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Controversy in Florida: Teachers Union Files Complaint Against Bonus Program

Controversy in Florida: Teachers Union Files Complaint Against Bonus Program

The Florida Education Association validated earlier criticism against Florida’s ‘Best and Brightest’ teacher scholarship program by filing a complaint against it with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Florida Commission on Human Relations.

The bonus program set aside $44 million to give up to $10,000 in bonuses to highly-rated teachers who also scored above the 80th percentile on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams.

For teachers over 40, many have not even taken the test. For those who did, percentile data is not available, raising concerns as to the fairness of the bonuses. In order to be eligible, many Florida teachers were forced to take the tests by this past October.

Despite early criticism and backlash,the state announced at the beginning of the month that over 5,200 teachers would be collecting over $8,400 from the scholarship program.

Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, said he created the program in hopes of encouraging “high-caliber college students to pursue teaching careers,” said the Orlando Sentinel

Today, the union called the program discrimination against both teachers over 40 and African-American and Hispanic teachers because “the SAT and ACT are 'racially/culturally biased tests that disparately impact test-takers' of those races. The complaint said there was no correlation between performance on those exams and teacher performance,” said the Tampa Bay Times.

Fresen responded to the union’s complaint by calling it unfortunate that the union will oppose any pay structure scheme that is not based on time served, but is optimistic the program will continue.

Many in education believe the scholarship program money could be used to benefit teachers in more fair ways. 

"Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins, executive director of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association, suggested the money would be better spent on the fees associated with helping teachers become certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Such funding was cut off during the recession and participation in the program has dropped,” the article said.

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Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor

12/22/2015

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