Paying Bonuses to Teachers

The traditional method of paying teachers according to their experience and education level could be a thing of the past.

Gov. Bush's performance pay plan wants to bring business-like practices to schools. But that new state plan tying teacher performance to bonuses is getting low marks.

"As far as performance pay or merit pay as we are calling it, totally against that," said Paul Burdette, Florida Education Association.

The plan offers teachers a bonus up to five percent of their annual pay if they can show outstanding work in the classroom. But the state isn't funding the mandate, individual counties must come up with the cash.

Fourth grade teacher Joni Hartsfield says she doesn't like the idea of taking money from all teachers to give a few a bonus.

"It separates us, when we know certain teachers are going to qualify and certain people aren't and others won't be considered and we need to work together," said Joni Hartsfield, 4th grade teacher, Riley Elementary.

She feels all teachers should be rewarded for their performance. So, why not put that five percent into teacher salaries.

"We have to recognize we have to pay teachers more and if doing it through performance or bonus it only way the state will allow us then I'm in favor for doing it," said Bill Montford, Superintendent, Leon County Schools.

Superintendent Montford says the big question is how to determine which teachers qualify. Some counties are using F-CAT scores to show that a teacher's work is outstanding.

"I teach kids with learning disabilities and in essence I wouldn't qualify based on performance of my students wouldn't make qualifications," said Brian Gibson, teacher, Riley Elementary School.

Leon County is forming a committee to define outstanding classroom performance for a teacher.

Teachers must sign up to participate in the incentive plan, and in Leon County about 246 teachers have signed up.