TALLAHASSEE (CBS4) — The Florida Senate will bring to the floor Wednesday a highly controversial proposal that would change the way teachers are paid.

The measure (SB 736) would set up a merit pay system for teachers and eliminate tenure for new hires. This was the most heavily debated piece of legislation last year and was vetoed by Gov. Charlie Crist after teachers around the state protested that the merit pay system would penalize them.

The measure and a companion House version, would grandfather in current teacher pay plans, but set up new, merit-based ones for teachers hired after July 1, 2014. The proposals also call for an evaluation process to be set up for teachers, but they don’t spell out the details, allowing the Commissioner of Education and local school districts to work out just how teachers would be evaluated.

Unlike last year’s measure, SB 6, the new version would allow the evaluation formula to consider students’ attendance, disciplinary records, disabilities and English proficiency when evaluating teachers for merit pay. It may not, however, set different expectations for students based on gender, race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status.

But a student’s home life, which would likely be affected by socioeconomic status, has remained a major sticking point for teachers in their opposition to the bill. Many have said that they see students who are dealing with serious problems at home, which takes their focus away from simple math and reading. Some teachers said they should not be penalized financially because their students on the testing day may have a major problem at home over which the teacher has no control.

The bills would require districts to set up evaluation systems that rate teachers as “highly effective,” “effective,” “needs improvement” or “unsatisfactory.” Half of those evaluations would be based on test scores. They would also allow districts to permanently put new hires on one-year contracts instead of the long term agreements that are in place now, making it easier for administrators to fire teachers.

The proposal has been backed by some high profile and politically powerful groups, namely the Florida Chamber of Commerce and former Gov. Jeb Bush’s education advocacy group, the Foundation for Florida’s Future. It has also gained traction in select pockets of teachers around the state.

The Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, opposes the bill.

Gov. Rick Scott has pledged his support to merit pay legislation.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

Comments (6)
  1. John says:

    I agree with this bill. Teachers (and lots of them) instead of teaching are too busy on facebook or buying things on their computer instead of actually teaching their class and students. This way, we can get rid of these incompetent teachers that are just there for the “EASY” schedule of vacation and time and get REAL teachers who actually give a crap about our kids. Thank god my kids go to private school.

  2. jp says:

    You Know if the principles would DO THEIR job this would not be a problem.
    How do you Merit pay a Vocational instructor? By the way these Republicans juggle our state I truly believe they were only ‘C’ students and didn’t do any homework but were at the beach.

  3. Mike says:

    Speaking of “C” students…it’s prinicipals not principles. 😉

    1. Mike says:

      Sorry Principals…..I was a “C” student too! 🙂

  4. Sarah says:

    The system doesn’t have to be based off only tests. If a school could get the students and their families to fill out evaluation slips, a district could look to see how a majority of the people who deal with the teachers daily feel. I am in high school, and, trust me, there needs to be a new system.

  5. Tom says:

    What should a highly qualified teacher earn per year? I have never heard anyone state what a “merit paid” teacher would be paid.

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