Falling S.T.A.R. Gets Uplift from State Legislators Stacey Samuel
The Special Teachers Are
Rewarded program, known commonly as Star-- was created by the state to reward
teachers for their exceptional work, but teachers throughout Florida protested
that it was unfair. The State Department of Education (DOE) last week devised
revisions they plan to vote on next week, but the real litmus test is with the
Gail Hotaling, and English
teacher at Eastside High School, has taught for 30 years in the state of
Florida. She finds that the state hasnâ€™t gone far enough to repair the reward
At stake for teacher's who
qualify is 5% of their salary as a bonus. However, one of the problems the
majority of teachers throughout the state identify is the fact that only
teachers who give standardized tests are eligible. And as the program was
designed this year only 25% of teachers in each district would be rewarded.
"I am personally opposed to it
particularly the way it was just, the way it came down to us,â€ says Hotaling.
So she's been working with the teachers union, the school board, and other
teachers to help the state revise the program. She says that teachers feel as though the program is divisive and
doesnâ€™t promote teachers working together.
Now state leaders say
they're willing to compromise on how the bonuses are distributed, they'll now
leave it up to the districts to do so locally. But according to teachers and
the union that's only a partial fix.
â€œWhat's good about it doe is
not in the process any more local control in negotiation," said Gunnar
Paulson, president of Alachua Countyâ€™s teacherâ€™s union.
As part of the remedy, he
hopes to broaden the scope of teachers who can qualify, and make the overall
school's performance count in the process.
"What's bad about the plan,â€ adds Paulson, â€œis that we still have caps on
funding if we want to have merit pay and not every teacher in the district no
matter how good they do they will not be able to get merit pay."
However, with all the focus on the bonus, educators and the union feel the real
problem is being overlooked.
"I'll tell you why I'm not happy, one, our salaries are not high
enough," says Paulson.
With teacherâ€™s pay in
Florida lagging behind most in the nation, according to the union,
Hotaling says, "...I don't know
why they'd stay in Florida when they can move to Georgia and make so much more
School's will have
until may first to decide what they want to do with this year's star bonuses,
but Alachua county will likely be able to extend the bonuses to include
28-percent of teachers.
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