Legislature will scrutinize teacher bonuses
The bonus program for national board certified teachers in Florida needs to be scrutinized for effectiveness, the chair of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee said today. Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said she plans to schedule a hearing on the issue within the first few weeks of the legislative session, which begins March 3.
Her comments came after the committee was presented with one page of Department of Education data that suggests national board certified teachers aren’t much more effective than their counterparts who are not national board certified.
“I think we have to have further discussions … about the effectiveness of the program,” Flores told The Gradebook. “When we spend such a large chunk of money outside of direct classroom funding, I want to make sure we’re using it in the best way.”
“Maybe it turns out that these numbers don’t tell the whole story,” Flores continued. “I’m hoping they don’t tell the whole story so we can preserve the program.”
The numbers in question show that in 2007-08, 65 percent of fourth and fifth graders taught by national board certified teachers made gains on the FCAT in reading, compared to 60 percent of those taught by teachers who weren’t board certified.
Flores said the committee needs to look at additional data, including math and science scores. She said the initial data was requested by another committee member, Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. She said she was not recommending any changes to the program at this point.
In the past decade, the state of Florida has spent more than $500 million on bonuses for national board certified teachers, who are often touted as top teachers. Until last year, those teachers earned bonuses equal to 10 percent of an average teacher's salary, with another 10 percent for those who mentored their peers. The Legislature cut the program last year and again during last month’s special session, but the second round was vetoed by Gov. Crist.
Rep. Dwight Bullard, D-Miami, another committee member, said national board certified teachers have gone the extra mile to become better teachers and deserve the bonuses. “If you have questions about where money is going, there are a lot of other programs you can be looking at in a tight budget than bonuses for overqualified teachers,” he said. He suggested the FCAT for starters.