Florida's controversial teacher bonus based on SAT scores returns
Perhaps it is fitting that in the same week that school districts must tell the Department of Education how many teachers qualified for the state's very controversial Best and Brightest bonus, the Florida House Education Committee will consider legislation to make the one-time measure permanent.
Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg, meanwhile, filed his own version of the bill overnight, noting the House and Gov. Rick Scott have included the concept in their budgets and saying the Senate needs to be part of the conversation.
"We want to open up the hood and see what's under there," Legg said Tuesday, indicating continued concerns with the model. "Is this a Porsche? Or is this a Yugo?"
The House measure would provide "scholarships" up to $10,000 -- depending on the annual appropriation -- to teachers whose scores were in the 80th percentile or higher.
The 2015 legislative action, reviled by many teachers who disdained the idea of being judged by their years-old SAT and ACT scores, was good for just one year as a budget line item. This latest effort aims to provide annual bonuses to the teachers.
They would have to apply just once, and if deemed eligible, would receive the money as long as they remain employed by their districts and continue to receive "highly effective" performance evaluations.
Legg's bill would lower the entry point to the 60th percentile of SAT and ACT scores. He does that, he explained, mainly to ensure differences as the concept moves ahead.
This idea faces a long road. Many lawmakers in both parties have roundly criticized the original model, saying money -- $44 million for this year -- could be better spent on more important education issues, such as classroom technology. The Senate didn't even pass the concept during 2015, until it was added as a last-minute budget tradeoff in a special session.
"Our committee members have expressed concerns with it at a policy level," Legg said.