As the Florida legislature wrapped up its 2016 session Friday by passing the 2016-17 budget, some education officials are feeling a little left out.
In an email, Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall lamented the budget fails to adequately fund education and ignores increasing resistance toward what many see is chronic over-testing in schools.
“Legislators may be leaving Tallahassee today, but their work is far from finished. In terms of education, they left our students, our schools and our teachers woefully underfunded and under-resourced. They did nothing to fix the onerous and burdensome over-testing that continues to take classroom time away from teaching and learning,” McCall wrote. “And once again, they worked in the shadows and in backrooms to shove the discriminatory and short-sighted Best and Brightest bonus scheme down our throats – without even a full vote of the Senate.”
The Best and Brightest is a fund that was established last year to provide bonus pay to teachers whose students achieve SAT and ACT scores in the top 20th Percentile. Critics argue it unfairly judges teachers based on limited criteria and leaves many good teachers out. Last year only 5,200 teachers of the states more than 170,000 received the bonus.
Funding for the program was tacked on without floor debate and was funded $5 million more than last year and $4 million more than was asked for by the Florida House of Representatives.
“Legislators need to do better for our public education system. They need a truly ‘historic’ budget that fulfills the needs of our state’s hurting public schools. They need to address the fact that Florida continues to be ranked among the lowest in the nation in per pupil funding,” McCall continued. “They need to answer to the thunderous chorus of parents, students and teachers asking for an end to over-testing. They need to focus on real ways to recruit and retain the best teachers in Florida, and give up on unproven, insulting schemes like Best and Brightest.”
The group is calling on Governor Rick Scott to veto the budget when it hits his desk based on the Best and Brightest funding.
“We call on the governor to fulfill his promise of a truly ‘historic’ education budget. Tell the Legislature they’re not going to get away with this 1 percent increase. Tell them to come back and get it right, for our children and our teachers. Mr. Governor, veto this budget.”
The Florida Education Association has more than 140,000 members making it the state’s largest association of professional employees. The group represents teachers at all levels of education, educational professionals, aspiring teachers and retired education employees.