Lawmakers consider pay-for-performance for Florida universities

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The Legislature is considering an initiative to provide universities some of their money based on performance, a move that could result in financial gains for some schools and significant losses for others.

The pay-for-performance plan — with wide support in the Capitol — would affect $80 million of nearly $3.6 billion in Gov. Rick Scott’s 2014-15 budgets. The $80 million would be the money distributed based on performance.

But some warn that the “devil is in the details,” reports Brandon Larrabee of the News Service of Florida.

The new system would score universities up to five points for “excellent” or improvements on 10 key measurements. All 12 universities in the system will share seven benchmarks; another indicator will eventually apply to all except New College.

Schools would also earn points based on Florida alumni median income one year after graduation — five if it is at least $40,000, and only one point if it is $20,000.

The university’s board of trustees will lay out performance measurements specific to that school and the Florida Board of Governors will approve another measurement. The Board oversees the university system and supports the new funding formula.

“I believe that these metrics are designed in such a way that every university has the opportunity to make decisions and be successful and to receive the financial recognition that comes with that,” said Marshall Criser, the new university system Chancellor, in an interview with the News Service.

Criser added that funding for the new system would be a top priority in the legislative session beginning in March. On Wednesday, the Senate Education Appropriations Committee will consider the proposal.

Last year, universities received a small amount of funding for performance; nearly half of the $80 million comes from existing university funding.

If schools don’t score well enough on improvement or excellence, then schools would lose money.

After scores are calculated, universities could rely on whichever amount is higher for both new and existing funding.

A university that doesn’t score a minimum of 26 points on any particular measure would have current funding reduced by 1 percent, as well as lose eligibility for any of the $40 million in new funding. Three of the lowest-scoring universities won’t get extra funding unless some of them score at least a 26.

Speaking Tuesday with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Senate President Don Gaetz said he would join House Speaker Will Weatherford in setting aside $200 million, with $100 million of that in new funding for performance rewards.

“Those universities that take on tough challenges, and do well in preparing students for the economy they ought to benefit from that,” Gaetz told the News Service.

There are some not impressed with the idea, even a few on the Board of Governors.

At a meeting last month, Carlo Fassi, the board’s student representative, voted against the proposal. Fassi was displeased that some universities might lose current funding.

“I don’t believe this should be about losers,” Fassi said.

Some lawmakers are also cautious about the idea while supporting it in principle.

“It’s time for a certain level of performance funding,” said Democrat Sen. Bill Montford, a member of the Senate education-funding panel. “But we’ve got to be realistic about it, and we should not let our desire for performance funding upset or have a negative influence on the good things we’ve got going on in our university system.”

And Senate Rules Chair John Thrasher told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee to evaluate different universities differently.

“As we look at performance funding, I hope that we won’t necessarily judge, say for example, the University of West Florida or the University of North Florida with the same kind of potential criteria as we judge Florida State University or the University of Florida or South Florida,” Thrasher said, “because they do have different missions, I think.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.