House panel approves changes to ‘Best and Brightest’ bonus program By News Service of Florida Friday, March 10, 2017 at 9:10 pm

An overhaul to the controversial “Best and Brightest” bonus program for teachers easily passed the House Education Committee on Friday.

The measure (PCB EDC 17-02), proposed by Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, was approved on a 17-1 vote. The proposal would lower the score teachers would need on

college-entrance exams to access the award, expand the number of tests that could be used to qualify for the bonus and give principals an opportunity to earn additional pay by having large numbers of teachers at their schools who receive the Best and Brightest awards.

“The No. 1 factor in getting teachers to those schools is the quality of the leadership,” Diaz told the committee.

But the legislation might not do much to silence complaints that the award is overly reliant on tests that teachers often take years before they enter the classroom.

The lone committee member to vote against the bill, Rep. Shevrin Jones, said lawmakers should consider allowing teachers to get the award for national board certification. Jones, D-West Park, also said a statewide pay increase for teachers could help with recruitment. “If we were to just give teachers a raise, then I don’t think that we would have to deal with the `Best and Brightest’ program. ... We would be able to attract teachers based on the salaries that we have,” he said. A similar bill (SB 1410) was filed in the Senate last week by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville. Another overhaul to the teacher bonus program, filed by Senate PreK-12 Education Appropriations Chairman David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, was withdrawn before being formally introduced.

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