JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 900 Duval County school district employees expecting a bonus in their latest paychecks were disappointed this week.
During the 2017 session, the Florida Legislature narrowed the list of who was eligible for the state's “Best and Brightest” program, and employees who don't teach in a classroom didn't make the cut.
That means guidance counselors, specialists, instructional coaches, standards coaches, media specialists, social workers and psychologists were left out.
“They are very upset and disappointed, just like we are,” said Terrie Brady, president of the Duval Teachers Union. “It’s terrible that the Legislature randomly goes in and they determine who are and are not instructional people. But yet they are out there doing the work every day, looking to support and teaching students.”
Paychecks that went out Thursday included the “Best and Brightest” bonuses for those deemed eligible.
Those who got the bonuses, which ranged from $800 to $1,200, were defined by the state as anyone instructing in a classroom, including exceptional student education, career education and adult education.
But some employees who had previously been eligible for the bonuses -- and who would have qualified again after being rated either highly effective ($1,200) or effective ($800) -- found out only Thursday that they would not be getting one.
The district had hoped to come up with the money to fund the bonuses the Legislature had excluded, but it fell short.
According to Brady, paying the bonuses to the employees who were left out would have cost the district about $849,000.
“While DCPS thought they would be able to (cover the excluded bonuses), they were not able to find the money in a year where there was a deficit in excess of $21 million,” according to a letter from the union.
“They were trying to find some reoccurring revenue to assist with trying to provide these individuals the money since the Legislature excluded them from the funding source,” Brady said. “But when it came time to pay them out, there was no way.”
Brady said it's likely other districts in the state faced the same challenge and couldn't cover the cost of bonuses for those deemed ineligible by the Legislature.
Brady said the way for employees who missed out on bonuses to try to get them in the future is to reach out to their local legislators, because it will take changing the definition in the statute for the state to fund everyone again.