Merit pay compromise sails to governor's desk

Published March 23, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Legislation repealing and replacing the state's widely reviled merit pay program for teachers went Thursday to Gov. Charlie Crist, who said he is happy with the compromise measure.

The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and other standardized exams would continue to play a big part in determining which teachers qualify for performance bonuses under the new Merit Award Program, as they do with the existing program.

School districts would have more flexibility, though, in creating local performance pay plans than permitted by the Special Teachers Are Rewarded, or STAR, program enacted last year.

The House voted 110-4 for the bill on final passage. The Senate passed it 39-0 Wednesday.

The statewide teachers union and associations representing school boards and superintendents were among STAR's biggest critics, but each endorsed the compromise.

The new program allows for bonuses ranging from 5 percent to 10 percent of the districtwide average pay and has no cutoff. The number of bonuses, though, would be limited by the dollars appropriated.

Though most voted for the compromise, Democrats argued that teachers should get an across-the-board raise instead because Florida's base salaries remain below the national average.