Education board proposes status quo spending on teacher bonuses

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Department of Education officials’ latest budget proposal does not include any additional funding for a controversial teacher bonus program, which is currently facing a legal challenge.

Instead, state education officials on Wednesday called on the Florida Legislature to keep funding the “Best and Brightest” teacher and principal bonus program at $284.5 million, the same amount as the current fiscal year.

The funding proposal comes a month after lawyers slapped the state with a lawsuit alleging education officials improperly allowed school districts to deduct employer taxes from employees’ promised bonuses.

Lawyers with the law firm Morgan & Morgan claim state officials shortchanged high-performing teachers and principals out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Funding for the bonus program was tucked in the state agency’s newly released budget request, which the Board of Education unanimously approved Wednesday.

The budget proposal, which outlines the priorities of state education officials, calls on legislators to boost spending for mental health services and school security.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said during Wednesday’s board meeting that increasing teacher salaries remains a priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Corcoran, a former House Speaker, said there will be opportunities to improve teacher pay during the 2020 legislative session, which begins in January.