Florida Governor Rick Scott is looking to replace the state’s contentious Best and Brightest teacher bonus scheme, which rewards teachers based on their sometimes decades-old scores on college admissions exams, with $58 million worth of new incentives to lure talented individuals into the Sunshine State’s classrooms, reports The Miami Herald.
“Teachers are key to preparing our future generations for great careers,” Scott said at a press conference announcing his budget. “We have to make investments to recruit and retain the best educators in our classrooms.”
Scott’s plan includes: $16 million for district-led recruitment and retention efforts, $15 million to eradicate certification fees, $10 million to pay for one-off hiring bonuses for teachers who score well on subject-area tests, $6 million set aside to “reward great teachers in low-performing schools,” $5.9 million to fund a scholarship program for college students from rural areas who commit to teaching in their home communities, and $5 million to increase teacher diversity in high-needs areas.
Last spring, Republican legislators and Governor Scott pushed through $49 million for the Best and Brightest program. Lawmakers seemed set to do so again this year. In mid-January, the state’s Republican-controlled House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee deemed the Best and Brightest teacher bonus program a “high priority,” amid efforts by state lawmakers to find ways to cut the budget, reported the Tampa Bay Times.
Scott’s change of heart comes just months after the Florida Board of Education called for the program’s demise. Under the scheme, thousands of Florida teachers got checks for as much as $8,500. A 2016 analysis of the program by the Orlando Sentinel found that teachers in rich districts were twice as likely to get bonuses than those working in lower-income areas.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.