Is Merit Pay Dead in Florida?

The indispensable John O’Connor of StateImpact has a preview of the upcoming legislative session. Here’s what he writes about teacher evaluations and merit pay:

The Student Success Act requires school districts begin paying teachers based on their evaluations starting this year.

The evaluations are a combination of student test scores, observations and other factors chosen by each school district.

The idea is that teachers earning higher score son their evaluations will be paid more. But though lawmakers required merit pay, they haven’t set aside any money for the program.

Many teachers don’t like the evaluations. And some teachers in subjects without an end-of-year exam have been evaluated based on the test scores of students they have not taught.

Superintendents will push to suspend the teacher evaluation requirements — as other states want — while switching to Common Core standards.

Because each district sets up their own evaluation system, some districts have a majority of teachers earning the highest rating while some districts have none.

The Florida Education Association is also challenging the law in court.

Evaluations and merit pay aren’t in the ed policy vacuum alone.  There’s Common Core and new tests, and school grades in there, too. Meanwhile, legislators have their eye on the meltdown in New York. Florida wouldn’t be ready even if Core and new tests weren’t on our plate.

When is the last time you heard one of the zealots who imposed SB736 even say “merit pay?” Last year’s roll back on school grades coupled with a big change in high school graduation requirements represents a huge change in how Florida’s republican leaders view “accountability.”

Is it a kinder, gentler GOP?

Not likely. But it’s an election year. Rick Scott is behind Charlie Crist in the polls and will not want to give him another hammer to whack away at him. This session will be no drama on ed policy. Scott and the republican leadership won’t be picking fights with school superintendents and school boards. Look for them to listen and not lecture for a change.

The conditions on the ground signal a pause on implementation of Core as well as SB 736. Merit pay is unpopular and, most importantly, still unfunded. Education Week reports that Florida still hasn’t drawn all its Race to the Top money. Perhaps they will use it to address the infrastructure issues. But what will happen when it runs out? A one time upgrade on infrastructure won’t be the last. Systems will become obsolete and will need to be upgraded again.

If testing is rolled back in any way, SB 736 cannot be implemented, and neither can merit pay. Sen. president Don Gaetz said before last year’s legislative session that Florida’s entire accountability system was “in danger of imploding.”  With things are even more uncertain this year, I doubt that republican legislators have the appetite for more uncertainty.  Merit pay may be the first thing they push to the side.




About Bob Sikes

A long time ago and a planet far, far away I was an athletic trainer for the New York Mets. I was blessed to be part of the now legendary 1986 World Series Championship. My late father told me that I'd one day be thankful I had that degree in teaching from Florida State University. He was right and I became twice blesses to become a teacher in the late 1990's. After dabbling with writing about the Mets and then politics, I settled on education.
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2 Responses to Is Merit Pay Dead in Florida?

  1. I went through the merit pay fiasco in the 80s. The state ran out of money to pay the second round of teachers who followed the rules and played the game. As far as I’m concerned, merit pay should have died then! Thanks for this post. From another FSU ed. grad.

  2. Jeff Nguyen says:

    “Merit pay is unpopular and, most importantly, still unfunded”…not to mention based on complex, indecipherable formulas known as VAM. What other professionals have to constantly justify their worth? Teachers are not the only occupation under attack but in a time of gross, socioeconomic inequality, public education provides one of the few paths to upward economic mobility. I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.

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