A new twist on teacher bonuses?
Should teachers get bigger bonuses if they're teaching in high-needs schools? The chairman of the Senate Education Committee says yes, if they're doing it well. And he plans on crafting a serious legislative proposal that might give them that opportunity.
Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, tells the Gradebook that he'd like next year's Legislature to consider incorporating differential pay into existing state programs that affect teacher pay, including school recognition money, the Merit Award Program and bonuses for national board certified teachers. He said he has discussed the concept with Education Commissioner Eric J. Smith
"When you send somebody in the private sector to a tough situation to turn it around, we call them turnaround artists," Gaetz said. "The least we can do for teachers who take up a tough challenge and a tough mission in a poor or failing or high-poverty school … is to treat them like turnaround artists and give them the opportunity to earn extra compensation."
Gaetz credited the St. Petersburg Times stories for raising awareness about the issue in recent stories, like these here and here. "Your reporting reveals that we have a very important question that we have to answer, which is, are we deploying teacher resources in the best place?" he said.
Currently, all three bonus programs reward teachers with the same amount of money, whether they're teaching in south St. Petersburg or South Tampa. Gaetz said he'd like the education committee to consider a matrix, yet to be developed, that would give teachers in high-needs schools the opportunity to earn more money based on the school's performance and the teacher's performance.
For example, a high-needs school that earned school recognition money might get 125 percent or 150 percent of what a typical school would get, he said. Or a teacher in a high-needs school who earned a bonus under the district's MAP plan might get a 7 or 10 percent bonus rather than a 5 percent bonus.
"So imagine a circumstance where a teacher could earn $8,000 or $9,000 or $10,000 or $12,000 a year more for teaching in a school with tough challenges, by being part of a team that improves the school performance and, as an individual teacher, produces better performance among his or her students," Gaetz said.
Gaetz said the issue is a priority for him next year. Smith has hinted at a similar change in the Department of Education's draft strategic plan.
-- Ron Matus, state education reporter