A state program that awards bonuses to top-rated teachers based on their own SAT and ACT scores from high school violates federal and state civil rights laws against employment discrimination, argues a potential class-action lawsuit filed this week by Florida’s largest teachers union and seven classroom teachers from South Florida.
The Best and Brightest program — first enacted in 2015 and now in its third year — continues to be envisioned by Florida House Republicans as an innovative means to recruit and retain the best teachers in the state’s public schools.
But it’s been a subject of ongoing controversy because the program relies on teachers’ own test scores — sometimes decades old and unavailable — which has no proven correlation to teacher effectiveness.
The Florida Education Association is now asking a federal judge to step in and declare the program illegal and discriminatory against teachers who are older and who are non-white.
The FEA first made the accusation two years ago through a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission — an avenue the union said Friday it had to exhaust before it was recently given federal authorization to file a lawsuit.
“The SAT/ACT score requirement has an illegal disparate impact on teachers based on their age and on teachers based on their black and Hispanic race,” the plaintiffs’ attorneys, John Davis and Kent Spriggs, argued in the 58-page lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee. “The SAT/ACT score requirement is not required by business necessity and is not related to job performance.”
Photo credit: Florida Department of Education [Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times]