Putting Education Reform To The Test

What The Florida Supreme Court Pension Decision Could Mean For Merit Pay Lawsuit

Stephenie Schukraft / Flickr

Thursday's Florida Supreme Court decision could be cited in another legal challenge pushed by teachers.

In 2011 lawmakers approved a law requiring public employees — including teachers — pay 3 percent of their salary into their retirement account.

Public employee unions challenged the law, arguing it unconstitutionally changes a contract with workers and violates workers’ right to collectively bargain pay and benefits.

A circuit court overturned the law, but Thursday the Florida Supreme Court upheld the law in a 4-3 decision.

The decision is likely to set a precedent when a lower court issues its decision on another teacher-related lawsuit (A decision which is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court).

That suit challenges a 2011 law, the Student Success Act, requiring teachers to be evaluated, in part, based on student standardized test scores, requiring district to design merit pay programs to pay better performing teachers more money, and ending long-term contracts for new hires.

The court’s logic — that the law doesn’t hinder workers’ ability to negotiate moving forward — could be applied in the Student Success Act case. The court also rejected the concept that the law abridged “effective” collective bargaining — as in reducing the leverage of workers in negotiations.

“We agree,” the court wrote of the state’s argument on page 20 of the pension case decision. “Nothing…prohibits employees from collectively bargaining on the issue of retirement or benefits.”

You can read the lawsuit below, in which we’ve highlighted the most important parts.


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