DeSantis Wants New Teacher Bonus Program

DeSantis Wants New Teacher Bonus Program

By Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

TALLAHASSEE — Four years after lawmakers started a controversial teacher-bonus program, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday he wants to scrap the “Best and Brightest” program and plow nearly $423 million into a new effort to reward teachers and principals.

The Best and Brightest program has faced opposition, at least in part, because it considers teachers’ scores on SAT or ACT college-entrance exams in determining eligibility for bonuses. The use of those scores has drawn state and federal lawsuits arguing that the program discriminates against older teachers and minority teachers.

During an event Thursday at Armwood High School in Hillsborough County, DeSantis also pointed to questions about the logic of looking at college-entrance exams in evaluating teachers.

“While there were some good things to that (Best and Brightest) and some teachers got some good bonuses, the way they did the program was not just whether you were a good teacher but then your SAT scores from going into college,” DeSantis said. “And a lot of folks didn’t think that that was necessarily the best way to do it because, quite frankly, that test is one moment in time and it’s not necessarily indicative of the passion … when you’re into the classroom.”

DeSantis said the new program could provide bonuses of more than $9,000 to nearly 45,000 “highly effective” teachers at schools that showed progress on grading calculations and bonuses of up to $6,500 for principals.

“What we’re trying to do is identify those teachers that are rated highly effective and that are helping their schools move forward,” DeSantis said. “And when they’re doing that, we think they should be rewarded.”

The proposed changes would require legislative approval during the session that starts March 5. The Best and Brightest program, which provides $6,000 bonuses to teachers, is in state law. House Republican leaders pushed for its creation in 2015 — a time when current Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran was the House appropriations chairman.

DeSantis last week released a proposed $91.3 billion state budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year that included $422.97 million for the new program.

Lawmakers set aside $234 million for the Best and Brightest program during the current year. In addition to considering performance on college entrance exams, the eligibility requirements for Best and Brightest also take into account whether teachers have been evaluated as “highly effective.”

Along with the new bonus program, DeSantis said Thursday he wants to provide $10 million a year for five years for a loan- and tuition-forgiveness program that would help recruit teachers. He said the program would provide aid to as many as 1,700 new teachers who commit to working in the state for five years.

“And the preference is going to be on areas of high need, and we have some areas of the state where the shortages are acute,” DeSantis said. “We have underserved areas. And so basically what we’re telling the folks is if you go to college, you rack up some of this debt, if you’re willing to do this and dedicate those five years, that we’ll be able to wipe that slate clean, up and to a pretty significant amount of money.”

The State Board of Education last month approved an annual report that, in part, detailed a shortage of certified science, English and math teachers in Florida’s public schools. Also, the report indicated schools that received “D” ratings for their performances over the past three years have higher percentages of out-of-field teachers than other schools.

3 Responses to "DeSantis Wants New Teacher Bonus Program"

  1. Raises are due all around, in my opinion. To base raises on factors outside the teacher’s control adds insult to the injury of such low starting salaries. Teachers are being held accountable for a student’s prior teachers’ successes and failures. Teachers are held accountable for student performance when the student has no home support or parental involvement. This is unfair on its face by rewarding those teachers who teach in A schools by default. Of course I’m pulling the race card here because it’s part of the deck in this country….black school teachers are left out on purpose. Okay, maybe not on purpose but the disparate impact felt in black communities yields a constructive done on purpose from me.

    now on the flip side…I have personally worked with the worst teachers in the world! Locally! They don’t deserve a pot to piss in….if I found out my own kids’ teachers were as incompetent as some of the fools running around Tallahassee claiming to be teachers, Leon County Schools would have a lawsuit on their hands. Fortunately for my kids and the district, Kate Sullivan provided excellent instruction and support all around the board. But what about OUR students at Pineview and Oakridge?? Don’t they deserve competent teachers? How about the young adults at Rickards and Godby and especially Gadsden County High?? Their teachers can barely pass the teacher certification exams. It’s time for some investigation on exactly which of these “teachers” are actually certified to teach the subject and how many attempts it took them to pass a very simple exam called the GENERAL KNOWLEDGE exam. I think readers of TR would be floored with the results.

    In conclusion, dumping money into ill-advised and unearned teacher raises is not the right answer. All teachers in Florida should be held to high standards, not just those seeking bonus money. ACT and SAT scores should be checked upon hire, not after they’ve already wasted a year or more of a child’s learning opportunity. Behavior specialists should not be instructing any classes – only those certified to teach that particular subject. All Leon County teachers cannot teach MY kids and you shouldn’t let them all in front of your kids, either. Pay a decent livable salary and those who should be in the classroom (myself) might come back.

  2. We really need more diversity in teaching, especially at the elementary school level. The number of men teaching in grade school is very very low, and for black males even lower. Having males as teachers in elementary school could help close the gender gap where boys are now falling behind girls in high school and college. The need for good male role models is huge, and the positive benefits for boys growing into men and for society as a whole is significant.

    We should give bonuses to males choosing to teach at the elementary school level. Give hiring bonuses to those coming out of college. As a teacher 40 years ago, I was only one of two male teachers in an elementary school and today the numbers haven’t changed a whole lot.

    The state could award bonuses, and the school district could supplement with their own funds as well.

  3. Raises based upon school grades….Pineview received an F, Oakridge is on its third D, nine other schools slipped a letter grade. Hartsfield Elementary, Astoria Park Elementary, Springwood Elementary and Bond Elementary slipped from a C to a D.

    Rocky Hanna is failure! His non interviewed political appointments of Assistant Superintendents and Elementary Director… equal the above school grades.

    School board blames the test… Nobody place the responsibility where it should be at the door of Rocky Hanna and his cronies. Rocky demonstrates on a daily basis a complete lack of understanding of curriculum, instruction, and accountability.

    No raises for teachers but highly paid Assistant Superintendents thrive with no accountability. Oh, but look deeper, Rocky gave raises to a chosen few.

    Leon schools run by an admitted unethical educator who falsified information to state and federal authorities, gets elected, imposes a hit list, ruins the lives of those on his hit list, all this while the school board sits idle and silent. It is good to be King /Superintendent of Schools when you rule by intimidation.

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