Republican lawmaker seeks to undo Florida’s teacher performance pay law

'I've lived the frustration of a flawed pay system,' says Rep. Rene Plasencia, who's also a teacher.
State Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando [Florida House of Representatives photo]
State Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando [Florida House of Representatives photo]
Published December 13 2018

A Republican lawmaker who's also a teacher wants to end state restrictions on how public school teachers are paid.

Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, aims to roll back the 2011 prohibition on using advanced degrees as a criteria when setting salary schedules, and cancel the requirement that districts adopt performance pay plans, as well.

Merit pay, Plasencia explained, has no positive impact on student performance, but it does have a negative effect on teacher morale. If districts want to maintain the current system, he suggested, that's fine.

But the state shouldn't mandate it.

"The way you pay teachers should be done at the local level," Plasencia said, calling the current model "flawed" and "rigid."

He predicted his bill (HB 77) could gain traction, despite a seemingly strong sentiment favoring the accountability rules first adopted nearly eight years ago in SB 736. It would just follow in the steps of other mandates from the same bill being turned back after lawmakers saw how they worked in practice.

SB 736 also required that student academic results, which became the "value-added model," account for half of teacher performance evaluations. The Legislature stopped forcing districts to do that anymore in 2017.

Related coverage: Citrus County School Board does away with value-added measure (VAM) 

It called for end-of-course exams in every class at every grade level, too. The state scaled back that mandate in 2015.

Related coverage: Pinellas schools eliminate many year-end exams 

"Little by little, the Legislature has admittedly said [SB 736] was probably an overreach, and let's start peeling it back," Plasencia said. "I think this is the next step in the same direction."

Plasencia said he has spent two years educating other lawmakers about the reasons behind his proposal, and he sounded optimistic that its time will come.

"It's a priority of mine," he said. "Over the next four years it is something we can get done. Maybe this year."

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