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Florida schools learn how much A-Plus money they’ll get

Critics of the concept have called for the state to add the money into teacher pay instead.
Florida education officials and educators have debated the value of school grade and recognition funding since the late 1990's.
Florida education officials and educators have debated the value of school grade and recognition funding since the late 1990's.
Published Oct. 7, 2019
Updated Oct. 8, 2019

Hundreds of Florida schools learned late Friday how large a piece of the state’s $131.5 million recognition fund they’d get this year, if any.

The news came shortly after the Department of Education finished processing 2018-19 school grade appeals, finalizing the list of which campuses would be eligible for the $100 per student award. It also came just before Gov. Ron DeSantis revealed his proposal to increase Florida’s starting teacher pay to a minimum of $47,500.

Related: <b>RELATED: </b> Ron DeSantis unveils plan to raise starting pay for Florida teachers

Some critics long have called on lawmakers to eliminate the recognition program, established by lawmakers with then-Gov. Jeb Bush in the late 1990s, and put the money in the general fund for improved salaries. The A-Plus funds, as they’ve long been called, can be used for one-time bonuses, school supplies or the employment of temporary added staff.

The critics have argued that the model, which grants the added funds to schools based on their student test scores, unnecessarily pits school against school, employee against employee. They note that even within schools getting the money, faculty and staff have been known to bicker about how to spend it.

Similar arguments have arisen about the $300 million Best and Brightest teacher bonus system, which provides some teachers extra one-time pay, first based on their own college entry exam scores and now based on a variety of criteria including schoolwide gains on state tests. The bonuses go only to K-12 classroom teachers, leaving out groups such as pre-k educators and guidance counselors.

The money from school recognition and Best and Brightest could get DeSantis nearly 72 percent of the way toward his goal of $603 million he says is needed to boost the minimum teacher salary. When asked how he would pay for his plan, he simply said the money exists in the general fund if the proper priorities are set.

DeSantis has called for ending Best and Brightest, and Sen. Rob Bradley has filed a bill to make it happen.

No one has yet made any such effort related to school recognition. Past governors and lawmakers have, in fact rejected requests to slash that line item.

So for now, at least, the money is scheduled to go to districts by Oct. 18. Schools receiving the funds because of their performance have until Feb. 1 to decide how to use the amount.

If they cannot reach an agreement, the money will become bonuses evenly distributed to all teachers currently at the school.

In the Tampa Bay area, Hillsborough schools are to receive $9.4 million. Pinellas schools are to get $4.3 million, Pasco schools $3.15 million and Hernando schools $628,556. Miami-Dade County, the state’s largest school district is to get the biggest amount of the fund, at $17.6 million.


  1. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  2. Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, left, celebrates her reelection to her fifth term in 2016. If ultimately approved, a term limits proposal would force Florida's school board members out after two consecutive terms.
  3. Chicken and vegetable dumplings with soy sauce were offered to students to test during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste-testing, Wednesday, February 19, 2020 at Pinellas Technical College. Twenty-eight new food items were tested and rated.  Some will be added to next year's school menus.
  4. Jarvis Delon West was arrested for child neglect after failing to report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police
  5. Patrick Suiters, 10, left, and Gabriel Stanford, 9, both fourth-graders at San Jose Elementary School in Dunedin, fill out a survey after tasting falafel tots and nuggets during the 2nd Annual Student Food Connection taste test at Pinellas Technical College. About 120 students tasted and rated 28 new food items that could be added to school breakfast and lunch menus next year.
  6. The Pinellas County school system is offering driver education camps to hundreds of students like this one over the summer. The program will be held over two sessions at nine high school campuses across the county.
  7. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020.
  8. The attendance zones for Northwest, Gulf Highlands and Fox Hollow elementary schools would shift under a proposed rezoning that also includes the closing of Hudson Elementary.
  9. Incoming Hillsborough School Superintendent Addison Davis (center), School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) and the other board members pose as Davis signs his contract with the district on Tuesday night. The board unanimously approved the contract beforehand.
  10. Jarvis Delon West was arrested on child neglect charges after he didn't report an employee at AMI Kids who slammed a boy to the ground, according to police.
  11. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  12. Prekindergarten students at James B. Sanderlin IB World School in St. Petersburg, show the peace sign during an assembly in 2012. New state data show children in prekindergarten are better prepared for kindergarten than those who don't attend.