The state of Florida's Department of Education is extremely tardy this year with respect to assigning school letter grades to individual schools. This is problematic for many reasons, one of which affects or has the potential to affect teacher bonus paychecks.
Those schools that make and maintain an "A" letter grade-- or improve their school letter grade based upon student test scores---earn recurring, yearly lottery-funded cash bonuses for their schools.
(This is why the idea of assigning "I" or "incomplete" for all schools this year due to numerous testing snafus was roundly criticized by teachers at schools that earn these bonuses regularly)
School advisory committees for each school set plans for how this money is to be distributed.
Schools can do one of three things with this money: Pay staff bonuses, buy instructional materials or aids, or pay for supplemental teachers to come into the school to help students.
Statewide, roughly 90% of the bonus money ends up going toward staff bonuses.
Not surprisingly, the creation of these plans sometimes becomes heated and controversial. Let's face
it, we're talking about bonuses of about $1,300.00 per employee at some schools depending upon the split.
Some schools distribute the bonus money evenly with all employees, some give support employees a smaller share than instructional employees, and some schools give it all to classroom teachers.
Here is where this gets contentious: If the SAC at each school this year cannot settle on a plan to distribute the money by February 1, just a week and a half away, state statutes dictate that all the money must be equally divided among "classroom teachers." No instructional materials, janitors and kitchen staff are out of luck, and bus drivers would get nothing.
Naturally, this circumstance has some concerned. "What is the definition of a classroom teacher, Jeff?" one special area teacher who contacted me asked. "We don't have a homeroom class, because we teach PE, Art, and/or Music---so are we considered classroom teachers?" was the query. "If we don't get the bonus money this year, and we have got it every year at this school, I'm not going to be happy!"
Thankfully, I quickly confirmed via a text message from the superintendent that special area teachers, so long as they "have students assigned to them" will be considered classroom teachers and will therefore not lose out on the bonus money even if their individual school SAC does not come up with a disbursement plan by the deadline.
But what about the support employees? I'm told also by the superintendent that the schools that are eligible for school recognition bonuses locally will more than likely have their plans done by the deadline.
I hope they do.