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Fla. Lawmakers to Expand Controversial Bonuses in Lieu of Pay Raises

Despite a push earlier this year by Florida Governor Rick Scott to replace the state's controversial Best and Brightest teacher bonus scheme—which awards teachers largely based on their sometimes decades-old college entrance exam scores—state lawmakers are looking to expand the program.

The Naples Daily News reports that state Senator David Simmons, the chairman of the senate's preK-12 education appropriations subcommittee, has given up on getting $200 million for teacher salary increases, and has instead thrown his weight behind efforts to expand the Best and Brightest program. He says that the program is key for attracting and retaining good teachers 

"We need to retain the teachers who meet the highest standards and inspire students who are still in school to come into the profession," Simmons told the Daily News.

Currently, the program is just open to educators who are rated highly effective on the state's evaluation system and who scored in the top 20 percent on the SAT or ACT college-entrance exams. Legislators in both the house and senate have plans to expand the program. In the house plan, the program would be expanded to teachers who graduated from with at least a 3.7 GPA and scored in the top 30 percent on college-entrance tests. The plan also adds graduate school entrance tests like the GMAT, GRE, MCAT and LSAT to the mix. The senate plan is even more generous, seeking to expand the program, lowering the threshold to a 3.0 college GPA.

State Representative Rene Plasencia, a Republican from Orlando, said he likes the idea of increasing teacher pay through bonuses because that way lawmakers could bypass local union-district bargaining processes, distributing funds the way legislators in Tallahassee see fit.

"Our intentions are carried out because it goes directly from us to the teachers," Plasencia told the Orlando Sentinel

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