In June 2015, a new item in the Florida budget called the “Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program” left many Floridians confused. The “Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program” was established with $44 million dollars in the 2015-2016 budget to provide salary bonuses to qualifying teachers.
To qualify, teachers must have scored at least in the 80th percentile on their SAT or ACT and must have been evaluated as highly effective in their most recent evaluations. The evaluation isn’t necessary for first-year teachers to qualify, but SAT or ACT scores are still needed.
The program was only funded for this year and each bonus will not exceed $10,000. If more than 4,400 teachers in Florida qualify, the bonus will be reduced and distributed among the qualifying teachers.
“I was going to do it,” Mr. Moffi said about the program, but he decided against participating because of his score on the math portion of the necessary exam.
“A test doesn’t determine who you are as a person, a teacher, as anything,” said Mr. Sanchez on teachers who can’t qualify because of low SAT or ACT scores but whose students are doing very well on their own exams.
Not much about the program or its execution is known. Many teachers believe it shouldn’t be about a one-time bonus but about paying effective teachers what they deserve consistently in order to keep them motivated.
“If you really want to acknowledge teachers and our great abilities and so forth then pay us what we really deserve,” added Mrs. Evans to the fact that she hasn’t been given a raise in three or four years and is now skeptical about the scholarship program.
Still, teachers are applying solely for the possibility of receiving the bonus. The projected amount is attractive to veteran teachers and new teachers who think they deserve more than what they are regularly paid. Teachers need to question whether it’s worth it and what they will do if they don’t qualify.