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Schools

Teachers reject bonus proposal

The educators union says no for a second time to the state plan.

By THOMAS C. TOBIN
Published August 21, 2007


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For the second time this year, the Pinellas teachers union has rejected a plan that would give bonuses averaging $2,250 to some teachers.

In a letter Monday to the School Board, union president Kim Black said the group's faculty representative council voted overwhelmingly Saturday not to participate in the state's Merit Awards Program, known as MAP.

As a result, the district must send $6.1-million earmarked for the bonuses back to the state. The union rejected a similar plan - Special Teachers Are Rewarded - in February.

When teachers and schools boards in other districts did the same, Legislators developed the Merit Awards Program, which was seen as a more flexible. But many of the same elements remained.

Black praised district officials for working with the union to devise a bonus plan, but said the state law governing MAP was too onerous.

She said the law relies too heavily on Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test scores to rate teachers, and she criticized a requirement that the bonuses go only to 25 percent of teachers.

Using test scores does not account for other factors besides teachers that affect student performance, the union argues.

About 6,300 of the district's 8,000 teachers received better than satisfactory evaluations this year.

"How do you choose every fourth one?" Black asked. "What we can't have is a division between 2,000 'haves' and 6,000 'have-nots.' It isn't worth even $6.1-million if it ruins relationships between colleagues."

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said he understood the union's position but worried it could send a negative message as the district prepares to ask voters next year to renew a special property tax to enhance teacher pay.

"While it was not the best plan, it was palatable and did reward a significant number of teachers for the great work they do in the classroom," Wilcox said. "We worked hard with the (union) leadership on a plan that we thought they could sell to their members. Apparently we didn't work hard enough."

[Last modified August 21, 2007, 09:56:00]


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