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Gov. Scott's teacher incentive proposal gets pushback in Florida Senate

Pam stewart_021517

@ByKristenMClark

Florida senators in charge of crafting the K-12 education budget for next year aren’t sold on Gov. Rick Scott’s ideas to incentivize future teachers so they enter and stay in the profession.

Scott proposes the state spend $58 million on a variety of new initiatives — including $10 million for a “one-time hiring bonus” for new teachers who score in the top 10 percent in their subject-area exam for the subject they’ll teach.

MORE: "Teachers get a top focus in Florida governor’s budget"

That idea, in particular, drew some resistance Wednesday from some senators on the pre-K-12 education budget committee, mainly due to its similarity to the current “Best & Brightest” teacher bonus program, which controversially rewards top teachers based on their SAT/ACT scores in high school.

“Best & Brightest” has been a House priority the past couple years, driven by now-Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes. Senators were reluctant to renew it last year through the annual budget but ultimately agreed to do so as a compromise with the House.

This year — even with half of the senators new — the reservations about the program’s rationale remain. And they’re seeping into discussions about Scott’s proposal (which notably does not include renewing “Best & Brightest”).

“It concerns me that we continue to look for the best performers in college — and not the best teachers,” Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, said.

Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, agreed.

“It seems to me that rather than just giving a check to a teacher upon graduation from college with no strings attached, we could perhaps offer some financial assistance with a contractual commitment while they’re in schools of education,” Young said. “If we’re looking at recruiting and retaining, that seems a more targeted and efficient use of our taxpayer dollars.”

Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart defended Scott’s proposal, saying research shows “when an individual has strong content knowledge, that does translate into better [student] performance in the classroom.”

Photo credit: Florida Education Commissioner Pam Stewart answers questions from the Senate pre-K-12 education budget committee on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Florida Channel

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