Teachers, district settle dispute on performance pay

The Department of Education said plans had to be submitted by March 1 to qualify for bonuses.

By Jeffrey S. Solochek
Published February 23, 2007

LAND O'LAKES - Pasco County teachers and the school district reached a tentative agreement on performance pay late Thursday after three months and five rounds of talks.

The Florida Department of Education has said districts must submit locally adopted plans by March 1 to qualify for their share of the $147-million set aside for teacher bonuses. Pasco's share is about $3.5-million.

Under state law, 5 percent bonuses would go to the top 25 percent of teachers, based on the performance of their students on FCAT or an end-of-course exam.

The sides, which met for more than six hours Wednesday, were divided over two main points.

One involved the $400,000 in the district's existing performance pay plan. The district said the money could not go into the new State Teachers Are Rewarded program, as teachers requested.

The other issue dealt with the end-of-course student exams that would be used to determine a teacher's performance. Teachers wanted the exams to count toward the students' grades so they would have an incentive to do well, but the district refused, saying the criteria for students' grades have already been set.

In the end, the union gave in on both points.

"We felt like, based on what was being mandated from the state, we did the best we could," said Lynne Webb, United School Employees of Pasco president. School Board chairwoman Marge Whaley said she expected the board to approve the agreement if the teachers do. She had few kind words about the performance pay law: "I hate the STAR," she said, calling the law "tremendously bad."

"I'm hoping the Legislature will get together and say, 'Hmmm, do we want our teachers to work together as a team? Yes, we do, and this is dividing them,' " Whaley said.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or 813 909-4614. For more education news, check out The Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.