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Teachers, district cheer: Merit pay plan quashed
The state's insistence on corrections kills it.
By TOM MARSHALL, Times Staff Writer
Published November 30, 2007
BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County caught a lucky break this week: the state didn't like its application for a merit pay plan for teachers.
And with a few quick votes Wednesday, a relieved district and teachers' union dropped the Merit Award Program like a hot potato.
"Both groups voted unanimously not to submit the corrections to the Department of Education to revise the plan, so we're not going to have that as part of our contract this year," said Barbara Kidder, director of labor relations and professional standards. "MAP is dead."
All 27 counties that submitted MAP applications this fall have been told they must correct deficiencies to qualify for state funding, said Tom Butler, a spokesman for the Department of Education.
Under the state plan, up to 25 percent of district teachers would have received a state-funded salary bonus based on student testing and an administrative evaluation.
But Hernando officials reckoned the plan would have cost the district $400,000 or more in local funds to implement, and the Hernando Classroom Teachers' Association union worried that money would come out of the overall funds available for teacher salaries.
In other words, everyone - including all five School Board members and the union leadership - hated it. If not for the complication of an earlier union vote to accept the plan, and a much-regretted board vote to move forward, it never would have gotten this far.
They're not alone. About two-thirds of Florida's 67 counties, including Pasco and Pinellas, have rejected the plan, according to the Florida School Labor Relations Service.
So when the district received word Monday that its plan had fallen short and needed revisions, there were lots of smiles.
The state said Hernando's plan failed to assess teachers whose courses aren't tested by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, and showed "no evidence of completed negotiation" by its teachers' union.
Laurie Pellito, the district staffer who labored to pull the district's submission together, took issue with both claims.
"They're saying we didn't address the topics," she said. "Of course we did, so I'm not sure what that's referring to. We really could have used more specific guidelines beforehand."
Still, like her colleagues, she was pleased to be done with it.
"I want to believe that it's finished," Pellito said. "But I haven't started shredding yet."
She plans to keep that big MAP file in a safe place, near her paperwork for Special Teachers Are Rewarded, the state's last attempt at merit pay. When the next plan comes, she'll be ready.