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Scott's advisors want universal vouchers and teacher pay tied to performance

Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott gave every indication in recent weeks that Florida schools are in for a wild ride. And on Tuesday, his education transition team lived up to the hype. In a 20-page report, the 20-member team offered one radical recommendation after another. Among them:

* Vouchers for all. Scott hinted at the idea two weeks ago, but the report offers more detail. Parents would be eligible for an “education savings account” equal to 85 percent of the amount the student would have generated in the public school system (or about $5,800 this year), and could use the money for private school, dual enrollment or college savings. The recommendation does not say how the proposal would clear the constitutional hurdles that tripped up an earlier voucher program championed by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

* Re-do teacher pay and tenure. Scott said on the campaign trail he would have signed SB 6, the far-reaching bill that Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed. And his team’s recommendations leave no doubt. They propose to eliminate tenure for newly hired K-12 teachers, make it easier to fire bad teachers, remove teacher evaluations from the collective bargaining process and create a new salary schedule that pays teachers more if they squeeze more progress out of their students and/or teach in high-poverty schools.

* Parental empowerment. Ideas to give parents a bigger say in schools and classrooms are scattered throughout the recommendations. One would require parental consent for students to be placed with teachers rated ineffective. Another would require school districts to provide each family with a “student achievement growth chart” that compares their kid’s progress to “predicted growth.” Yet another would allow a majority of parents at a struggling school to decide what kind of turn-around solution they want.

The recommendations included less controversial ideas, too. Eight were devoted to beefing up mentoring programs. Twenty were dedicated to better use of technology.  One suggested that students who graduate from high school early get a bonus: a college scholarship equal to 50 percent of the amount the state would have spent on them had they stayed in high school. Another proposes “reinventing” the Department of Education and changing its name: To the Department of Education Innovation.

Ron Matus, Times Staff Writer