ORLANDO, Fla. - Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled two proposals regarding teacher pay on Thursday, including changes to a controversial bonus program.
Speaking at a high school outside Tampa, the governor said he wants to alter the Best and Brightest Scholarship Program so that it’s no longer tied to a teacher’s SAT or ACT score, a requirement that prompted complaints.
“What we're trying to do is identify those teachers that are rated highly effective and that are helping their schools move forward, and when they're doing that, we think that they should be rewarded,” DeSantis said.
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His plan calls for bonuses of more than $9,000 for roughly 45,000 teachers who are rated highly effective and whose schools show at least 1 percent improvement in their school grade calculation.
The proposed cost is $422 million.
“There will not be any more SAT, ACT component to this,” the governor said.
The bonus is currently based on a teacher’s rating and SAT or ACT score. Critics said the tests, generally taken before college, were not a good indicator of teacher quality.
In a statement, the state teachers’ union called the changes a start but said the bonus would not fix the teacher shortage.
“Bonus schemes divert money that could be given to increase everyone's salary, and that's the way you're really going to retain teachers,” said Orange County Classroom Teachers Association President Wendy Doromal.
The bonus is part of state law, so the Legislature would need to sign off on any changes.
DeSantis also proposed a new recruitment program that would include $10 million to cover loan and tuition forgiveness for 1,700 new teachers a year as long as they promise to work in Florida for five years. The program would be funded for five years.
“If you're willing to do this and dedicate those five years, we'll be able to wipe that slate clean up to a pretty significant amount of money,” DeSantis said.
Just how serious is the teacher shortage? During a separate discussion on Thursday morning in Lake Mary, the superintendents from Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties said recruiting and retaining teachers is one of their biggest challenges.
“Until we start paying teachers what they are worth, we're going to be dealing with this problem,” said Seminole County Superintendent Dr. Walt Griffin.
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