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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Merit pay discussion on its way back to Florida schools



Now that Florida has won its share of Race to the Top money, the return of the effort to tie teacher evaluations and pay to student achievement is inevitable.

Florida education commissioner Eric J. Smith says the state doesn't need a change in law to make it happen. Current statute allows for the connection -- even calls for it -- and agreements at the bargaining table would take care of the RTTT requirement.

But that doesn't mean lawmakers won't take another stab at Senate Bill 6.

"Do we have to pass the exact same bill? No," House Education Policy Council chairman Will Weatherford told the Gradebook. "But we have to find a way to reward great teachers."

Key to success will be a "better job working with the teachers and receiving their input," he said. To that end, Weatherford and other key lawmakers head to Leesburg this afternoon for a forum about merit pay with Lake and Sumter teachers, sponsored by state Rep. Marlene O'Toole.

"This is an important opportunity to take the discussion of performance pay directly to those who will be affected by policy changes," O'Toole wrote in a letter inviting House Pre-K-12 committee chairman John Legg to the event.

A big possible monkey wrench in the plan becomes the Florida governor's race. GOP nominee Rick Scott has pledged support for a SB 6-like bill, while Democratic candidate Alex Sink has not. US Education Secretary Arne Duncan made clear in comments Tuesday that his department expects RTTT winners to follow through on their plans, regardless of the personalities that sit in the chairs of government.

"If any state doesn't implement well, we will simply stop funding them," Duncan said.

Will the publicity of Race to the Top, and the amount of money it brings, be enough to overcome years of opposition to this type of pay and evaluation plan? Watch union-administration talks over the next 90 days to get a sense of whether the RTTT will bring the reform that its proponents seek.

[Last modified: Friday, August 27, 2010 6:19am]


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