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FEA applauds new lawsuit against bonus scheme

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) applauds Morgan & Morgan for its lawsuit announced today challenging the Florida Department of Education’s handling of the Best and Brightest bonus program.

On the heels of FEA’s successful lawsuit on a separate challenge to Best and Brightest, today’s announcement serves as a reminder that bonus schemes do not work. It is no secret that Florida’s teachers are paid amongst the worst in the nation — 46th in average teacher salary.

For years, legislators have claimed that the Best and Brightest bonus is a tool to attract and retain teachers. The program has been around long enough now that the evidence supports what we already knew — it has failed completely in the goal of recruiting and retaining.

To further highlight the program’s absurdity, the plaintiff in the lawsuit was twice deemed among the “Best and Brightest,” yet he was not rehired. Let this sink in: He was awarded more than $13,000 in bonuses for his exemplary teaching performance and then was asked to leave without even being given a reason why. It’s hard to think of a worse way to recruit and retain teachers than through the Best and Brightest program.

It is unfathomable that the Legislature continues a program that so blatantly fails our teachers at a time when we are seeing rapidly growing teacher shortages.

“If the governor and the Legislature are serious about every child’s future, they should do more to address the significant teacher shortage Florida is experiencing. They must commit to investing in educator salaries instead of bonuses,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “But money alone is not enough. It is time to put an end to a decades-old, broken evaluation and accountability system, and focus on what works for our students. It is time to make sure our students have the resources and opportunities they all deserve.”

Before the first bonus program for Florida’s teachers was implemented in 2006, Florida’s teachers ranked 29th nationally in average salary. Since then, Florida’s Legislature has tried one failed bonus program after another — including now the third version of Best and Brightest.

CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055

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The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 145,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

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