FEA files lawsuit challenging Florida's Best and Brightest teacher bonus

Florida teachers like Sally Henderson used to look to National Board certification to bolster their credentials and pay. The state did away with that program, and replaced it with a more ridiculed Best and Brightest bonus. Octavio Jones | Times (2015)
Florida teachers like Sally Henderson used to look to National Board certification to bolster their credentials and pay. The state did away with that program, and replaced it with a more ridiculed Best and Brightest bonus.Octavio Jones | Times (2015)
Published September 14 2017
Updated September 14 2017

Florida's Best and Brightest teacher bonus, based in part on educators' long-ago SAT scores, has had critics from its inception in 2015.

Not the least among them was the Florida Education Association, which filed a federal complaint against the program shortly after its implementation.

This week, the FEA brought its complaint to federal court, alleging the recently expanded system discriminates against teachers of a certain age and race.

"This bonus program is a ridiculous example of bad lawmaking," FEA President Joanne McCall said in a released statement. "Instead of properly compensating the best teachers in the state, this program awards bonuses based in large part on the scores they received on their college entrance exams. Many teachers in Florida today did not even take a college entrance exam if they started their college career in the state's community college system."

From the outset, teachers have raised such concerns, to little response from lawmakers who sought to expand the system as part of their performance pay initiative. The named plaintiffs in the case filed this week against all 67 school districts and the state Department of Education claim they were denied the bonus despite being rated "highly effective" in their evaluations. They say they were denied the bonus based strictly on test scores.

The FEA alleges that the program discriminates because teachers who took the ACT or SAT before 1972 cannot get scores, disqualifying them. Also, first-year teachers are exempt from earning a "highly effective" evaluation, and most first-year teachers are younger than 40.

"A bonus based upon a high school test score, likely taken at 17 or 18, will not help our students have access to great teachers," McCall said.

Read the full complaint for more details.

Past coverage: Questions abound for new program that rewards teachers based on SAT and ACT scores

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