It was a scene unthinkable during the last eight years--the governor of Florida giving a high-five to the head of Florida's teacher union. But it happened this afternoon shortly before Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill that overhauled the maligned performance pay plan that lawmakers passed last year. Florida Education Association President Andy Ford then went before the microphones and thanked the Legislature and Crist for giving those in the profession a "voice" when it comes to deciding who should receive merit bonuses.
Lawmakers in 2006, at the urging of the administration of former Gov. Jeb Bush, passed a performance pay plan that offered $147.5 million to school districts for bonuses, but it tied the bonus to how students fared on standardized tests, including the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. It also limited the bonus to no more than 25 percent of the teachers working in a school district. The new law gives more discretion to prinicpals to decide who should be eligible for bonuses and does not cap how many school employees are eligible. Bush had an antagonistic relationship with the teacher's union, which spent millions trying to help Bill McBride, who lost to Bush in the 2002 governor's race.