Teachers Union Challenging Florida's STAR Program

By Victoria Langley
Monday, Sept. 18 7:10 p.m.

The new STAR Program stands for "Special Teachers Are Rewarded." It gives you a nice little salary bump if your students improve on the FCAT. But Florida Education Association Spokesman Mark Pudlow says it’s not fair to tie salaries to the FCAT because thousands of other school employees don’t get a raise.

"What about all of the guidance counselors? What about all of the other people who work as part of the team to make a school work well?"

The state says school districts can submit plans to include support personnel. But that’s another sticking point. The union says the state is making up rules as it goes along because it couldn’t get the STAR Program through the legislature and stuck it in the state budget at the last minute. The union has asked for a formal hearing on whether the state has the authority to set the rules.

The state earmarked nearly $150 million for the STAR teacher reward program this year. The state’s top FCAT teachers are in line for bonuses of at least five percent of their salaries, and Jeb Bush doesn’t understand what the union’s problem is.

"I’m excited about it. To pay teachers more is a good thing. The unions feel threatened by it, and I’m not sure why."

But the unions say Florida should have started with better pay for all teachers before worrying about bonuses.

The union hearing on the STAR Program is scheduled for sometime in November.