‘Best and Brightest’ snuffed by Senate

From the News Service of Florida: The Senate on Tuesday voted to repeal an embattled bonus program for public-school teachers and principals, a move that would free up roughly $300 million as lawmakers continue to negotiate teacher-pay raises. Senate Appropriation Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, began pushing the bill (SB 486) to abolish the “Best and Brightest” bonus program last year, when Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out a plan to set a $47,500 minimum salary for public-school teachers. The Best and Brightest program has been beset by problems since its creation in 2015.

“I think there are better ways to compensate our public school teachers and hopefully, we will see that in bills and appropriations in the next week-and-a-half,” Sen Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, said on the Senate floor prior to Monday’s anonymous vote.

House Speaker José Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, has said he supports the repeal of the bonus program. DeSantis has asked the Legislature to create a new bonus program to replace Best and Brightest, but the House and Senate have not gone along with that proposal.

As the 60-day legislative session wanes, the House and Senate have yet to reach an agreement on the amount that will be set aside for teacher-pay raises. The Senate’s budget proposal calls for $500 million as a “teacher salary increase allocation,” which is $150 million less than the House is offering. DeSantis has estimated it would cost $602 million to meet the minimum salary for public-school teachers statewide. Overall, the governor’s teacher-pay proposals would cost nearly $1 billion.