Under final eligibility language released by legislative leaders late this afternoon, new teachers who have high ACT or SAT scores will qualify for Best and Brightest signing bonuses, even if they have not graduated from one of Florida’s teacher education programs. The Senate had sought language to exclude new teachers from signing bonus eligibility unless they had already graduated from a teacher education program like FSU-Teach.
The eligibility language proposed by the Senate might have hurt efforts to recruit new teachers for math and science subjects. Many who enter the teaching profession in those subjects are individuals who have bachelors’ degrees in math and science but who have not had any formal coursework in education. A recent FLDOE document reported that while there were 237 vacancies for chemistry and physics teachers in 2014-15, only 17 teachers in these fields graduated from Florida teacher education programs in 2013-14.
The agreement by legislative leaders will maintain the present eligibility requirements (an ACT or SAT score at the 80th percentile or higher, plus a “highly effective” evaluation for continuing teachers) through the 2019-20 school year. However, the bonus amount is being reduced to $6,000. After 2019-20, the test score requirement will be modified somewhat.
The legislature is also implementing a new program to provides $1,200 bonuses to all teachers who earn “highly effective” evaluations and $800 bonuses to all evaluated as “effective”.
The amount budgeted for all of these bonuses in the next fiscal year is $233 million.