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    Education paycheck revisited

    A day after announcing a lucrative package for Education Secretary Jim Horne, the board agrees to put it to lawmakers.

    By BARRY KLEIN

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 26, 2001


    MIAMI -- The Florida Board of Education on Wednesday reconsidered its pay package for Education Secretary Jim Horne, delaying lucrative incentive bonuses until at least 2004.

    The board agreed Tuesday to pay the former state senator a base salary of $225,000 and to establish performance measures that could have raised his total pay to as much as $400,000 annually.

    But board Chairman Phil Handy said members became concerned Wednesday that there was too much focus on the potential size of the package, which could have made Horne the highest-paid government official in Florida.

    "That's not what we were focused on," said Handy, who said the board, in consultation with Horne, decided it would be better to consult with state lawmakers before setting the measures.

    As a result, Horne won't be eligible for the incentive pay until 2004 at the earliest, Handy said. He will, however, continue to receive the $225,000 base salary.

    Handy made the surprise announcement after a daylong orientation for Florida's new university trustees, a session highlighted by an appearance from Gov. Jeb Bush.

    Bush spoke to the trustees about the importance of accountability, both for universities and the people who run them.

    That was the same philosophy espoused by the education board when it initially set Horne's pay.

    "If (Horne) is successful, then we'll be successful," said board member Charles Garcia, a strong advocate of linking pay to performance.

    Horne, a Bush appointee, also liked the idea. He suggested several measures that could be used to assess his performance, including increased student achievement and reduced dropout rates.

    "This puts a lot of pressure on me to perform," he said.

    As Florida's first education secretary, Horne administers a system that stretches from kindergarten to universities. Last year, its components had a combined budget of almost $16-billion.

    Horne stood next to Handy when the change was announced Wednesday but did not comment.

    Since there was no meeting of the board, it's unclear how the decision was reached. Some members talked with assistant secretary John Winn, while others talked with Horne, Handy said.

    Even at $225,000, Horne's pay is among the highest in state government.

    Bush, for example, earns $120,171. Education Commissioner Charlie Crist earns $118,957.

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