They will call it a “bonus”, “merit pay”, an “incentive”, they will even call it a “scholarship.” They will call it almost anything, anything but a “raise.” Does the Florida Legislature have an unwritten ban on the word “raise” when it comes to the states teachers? We have long given up on ever hearing the phrase “Cost of Living Adjustment” again in our lifetimes, but whatever happened to a good old fashioned raise? You know, a reliable salary increase that can’t be erased with the swipe of a legislative pen? It’s equitable, it’s eternal, it’s what teachers want.

After what seemed like a hopeful start to the 2017 legislative session, all mention of the word “raise” has disappeared and been replaced by expanded versions of the states much maligned “Best and Brightest” bonus.

The  Best and Brightest bonus has already gone from the advertised $10,000 to the received $8,000 in 2016 to the shrunken $6,000 in 2017. Even teachers who receive the bonus are disgusted and insulted by its very premise. After two years of ridicule and criticism over the Best and Brightest bonus, what does the Florida legislature want to do? They want to expand it to include teachers with a college GPA over a 3.0 (which would probably be 90% of teachers) and they even want to let principals apply for the bonus. Is there a principal shortage I am unaware of? Are principal six figure salaries woefully inadequate? To make matters worse, they want principals to qualify based on the ratio of Best and Brightest teachers at their school. Will principals start passing out highly effective evaluations to staff like candy on Halloween? Will they only give highly effective evaluations to the smartest staff members with high test scores and GPAs? Will future hires be forced to bring their SAT scores and college transcripts to interviews?

Are we returning to a time of Social Darwinism when only the “brightest” teachers are deemed worthy of substantial monetary compensation, while the lesser academically gifted teachers but equally hard working are destined to make perpetually less than their brainier counterparts? Will teachers who work with the most challenging populations or teach the most challenging courses never see a “bonus” because their students’ test scores relegate them to chronically “effective” status? Next year will they start measuring teachers’ skulls and only teachers with a brain capacity in the top 20th percentile receive a bonus while teachers with little brains receive no figgy pudding at all?

Here’s a suggestion dear Florida Legislature, if you really can’t stomach the thought of giving all public school teachers a “raise” perhaps you can give us all an automatic  “salary boost” by eliminating the 3% FRS contribution that was imposed years ago? It’s equitable, it’s eternal, and it’s not a “raise.”