TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A federal judge has rejected arguments by the Florida Department of Education that he should dismiss a lawsuit challenging the state's controversial “Best and Brightest” teacher-bonus program. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle issued an order last week turning down a motion for dismissal of the lawsuit, which was filed in September by the Florida Education Association teachers union.
The lawsuit alleges that the program discriminates against older teachers and minorities because it uses teacher performances on ACT and SAT college-entrance exams to help determine eligibility for the bonuses. The union filed the lawsuit against the Department of Education and school boards throughout the state.
The Department of Education on Nov. 1 filed a motion for dismissal, arguing in part that it does not have an “employment relationship” with the teachers, who work for school districts. But Hinkle ruled that the case should move forward.
“Here the complaint is sufficient,” he wrote. “It alleges not only that the department is an employer of the teachers who suffer discrimination based on age and race, but also that the department administers the best-and-brightest program that is responsible for the discrimination. These allegations may or may not be true, but they are not implausible, and the truth of the allegations cannot properly be resolved on a motion to dismiss. A state agency can be held liable when it has a sufficient role in administering a discriminatory program and disbursing funds for payment to public employees --- even when the recipients are directly employed not by the state agency but by a political subdivision.”
News Service of Florida