The first bill Gov. Rick Scott signed into law, SB 736 rewrote how teachers are paid and retained across the state.
The Florida Education Association has filed a lawsuit challenging the law, arguing the law unconstitutionally strips teachers or their ability to negotiate pay.
The bill makes a number of sweeping, statewide changes including:
- Rating teacher performance. The law requires districts to rate teachers and administrators annually, according to a legislative analysis, with half of their score based on student Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test Performance over a three-year period.Districts can negotiate the remaining half of the rating with teachers, but it should be based on instructional practice or leadership. For non-FCAT classes, such as physical education or art, districts have until 2014–2015 to develop and implement tests.
- How teachers are paid. New hires will no longer have to climb the decades-long seniority ladder to earn the highest salaries. Now, the highest-rated teachers can earn the top salaries just a few years out of college. Highly-rated teachers already working can opt out of the merit pay system — but if they switch districts they would be paid on their performance, according to a United Teachers of Dade Q & A. Teachers will also no longer be guaranteed additional pay for advanced degrees.
- Job security. New hires will no longer enjoy long-term contracts, but instead must be rehired on an annual basis. Those already teaching are again exempted from the new law, but teachers who switch districts would then move to annual contracts.
- Political motivations. Lawmakers approved the law, in part, to reinforce a $700 million federal Race To The Top grant, according to the legislative analysis. Districts will use half that grant to design, implement and fund the first three years of their performance pay systems.
- The goal. Reformers believe boosting pay will draw better quality teachers to the field, and that better teachers will produce better student results.