Take the money! Sheesh!
Gov. Charlie Crist took issue on Wednesday with the Pinellas School Board's decision to reject $6.1-million in state money for the state's controversial performance-pay plan for teachers. Asked in St. Petersburg whether the state Department of Education should now force Pinellas to pay for the program out of its own budget, Crist said, "I'm not about forcing people to do anything. I think what we need to do is encourage them to use that money for its intended purpose – and that is, pay teachers more. Who's against that?" After a 12-minute discussion, the Pinellas board voted 5-2 Tuesday night to say no to the Legislature's Special Teachers Are Rewarded plan, which many teachers consider flawed and divisive. In doing so, it shrugged off threats from DOE that districts must still come up with – and find the money for – performance pay plans of their own. Crist agrees with teachers that STAR puts too much emphasis on student test scores, but he seemed baffled that a school district would turn down an opportunity to give teachers more money. "I want to pay teachers more," he said, laughing. "And I know teachers would like to have that money. They've earned it."
- Ron Matus, state education reporter