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Twice-Burned Florida Lawmakers Champion Merit Pay

Florida's two experiments with merit pay in recent years disappeared like a hangover after a prolonged date with controversy.

But some state lawmakers still want to revisit the concept by spending on a merit-pay plan some of the federal stimulus-package dollars that might fall into Florida's lap.

Senate Select Committee on Florida's Economy Chairman Don Gaetz told the Associated Press yesterday that the one-time money shouldn't be used for recurring expenses such as salaries.

"We've got to build an education infrastructure that can keep giving us economic development muscle as we go forward," he said. "If we spend this money once, it'll feel good, but it'll be like a Chinese dinner: You walk outside, you burp, and you feel hungry again."

Gaetz's comments came even as Gov. Charlie Crist met with American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who has said in the past that she is open to discussions of performance pay.

"The governor and I had a very positive, productive conversation, and we are both committed to working in a bipartisan way to get our states and our public institutions the stimulus investments they need," she said.

Speaking of performance pay, yet another state is rearing to join those that have already taken the plunge: Georgia.

Gov. Sonny Perdue says he wants to reward top principals and teachers, as well as those who teach science and math.

“Even in the economic downturns, you’ve got to focus on the things that can make a difference in the future of Georgia,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.

The price tag of $23 million is no problem right now, says the governor, because the payouts will only happen in 2010.

But here's what Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators had to say about that:

“It’s sort of like the guy whose house is on fire telling you what a great deck he’s eventually going to build."

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