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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Will Florida teachers really get $10,000 from Best and Brightest bonus?



Approved in this year's legislative budget, Florida's Best and Brightest program promised teachers bonuses up to $10,000, if they could prove their eligibility.

The key phrases, of course, were "prove" and "up to." Proving eligibility turned out to be quite a task for many educators, who had to dig up years-old SAT or ACT scores.

If more than 4,400 teachers made the cut, the $44 million allocation would be split evenly among them. With 68,000-plus teachers rated "highly effective" across the state, that number could change dramatically.

A sampling of counties suggests the bonus is likely to be less than the $10,000 proposed.

By the inflexible Oct. 1 application deadline, more than 500 Hillsborough teachers had submitted their requests. About 250 Pasco teachers applied, as well as 215 from Pinellas, 207 from Duval, 673 in Palm Beach and 561 in Miami-Dade.

That's six counties, 2,200 applicants. Florida has 67 counties.

Just because someone applied doesn't mean they'll get the money. Districts have until December to determine which teachers met the mark, and then request funding from the Department of Education.

It might be a one-time thing.

Though popular within the Florida House, the bonus program did not win any support within the Senate. It landed in the budget as a last minute negotiated item between committee chairmen, during a special session.

"I don't see that happening again next year in its current form," said Sen. John Legg, who chairs the Education Committee and sits on Education Appropriations. "If we want to reward our best and brightest teachers, there are much better ways to do it."

The Florida Board of Education has proposed a new budget that would slash the funding by about 90 percent.

[Last modified: Monday, October 5, 2015 11:00am]


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