Teachers union decries performance pay rules

Published September 19, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - The Florida Education Association is challenging state guidelines for developing local teacher performance pay plans because they were written without going through required rulemaking procedures, officials of the statewide teachers union said Monday.

The union contends that the Florida Education Department has cut teachers out of the guideline-writing process for the new program dubbed Special Teachers are Rewarded, or STAR. The challenge is aimed at invalidating several interpretations of the plan the department has made.

Union president Andy Ford said his group doesn't oppose the concept of performance pay, which gives more money to those teachers deemed to be doing a better job than their peers. It is premature, though, until all Florida teachers can be paid a salary at or above the national average, Ford said.

The union filed its petition with the state Division of Administrative Hearings. An administrative law judge will consider the issue.

"Our education system's compensation policy is a failed relic of the past," Florida Education Commissioner John Winn said in a written statement. "The union appears more interested in protecting a stranglehold on a one-size-fits all compensation system that discourages excellence and promotes mediocrity."

Under the STAR program, passed this year by the Legislature, school districts will establish performance pay plans through negotiations with union locals. Student testing must factor into the STAR pay plans.

The Legislature appropriated $147.5-million for STAR pay.

Bush said he couldn't understand why the union has a problem with adding that much more money to teacher pay beyond a 10.8 percent increase in overall public school spending this year. Union officials say applying that $147.5-million instead to base pay would give all teachers an additional 1.5 percent raise.