Florida House passes a bill that could reward educators

The House of Representatives voted 81-31 in favor of a bill Thursday that would be extremely beneficial for teachers who scored highly on their ACT and SAT exams.

Florida created the “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program in 2015 with intentions on rewarding its teachers. Initially established as a one-year initiative, the program’s focus is to provide bonuses to teachers deemed “highly effective,” and scored in the top 20th percentile on their ACT or SAT in high school.

This year, the House’s proposal looked a little different.  Republicans in the House argued in favor of making the bill permanent, while also providing teachers who are highly-rated and scored within the top five percentile on their ACT or SAT an annual bonus of $10,000.

Proponents of the bill, including Republican Rep. Erik Fresen of Miami who initially proposed the bill, believes the program works at a recruitment tool for the best and brightest teachers in the state.

"By passing this bill, we will be able to attract and retain the highest quality teachers to our classrooms, make sure our colleges and universities are equipping students for success in the workforce, and create more world class universities by providing additional support to our emerging preeminent schools," Fresen said.

Everyone was not excited about renewing the “Best and Brightest” program, particularly members of the Senate.

A review of the Senate’s budget plan for 2016-2017 shows a recommendation for no funding for “Best and Brightest,” a stark contrast to the House who actually proposed a $1 million increase in their budget.

For many, the money needed to fund the program isn’t warranted. According to Democrat Rep. Joe Geller of Aventura, funding the program “a big waste of money that has no proven correlation to the ability to teach effectively.”

Aside from the money that has to be shelled out to fund the program, others just aren’t sure about its effectiveness.

Sen. Dwight Bullard of Miami, who is a teacher himself and also an opponent of the bill, expressed his concerns of the bill.

“The rewarding of teachers isn't the problem. It's using an assessment that one takes when they're 17 years old to qualify a teacher," Bullard said.

Willie Heard, fourth-year FAMU education student from Atlanta, Ga., was strongly in favor of continuing the “Best and Brightest” bonus program.

“Of course that is a good thing. Teaching is the most important job in the world; they should be rewarded at every opportunity, especially if there is some merit to it,” Heard said.

Last year, the program was given a budget of $44 million dollars. More than 5,300 teachers statewide qualified for the program last year with each due to receive a bonus of around $8,250 in April.

If approved this year, the budget along with the bonuses provided for teachers will increase which I am sure will be a great pleasure to many across the state.