Bill Gates would have a hard time getting a job teaching high school in Florida, said the state’s incoming speaker of the house. The bureaucracy is too onerous, and the pay scales too rigid.
“There’s no reason why the best science teacher in Hillsborough County shouldn't be able to make $100,000 a year or more,” said Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. “Right now it’s almost like charity work.”
Of course no public school district can afford the founder of Microsoft. And Weatherford, speaking at an education summit in Tampa on Wednesday, said several times that the legislature cannot cure a deficit in students pursuing careers in STEM, which stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“This problem, I think, is going to be solved by the business community teaming up with our local school districts,” Weatherford told the group at the Museum of Science and Industry.
But he did give props to the legislature for three actions it took in the last session.
First: Performance-based pay for teachers. Controversial as it was, he said, “ten years from now we’re going to look back and we’re going to be proud of what we did.”
Second: The expansion of career academies into middle schools.
Finally: Tighter graduation requirements. “You shouldn't graduate high school without some basic knowledge of chemistry, biology and Algebra II,” he said.
Weatherford did not make any predictions about the upcoming session.
When a former high school teacher in the audience complained about the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test as a measure of performance, Weatherford responded, “I don’t think the FCAT is the assessment tool we need going forward.”
Rather, he said, evaluators are using end-of-course exams.