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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where is Florida's non budgeted merit pay going to come from?

From the Sun Sentinel, By Karen Yi,

Florida's merit pay law won't take effect until 2014, but Broward County school leaders are already voicing concern about where the funding will come from.

The district this week released its list of proposed legislative goals for this year, and among its priorities is having lawmakers provide a sustainable source of money for the extra pay.

"The state is going to have to make a commitment," said Gary Itzkowitz, field staff representative for the Broward Teacher's Union. "They need to put their money where their mouth is."

The merit pay law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott last year, would base teacher salaries on student test scores and a new method of evaluating teacher performance. Although $4 million from a federal Race to the Top grant has been used to implement new teacher evaluations, school officials remain unclear as to where the money to pay teachers would come from.

"Performance pay obligations will consume most of the school district's available funds in future years and could affect its ability to offer any cost-of-living adjustments for all employees," the district said. "Shrinking education budgets over the past few years have hampered school boards' ability to provide raises of any type."

Donna Shubert, a teacher in Broward County, said the law is flawed.

"Merit pay is ridiculous, especially when there is no money for the pay part of it," she said. "Part of my evaluation as a kindergarten teacher will be based on how fourth- and fifth-graders do on FCAT — kids I may never have taught."

In Palm Beach County, school officials have made it one of their priorities to lobby the Legislature to delay implementing the law until 2016.

"We're floundering right now," said Vern Pickup-Crawford, that district's lobbyist. "Nobody has the money to properly fund a merit pay system even as envisioned by the Legislature."

The Florida School Boards Association and the Association of District School Superintendents are expected to also push for a moratorium, Crawford said.

A representative for the Florida Department of Education said it was not clear whether that agency would request additional money from the Legislature to give to each of its districts for merit pay.

State Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Pompano Beach, who voted against the law, said the state should be responsible for footing the bill.

"It's not a burden that should be put on local districts," she said. "We'll have to look at some other way of providing the merit pay."

The state, meanwhile, is reworking the rules on how to carry out the merit pay system after a judge last month struck them down.

The Florida Education Association last year filed a lawsuit saying the law violates collective bargaining agreements. or 954-572-2080, Twitter: @karen_yi,0,643943.story

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