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'Hope' dollars will be awarded soon to 25 failing schools. Here are some of their ideas.

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@ByKristenMClark @KyraGurney

How do you fix struggling schools? One idea: Pay teachers more.

Teacher bonuses are among several ideas the Miami-Dade and Broward school districts have proposed as they compete for additional funding through a controversial new state program designed to rehabilitate Florida’s lowest performing schools while potentially supplanting them with privately run charters.

Miami-Dade alone is asking the state for about $2.3 million for teacher bonuses through “Schools of Hope” to attract and keep the district’s best teachers at five schools eligible for the program.

If the schools are selected, teachers rated “highly effective” through a state-mandated teacher evaluation system could earn up to $11,500 in bonuses if they stay at or transfer into one of the eligible schools, have good attendance and help their students improve.

“The impact of a highly effective teacher is a key factor that contributes to school improvement,” district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said in an email, explaining the strategy.

Broward is also asking for “Hope” money to pay for teacher recruitment and retention bonuses at three qualifying schools. Eligible teachers with perfect attendance could earn up to an extra $8,000 to $9,000, although it’s unclear how much funding Broward is asking for in total across the three schools.

The requested funds are part of $6.9 million in proposals in Miami-Dade and $3.4 million in Broward to turn around a total of eight struggling South Florida schools. The applications also ask for money to pay for a range of services for low-income students and their families, including after-school activities, tutoring and family counseling.

Across the state, 57 of 93 eligible newly failing traditional schools applied for a chance at receiving the maximum $2,000 per student through “Schools of Hope.” They each have roughly a 50-50 shot at getting the money. In enacting the new program through House Bill 7069 last spring, lawmakers capped the traditional school aid at only 25 schools at any given time.

As a result, the maximum amount of money that can be distributed this fall to the schools is $51.5 million, about 37 percent of the $140 million allocated for “Schools of Hope.” (At most around 26,000 students statewide could benefit from the funds, although tens of thousands more remain in failing schools.)

The leftover “Hope” funding will be used later to dole out financial incentives to charter school operators who can set up competing schools near the 93 failing ones. That part of the program hasn’t yet been implemented.

The 25 traditional public schools receiving aid will be chosen Sept. 13 by the state Board of Education, whose members will have virtually free rein to accept or deny the applications for any reason — although Republican lawmakers said that the intent of the law was to reward the most innovative ideas. 

Full story here.

Photo credit: Miami Herald file photo

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