Teachers unions in Florida oppose an incentive program designed to reward effective teachers with cash and partial loan forgiveness because, they complain, not all teachers are eligible for the special incentives.
The $44 million “Best and Brightest” teacher scholarship program, which lawmakers enacted in June 2015, gives teachers an $8,200 bonus if they achieve certain professional ratings and if their own — sometimes ancient — ACT or SAT scores are high enough.
A proposed expansion of the teacher incentive program would forgive up to $16,000 worth of student loans for each teacher in high-need STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — once they teach for eight consecutive years in a taxpayer-funded Florida classroom.
Florida teachers union leaders hate everything about the “Best and Brightest” program. They want to see it killed, not expanded.
“Best and Brightest is one of the biggest mistakes they’ve ever done in education,” Osceola County Education Association president Apryle Jackson told Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV. “It doesn’t reward quality teachers. It just rewards someone for taking a test and doing well on that test.”
Jackson said unions also detest the proposal to forgive student loans for in-demand teachers.
“It’s a great incentive for STEM teachers, but what about the reading teachers?” Jackson bewailed to the Orlando station. “Those are the teachers out there working in trenches just as hard. We shouldn’t just emphasize on STEM.”
“I think that the money could be better spent on salaries, in general,” the teachers union president suggested. “We’re losing teachers like never before.”
Florida statehouse Rep. Erik Fresen, a Republican from the Miami area, agrees that the state is losing teachers and wants to do something to attractand keep good teachers.
‘We have less than 10 percent of our best and brightest high school students even considering the profession of education,” Fresen told WFTV.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott also backs the program.
The “Best and Brightest” program currently has enough funding for just one year, however, and many Florida lawmakers oppose it.
Nancy Detert, a Republican from the Gulf Coast, called a bill to extend the program “the worst bill of the year,” notes the Tampa Bay Times.
The Florida Education Association — a statewide teachers union — has filed a lawsuit over the program.
Obviously, the biggest problem with the “Best and Brightest” program is its use of performance on a three-hour standardized test as some proxy for the actual ability to teach effectively in a public school classroom.
“Scores from a single aptitude test taken decades ago do not relate to success in today’s classroom,” argues The St. Augustine Record in a recent editorial. “This legislation is divisive and demeaning. We should reward our teachers — both veteran and brand new — using meaningful, relevant measures.