LABELLE, FL. -– Governor Charlie Crist has signed Senate Bill 1226 that will create the Merit Award Program for public school teachers, providing five-percent to 10-percent performance bonuses to the state’s best educators.
"I applaud the Legislature for recognizing that teachers are the cornerstone to the academic success of Florida’s children and for investing in our schools and our children’s future," Governor Crist said. "While this legislation is a great first step toward rewarding teachers and providing them the incentive to remain in the classroom, I also encourage the Legislature to fully fund the program so that the top 25 percent of our teachers receive a full 10-percent bonus."
The legislation recognizes the important contributions that principals, librarians, reading and math coaches, guidance counselors, psychologists, and social workers make to school-wide student achievement by also rewarding them with performance bonuses. Charter schools can adopt the district’s plan or develop their own.
Salary bonuses will be based on a percentage of each district's average teacher salary. Eligibility is based on a formula that includes both student academic achievement and the principal's evaluation of teacher performance – at least 60 percent relating to student achievement based on a variety of tests, and up to 40 percent relating to teacher performance. For principals, the superintendent’s evaluation will be used.
"Florida’s school districts must compete with districts across the nation to attract the most qualified teachers," Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp said. "This bill gives Florida’s districts a powerful recruiting tool to attract and retain teachers."
With the signing of this bill, last year’s Special Teachers Are Rewarded (STAR) Program is repealed; however, districts that submit STAR plans to the State Board of Education before May 1, 2007, and whose plans are approved, are eligible for funding. In addition, funding is available for district programs that meet requirements for the new Merit Award Program and for locally-adopted district merit award plans. These districts will receive funding equal to their expenditures for merit bonuses in 2005-06.