Teaching Profession

Florida Lawmakers Renew Teacher Bonus-Pay Program Over Bipartisan Objections

By Ross Brenneman — March 09, 2016 1 min read
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Florida’s controversial teacher bonus-pay program will live another year.

The program, known as “Best & Brightest,” pays teachers bonuses based on two criteria: A ranking of at least “effective” on the state teacher-evaluation system, and their own SAT or ACT scores. Lawmakers approved the program last July as part of a budget deal, allotting it $44 million.

In a budget compromise announced Monday evening, lawmakers agreed to renew the program after days of closed-door negotiations, according to the Miami Herald. The funding has been a priority for soon-to-be House speaker Richard Corcoran, a Republican. The program also received an additional $5 million in the budget, for a total of $49 million.

This year, Best & Brightest paid out just over $8,000 in bonus money to each of the 5,200 teachers who qualified. But in December, the Florida Education Association filed a complaint with the federal government asserting that the program discriminated against older teachers, who might have difficulty getting their test records, as well as teachers of color, who historically do worse on standardized tests. Even many young teachers may run into problems applying, as well, if they pursued teaching through community colleges, which often don’t require the SAT or ACT.

Supporters of the program suggest that it will help improve teacher recruitment and retention. A spokesperson for the state department of education said via email, however, that it would be difficult to evaluate that claim “without several years of data.”

Many Democrats and Republicans in the Florida legislature have publicly opposed the program. Some lawmakers had attempted to separate the program from the state budget in order to try to vet it, but such attempts stalled, the Herald reports.

“It’s too bad we didn’t get to that point. I would rather vote it down and kill it permanently, because it’s the worst and dumbest,” Sen. Nancy Detert, a Republican, told the Herald.

Image: Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

More on this program and teacher retention:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.