Lawmakers to evaluate teacher merit pay

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida lawmakers are back to work at the Capitol and hundreds of bills have been filed for the 2018 legislative session. One of those is calling for a drastic change in the way public school teachers are being evaluated and paid.

Teacher merit pay was signed into law back in 2011 and it called for teachers to be paid based on
student performance. It was very controversial and some blame it for problems keeping teachers on the job.

A proposed bill this session aims to change that.  

For the last several years, teachers in the state of Florida have been judged and paid by how well their students perform on tests. But a new bill filed at the state Capitol aims to dramatically scale that all back.

It's a move some parents say is worth looking into. For Jacksonville mom, Wendy Campbell, evaluating teachers is hard when the playing field is not the same for every student. 

"Maybe you have a single mom that works three jobs trying to take care of her kids. So maybe she's not getting enough time with her child at home, doing that follow up with homework, doing the study stuff. So then, in turn, the child isn't performing up to scale and then the teacher is being punished," said Campbell.

Under this proposed bill, school districts would no longer be required to assess teachers based on student performance. Instead, they could put all teachers on a pay schedule meaning they would be paid based on the number of years they've been in education.

It's quite a switch from the current rules, which many have said were unfair to good teachers.

The president of Duval Teachers United, the local teachers union, said she does not believe teacher merit based pay has helped student performance. In fact, she tells me there's a teacher shortage in the state and believes this is a factor.

While some parents aren't sold on teacher merit pay, others believe it works. Anita Touring believes it's a good way to reward teachers who get good results.

"There's a payout for that. You know, when there's some sort of incentive and added motivation," said Touring.

This bill has been assigned a committee. News4Jax will track its progress. If it were to pass, it would go into effect this July.

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