Florida

Bill filed to repeal Florida’s teacher bonus program as DeSantis hints at new approach

A bill filed by an influential Republican state senator proposes to repeal Florida’s “Best and Brightest” program for teacher bonuses, after years of dissatisfaction from many teachers with the program’s requirements.

“It’s time to end Best and Brightest,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island. “Its purpose, to attract and reward good teachers, is certainly laudable. In practice, it has managed to frustrate many good teachers with seemingly random outcomes, and ironically it has made many good teachers feel less appreciated.”

Senate Bill 440 comes less than a year after Republican lawmakers made it a major priority to pass a bill that restructured Best and Brightest during the 2019 session, removing perhaps its most-hated criteria of teachers’ SAT and ACT scores from when they were students. Instead, they created a three-tiered system that still left out some high-performing teachers.

For instance, because the awards require both high scores on teachers’ individual evaluations and improvement by their schools over the prior three years, critics have warned good teachers could be driven to leave poorly performing schools that desperately need them. Additionally, if a school maintains high marks but doesn’t move up its metrics by the mandated amount, those teachers would also be ineligible under the current structure.

Gov. Ron DeSantis referenced some of these frustrations late last month, saying the framework for the bonuses was “very complicated.”

He then added: “I don’t want it to be that complicated.”

DeSantis has said repeatedly that he wants to prioritize teacher pay in the 2020 legislative session, which starts in January. Florida’s teachers have among the lowest salaries in the nation.

He is expected to roll out a proposal before Thanksgiving.

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