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Educator bonus plan gets Crist's approval

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published March 30, 2007


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TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist on Thursday signed into law the state's new bonus plan for educators, officially doing away with the controversial bonus plan adopted last year under former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Now lawmakers just have to agree on how much taxpayer money to devote to the bonuses next year.

The current-year budget includes $147.5-million for bonuses, which will be doled out at the end of this school year based on the guidelines that Crist passed into law Thursday.

The size of next year's bonus pool is less certain.

The proposed 2007-08 budget that Crist released earlier this year would double the bonus money, to almost $300-million. But that was based on older, more optimistic revenue projections.

Recently revised revenue projections show the state's tax collections are falling, so lawmakers crafting the state's new budget will have almost $1-billion less to work with than they expected.

The result: The Senate proposes keeping the bonus money at this year's level, $147.5-million. The House proposes spending about $200-million. Then there's the governor's proposal.

"It's early," Crist said after signing the Merit Award Program bill. "We've still got four weeks to go until the session ends, so we'll see."

The Merit Award Program repeals the $147.5-million Special Teachers Are Rewarded plan that teachers and education lobbyists disliked so much.

[Last modified March 30, 2007, 00:45:02]


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