While both the House and Senate are interested in more than quadrupling funding to expand the “Best & Brightest” teacher bonus program next year, only the House actually proposes a dollar figure in its initial budget plan.
Both chambers’ education budget plans were unveiled Tuesday in advance of the full budget roll-out this week.
The House plan calls for $214 million in the 2017-18 budget for the teacher bonuses, up from the $49 million the Legislature allocated this year. But the Senate proposal zeros out the program funding — setting up another year of negotiations over the controversial program.
“That’s part of the process; this is not the first go-around with that in dealing with the Senate,” said Hialeah Republican Manny Diaz Jr., the House Pre-K-12 education budget chairman. “That’s par for the course.”
Senate Pre-K-12 Education budget chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, revealed in February that lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol were interested in expanding the “Best & Brightest” program so that teachers could be eligible in more ways than just their SAT/ACT score from high school and so that principals could also qualify for bonus dollars.
Simmons said then the House was exploring potentially $250 million for next year, which he said the Senate was supportive of.
He told reporters Wednesday morning that not including “Best & Brightest” in the Senate’s initial budget proposal is part of a strategic move to ensure the Senate gets some of its priorities, too, in budget negotiations.
“That’s a matter that we’re going to discuss and I believe when we put our budget together, it’s with the expectation that we will be dealing with that issue,” Simmons said, “and we want very much to accommodate the House on that issue — and that’s part of the give and take. We know that this is important [to them].”
Photo credit: Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah. Scott Keeler / Tampa Bay Times
[originally posted 5:30 a.m.; updated 10:15 a.m.]