State Includes Teacher Pay Raises in Budget - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

State Includes Teacher Pay Raises in Budget

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Walton County, Fla. -

Teacher pay raises are back on the table for educators across the state. Last night, the Governor applauded the House and Senate's agreement to implement $480 million in raises. Although this is welcoming news for teachers, the deal does have some requirements.

Teachers will be granted raises as long as they are rated as ‘effective' or ‘highly effective'.

Under the deal on teacher pay raises, teachers rated as effective would receive a raise of at least $2,500, while those rated highly effective would get 3,500. In other words, this raise is linked to teacher evaluations and student performance, also known as merit pay. 

"Attaching pay to high performing students I think that's great if it's equitable. I am not real sure that the system we have on hand right now is equitable," Cheryl Mixson, a South Walton High School teacher said.

For some time, merit pay has been argued in Tallahassee, but after Sunday's decision it seems like it's here to stay. Lawmakers snuck it in to the most recent raises.

"Most teachers are concerned that there are so many factors outside of school that affect student performance on these test and we have no control over it, but our raises will be based on that student's performance," Glen Harrison, a Walton High School teacher said.

Governor Rick Scott pushed for a $2,500 across-the-board raise, but in a statement Sunday, he hailed the agreement. He says the plan provides enough funding to give every teacher a minimum of a $2,000 raise, while giving the districts the ability to provide teachers with raises of $2,500 to $3,500.

The language accompanying the bill gives the school districts the power to develop their own performance plans. 

The legislature estimates the raises won't be paid out until June 2014. But many ask, will the funding be sustained year after year?

"I don't want this to turn into a robbing Peter to pay Paul kind of situation. Sustainability especially in our education system is always a concern," said Lynne Martin, a Walton High School teacher.

"Will it continue to happen, will this support continue to come from the state or will it be another unfunded mandate that we forced to carry on?" Walton High School Principal Russell Hughes asks.

The legislative version says the raises will affect all teachers, which were not part of Scott's initial proposal, and question administrators asked.

"One concern that comes to mind is what do we do with our support people: our reading coaches, teachers that move in and out from our school but work hand in hand with our teachers and students. How are we going to include those?" David Preast, South Walton High School Principal said.

Superintendent Carlene Anderson released a statement: "We are excited about the opportunity to provide additional compensation to our teachers.  It's certainly well-deserved in light of all of their increased responsibilities."