Several districts dropped from Florida Best and Brightest lawsuit

The case remains in play for the state's larger districts and the Department of Education.
Published November 1 2018

Forty-three Florida school districts and a handful of specialty schools no longer are party to the Florida Education Association's legal challenge of the 2015 "Best and Brightest" bonus program.

Over the past three days, lawyers for the sides agreed to dismiss the systems from the case, which contends that the legislative allocation discriminates against teachers who are older or who are minorities.

The districts removed from the suit are the state's smaller ones, including Pasco and Hernando in the Tampa Bay area.

The state's largest school districts, including Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, remain defendants. Lawyers representing the small districts told them that the case was proceeding against the systems with the most statistically significant negative impact against black, Hispanic and over-40 year old teachers.

The Florida Department of Education, which oversees administration of the program, also remains a party.

Back in January, 38 of the districts asked to be released from the lawsuit, saying the bonus program wasn't their idea and they shouldn't be held responsible for following the law. The FEA, as well as many teachers, have criticized the "Best and Brightest" model because it uses college entry exam results as a criteria to qualify for the money.

They contend that those test results carry no significance in showing a teacher's classroom capabilities. Further, they noted that many teachers entered the profession without ever having taken the SAT or ACT.

The districts dismissed from the case are: Washington, Walton, Wakulla, Union, Taylor, Suwannee, Sumter, St. Johns, Putnam, Pasco, Osceola, Okeechobee, Nassau, Martin, Madison, Liberty, Levy, Lake, Lafayette, Jefferson, Jackson, Indian River, Holmes, Highlands, Hernando, Hendry, Hardee, Hamilton, Gulf, Glades, Gilchrist, Gadsden, Franklin, Flagler, Dixie, DeSoto, Columbia, Clay, Citrus, Charlotte, Calhoun, Bradford and Baker.

The case remains before the U.S. District Court Northern District of Florida.