House and Senate agree: $480 million for teacher pay raises
The House and Senate reached at least one key agreement Sunday: $480 million is the right amount to spend on teacher pay raises.
The Senate initially proposed spending $480 million at the suggestion of Gov. Rick Scott.
The House wanted to spend $676 million and give districts more flexibility with the money. The lower chamber adjusted the number to $628 million late last week, but on Sunday, decided that $480 million would be OK.
House Education Appropriations Chairman Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said the two chambers would work together to determine how much flexibility districts ought to have.
Much to the governor's dismay, both chambers are sticking to a pledge to tie the pay increases to performance. (Scott is championing $2,500 across-the-board pay raises.)
On Sunday, Senate Appropriations Chairman Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, brushed aside concerns from superintendents that it would be too difficult to develop valid performance pay systems by the start of the next school year.
"This is not new for the districts," Galvano said. "We've been moving toward merit-based pay increases for a while now."
The Senate and the House also agreed to a new way of calculating per-student spending, which would result in an $8 million cut to virtual education programs. The change was necessary, lawmakers have said, because students enrolled in virtual programs were receiving a larger share of money than students in brick-and-mortar schools.
Galvano insisted the change would "not harm Florida Virtual School."
"It's not hurting the program if there is some inequity in a program and that inequity is corrected," he said.
Despite the consensus, a handful of education issues remain unresolved, including the 6 percent tuition hike House Speaker Will Weatherford has been pushing for the state's universities.
On Sunday, the House said it was willing to come down to a 4 percent increase.
Galvano said he would have to evaluate the new offer. On Saturday, however, Galvano said the Senate would hold its position that tuition not be increased.
-- with reporting from Tia Mitchell