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Education

State Ed Board Pans Gov's Teacher Raises While Scott Chides Weatherford

Longtime state board of education member Kathleen Shanahan says Florida has worked for more than a decade to create a performance-based funding system for teachers. And she’s not a fan of across the board pay raises.

“To give it to every teacher when not every child has gotten the advantage of an increased ability to learn. I don’t think it’s reflective of what this State Board or our education reform agenda is about at all," she said,

In the past few years the state has overhauled its teacher evaluation process to tie those reports to student learning. Under the new system, teachers get bonuses according to how well their students perform.  Ninety-six percent of Florida teachers were rated as effective and highly effective last year while only 72 percent of schools were in the A/B category. And fellow Board member Sally Bradshaw says if the teacher ratings were accurate—schools would be doing much better.

“Performance pay means pay for performance. And it’s hard for me as a parent in the school system to believe that 100-percent of our teachers are effective.

The Board's Chairman was more blunt about it.

“We all want the best and brightest in the teaching profession. And compensation is a factor," said State Board of Education Chairman Gary Chartrand. "I think the profession as a whole and great teachers are undervalued. But no one wants to reward mediocrity.”    

Chartrand says if lawmakers go ahead with teacher pay raises there should be some criteria for who gets them.  Governor Rick Scott wants to give public school teachers a one-time $2,500  raise. The money would go to districts in lump sum payments and will have to be collectively bargained with the teacher’s union on how it’s distributed. Some teachers could get more, others less. And that’s what the board wants to avoid. But Leon County School Superintendent Jackie Pons, whose district was singled out by Board member Sally Bradshaw for having all its teachers rated in the top two categories, says the pay raises are needed:

“Our teachers in Leon County went four years without any pay increase. So to be able to bring something to them at this time would be very, very important to me," Pons said.

The issue still faces an uphill battle in the legislature. Governor Scott took a preemptive approach Tuesday, chastising the House for its resistance to the increases.

“I find it interesting that the Speaker is against pay raises for classroom teachers, but is okay with across the board pay raises for state workers, and no performance funding for universities.”   

House Speaker Will Weatherford responded to Scott’s comments saying the House’s plan will include pay raises. But it’s not clear if those increases will be as much as the Governor wants, or whether they will be across-the board. Both the House and Senate spending plans boost overall K-12 funding by a billion dollars, but the House spends about $300 million less on education than what Governor Scott has proposed.