Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Gradebook

Florida’s Best and Brightest teacher bonus too confusing to survive, Gov. DeSantis says

DeSantis signals a new direction days before the 2019 bonus funds are to go to school districts.
Governor Ron DeSantis. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] ["OCTAVIO JONES | TIMES" | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Sep. 24
Updated Sep. 24

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday said he would like to do away with Florida’s “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program and instead replace it with his own plan to raise teacher pay and increase retention, which he has yet to announce.

The current bonus structure was dramatically redone by lawmakers in the 2019 session, eliminating one criterion teachers loathed that based eligibility on SAT and ACT test scores from when they were students themselves. Lawmakers enacted a three-tiered system requiring teachers to be rated “effective” or “highly effective” on their evaluations to work in a school that improved an average of at least three percentage points each year over the prior three school years.

DeSantis declared the new framework “very complicated.”

“How the Legislature did it last time, I still don’t understand how that’s going to work,” he said, speaking with reporters after a Cabinet meeting. “I don’t want it to be that complicated.”

RELATED: Changes to Best and Brightest bonus will leave good teachers behind, critics say

DeSantis said his plan should be formally announced within the next month and promised it will “more than just a little token” for teachers because he wants to make teaching a more attractive profession for young people coming out of college.

The governor’s comments came just days before the Department of Education is scheduled to distribute $285 million in Best and Brightest funds that lawmakers set aside for the program in the spring.

That amount was less than DeSantis had hoped to provide, and it came with the new set of requirements that many teachers see as even less fair than the original version.

Under current rules, teachers can earn one of three bonuses:

• A $4,000 recruitment award for newly hired teachers deemed content experts in specific subject areas;

• A retention bonus of $2,500 or $1,000, depending on evaluation rating, for teachers whose schools made certain academic gains over the prior three years; or

• A recognition dividend based on principal recommendations, the amount for which was not set in law. Teachers would benefit from this one only if there is money left over from the other two.

RELATED: Which teachers qualify for a Florida Best and Brightest recruitment bonus?

The Legislature’s plan meant that teachers at only about half of the state’s 3,300 public schools would be eligible to get the retention money. That includes 60 percent of A-rated schools, 57 percent of B schools, 45 percent of C schools and 18 percent of D schools.

Many educators complained that the new model, which DeSantis also criticized despite signing it into law, made it even less likely for them to receive a smaller bonus than they could get under the older iteration. They have continually called for higher salaries rather than bonuses, noting it’s difficult to get a bank loan based on non-recurring income.

“Teachers at about 1,600 schools are ineligible for this year’s retention bonus, and teachers at schools with an economically disadvantaged student population are disproportionately affected,” said Florida Education Association president Fed Ingram. "Florida has spent more than $1 billion on six ill-conceived bonus programs in the past 13 years, including the newest version of Best and Brightest. When will our Legislature fund public education at a level where our students have the resources they need and teachers receive the salaries they deserve?”

Lately, even some business leaders have joined in the call for better teacher salaries. The Council of 100 included the idea in its long-term education improvement strategic plan, observing that Florida’s lack of competitive pay makes it difficult to maintain strong schools for children.

Representatives from the state superintendents association and the Florida Department of Education began discussing ideas for boosting school employee wages last week.

RELATED: Florida superintendents, state education officials begin work on teacher raise plan

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Pasco School District headquarters in Land O' Lakes
    Steve Hegarty spent 10 years as Hillsborough schools public information officer before taking the police department post.
  2. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins, left, looks on while school board chair Tammy Shamburger speaks on newly raised concerns of a undiscovered cemetery for indigent African Americans that may be within the vicinity of King High School in Tampa, Florida on Friday, October 18, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  3. Joanne Glenn, Pasco eSchool principal, addresses the eSchool faculty on opening day of teacher preplanning week in 2018. Pasco eSchool is launching its first online dual-enrollment courses in conjunction with Pasco-Hernando State College in the second semester.  GAIL DIEDERICH | Special to the Times
    Students will have access to two sections of two courses — microapplications and public speaking.
  4. Challenger K-8 School students, from left, Jeremy Gonzalez, 13, Jackson Hoyt, 12, Benjamin Harper, 12, and Gianni Labdar, 12, finish meals consisting of fresh salads, quesadillas and nachos during a lunch service on Oct. 15 at the school in Spring Hill during the county's Fresh from Florida Plate Day event. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Starting a farm-to-school initiative has been more complicated than district officials expected.
  5. The University of South Florida revealed a new plan for the school's consolidation Thursday morning. Unlike the first plan presented in September, it promises a high level of authority to leaders on campuses in St. Petersburg, shown here, and Sarasota. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
    Legislators who were critical of the original plan say a new approach revealed Thursday is more in line with their expectations.
  6. Florida K-12 Chancellor Jacob Oliva presents the state's second draft of academic standards revisions during an Oct. 17, 2017, session at Jefferson High School in Tampa. Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the effort in an executive order to remove the Common Core from Florida schools. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times staff
    ‘Our third draft will look different from our second,’ the chancellor explains.
  7. Meaghan Leto, (center facing street), a speech therapist from Twin Lakes Elementary, protests over pay with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association outside of a School Board meeting.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  8. Representatives from the Pasco County school district and the United School Employees of Pasco discuss salary and benefits during negotiations on Sept. 18, 2019. JEFFREY SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff Writer
    As expected, the union rejected the district’s plan to add work for middle and high school teachers in exchange for more money.
  9. Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
    Details are still scant, but the House’s tone was one of being fiscally cautious as they evaluate DeSantis’ pitch to raise base teacher pay.
  10. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2018) Hernando County School District office, 919 N Broad St., Brooksville
    Hernando County debates the pros and cons of superintendent John Stratton’s recommendation.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement