A Bonus Failure; a Reading Success

Sarasota Herald Tribune, March 13, 2016 | Go to article overview

A Bonus Failure; a Reading Success


OUR VIEW

'Worst bill' returns

If Gov. Rick Scott is upset that legislators denied him his full tax-cut package and is looking for revenge, here's a suggestion: He should veto the $49 million teacher-bonus plan tucked into the state budget at the last minute, with little or no debate.

It's the second time legislative leaders sneaked the bogus bonus program, misnamed the "Best and Brightest," past some of their more skeptical fellow lawmakers. Last summer, the current, $44 million program was slipped into the budget at the end of a special session.

The reason for trickery is clear. Many legislators -- along with teachers, parents and education organizations -- oppose the program, which awards bonuses, in large part, based on the SAT or ACT scores that teachers earned in high school. State Sen. Nancy Detert, R- Venice, called last year's legislation the "worst bill of the year."

For older teachers, the test scores go back decades and have little bearing on the skills and experience they've gained since then.

The Florida Education Association, representing the state's teachers, has filed a complaint about the program with state and federal agencies. The complaint contends that "Best and Brightest" discriminates against older teachers who have difficulty retrieving high school scores, and against black and Hispanic teachers who traditionally scored lower on the standardized tests.

We have nothing against bonuses for teachers, but they should be awarded based on the teachers' performance -- not on tests designed to determine how high school students will do in their first year of college. Unfortunately, in 2010 the state stopped using the rigorous national-board certifications of teachers as criteria for pay increases.

Scott would honor Florida's teachers and education system -- as well as its legislative process -- by rejecting funding for the bonus program. If he also enjoys some payback to legislative leaders for their treatment of his proposed tax cuts, so be it. …

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