Local News

Teacher pay raise tied to performance

SEBRING - The state House and Senate agreed on a pay raise for teachers, but it won’t be coming until next year and will be tied to performance. With the Legislature’s agreement to implement $480 million in teacher pay raises, teachers ranked as effective will be eligible for a $2,500 pay raise, while those ranked as highly effective would be eligible for $3,500. Teacher performance would be linked to student achievement, but the final plan would be developed and approved by each school board across the state. A press release from Gov. Rick Scott’s office states the funding allows districts the flexibility to develop their own performance plans “to award the greatest number of teachers the largest teacher pay raise possible,” in coordination with their collective bargaining agreements.
Highlands County Teachers Union President Steve Picklesimer said while a pay raise for teachers is good news, the plan is faulty and does nothing to help this coming year. Highlands County teachers have not had an increase in pay for the last five years, he said. Two of the last five years, teachers did not receive a step-up on the salary schedule for their year taught, as provided by contract. School Board of Highlands County Director of Human Resources Vivianne Waldron said since the pay raise is tied to performance, only teachers rated “effective” or “highly effective” will receive it at the end of the next school year in June 2014. “So a pay raise seems like good news and it is, but it is still tied to a failed evaluation system,” Picklesimer said. Many teachers are evaluated on student “growth” for students they do not teach or in curriculum areas which they do not teach, he explained. For example, educators who teach subjects that are not tested under the Florida Comprehensive Test Assessment or don’t have end-of-course exams are evaluated, in part, by student scores in other courses that are tested. Picklesimer called the evaluation system “unfair” and one that will favor some over others. “If there were an accurate way to measure the teacher effect on student growth, that would make this plan better,” he added. Waldron said the district now will have to bring its Performance Pay Adjustment Committee back together again to discuss the pay raise and how it will affect the committee’s plan for “performance pay” the following school year. “I think the two will probably work well together; the only difference is this first year evidently the state is going to provide the funding and the next year the district will have to adjust their salary schedule in order to provide the funding for ‘effective’ or higher ratings,” Waldron said. Scott proposed in January a $2,500 across-the-board pay raise for all full-time public school teachers. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said the deal was a “slap in the face” to teachers because they will have to wait more than a year before they get the raise. Lawmakers have set aside a total of $480 million for the raises, which would also be available to principals, assistant principals, librarians and guidance counselors. It's part of an overall $1 billion increase for education that legislators set aside in the proposed $74 billion budget.


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The Associated Press contributed to this story