based on those tiers and school title status. It remains to be seen, however, if that full $47,500 is achievable as proposed.

Senate President Bill Galvano says the House and Senate have been working hard to find that “sweet spot” on teacher compensation.

While Best and the Brightest was created with the “best of intentions,” Bradley argues the programs remain controversial and “it is time to move on.”

DeSantis wants $602 million to set a minimum salary for teachers at $47,500, which would put Florida only behind New Jersey in teacher pay.

Sarah Mueller

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to [email protected]



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