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A few more thoughts on Florida's Best and Brightest teacher bonus



Two key questions emerged after legislation to make permanent Florida's controversial Best and Brightest teacher bonus squeaked through the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday: 

- Why would lawmakers call the bill "ridiculous," as Sen. Nancy Detert did, and then vote for it?

- Why would the sponsor -- committee chairman John Legg -- put the measure on an agenda knowing the likely outcome, and then vote against it?

The answer to both questions is the same: legislative politics.

After the committee meeting ended, Legg told the Gradebook that the bill's fate was influenced by Senate leadership. They wanted to have the program, a stated House priority, remain in play for future negotiations if needed. Republican committee members were well aware of that desire.

Legg said he expected the concept to float through session, and likely re-emerge as part of a package that includes both Senate and House priorities. He also anticipated that the Senate version, which would lower the bonus qualification criteria and make first-year teachers ineligible, probably would give way to the House companion bill, which would change the model little.

Legg said he had a good sense of the vote count before the meeting began, and he informed President Andy Gardiner that he would oppose the bill but not stand in its way. His primary dispute with the concept was that it flew in the face of close to a decade of work tying teacher pay to performance rather than paper credentials.

In the past few years, the Legislature has removed extra pay for National Board certification, advanced degrees and seniority, also ending continuing contracts. Instead, lawmakers have moved to connect teachers' pay and employment status to student test scores and other evaluation results.

Using an SAT or ACT score to award a bonus contradicts that lengthy effort, Legg said, while also having the added detriment of not having any basis in demonstrating a teacher's value. Noting the Legislature also recently reduced the amount that test results count toward a teacher evaluation, though, he predicted the pendulum might again swing back toward inputs rather than outputs.

The Senate version of Best and Brightest next heads to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, while its House counterpart is awaiting a hearing in the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee.

[Last modified: Thursday, January 21, 2016 9:55am]


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