The Superintendent of Sarasota County in Florida notes that the state is offering bonuses of $9,000 to “highly effective” teachers, and two-thirds of teachers in his county are “highly effective.” The actual number, he says, might be even higher.

The ratings are based mainly on test scores, although most teachers don’t teach the subjects tested annually. Bonuses do not count towards pensions.

Surely, the Governor doesn’t want to give big bonuses to most teachers.

Florida ranks about 46th in the nation in teachers’ salaries.

The Governor and State Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced their plans to the state’s 67 Superintendents.

Bowden: Legislative priorities have great impact on schools and teachers

Prior to the opening session of the Legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed three education-related executive orders on key topics — the elimination of Common Core standards, a Jobs of the Future initiative and improved safety and security in our schools.

In addition, Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran noted priorities for his office that include teacher bonuses as part of the Best and Brightest program; tuition forgiveness programs for new teachers; Base Student Allocation (BSA) increases and a continued commitment to the Safe Schools program.

Sarasota County Schools…are closely monitoring proposed changes to the Best and Brightest bonus program that has significant impact to teachers in our school district. Currently, the Best and Brightest program provides annual bonuses of $800 for teachers earning an “effective” rating and $1,200 for “highly effective” teachers. In addition, there is another $6,000 for highly effective teachers with an SAT or ACT score at the 80th percentile and above.

Governor DeSantis has proposed to replace the current program with a single $9,000 bonus for highly effective teachers serving at a school whose state grade rose by at least 1 percent and eliminate the SAT/ACT requirement.

Although there are many drawbacks to compensating teachers using bonuses, a $9,000 bonus to recognize the best teachers in our school district is a significant reward. It is clear the state wants to circumvent the collective bargaining process by offering these bonuses, which are not subject to collective bargaining.

The school district and the teachers union are charged with developing a Teacher Evaluation System that identifies teachers as highly effective, effective, developing/needs improvement or unsatisfactory. The state would then use these marks to compensate teachers with a bonus according to their score.

In 2017-18, approximately 67 percent of our teachers were rated highly effective based on the current evaluation system. There are many more teachers in our school district worthy of a highly effective rating; however, the current evaluation system rates them lower.

If the union were to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement and work with district leaders to develop a new and improved evaluating system before the end of the school year, more teachers would be eligible for the $9,000 bonus this year as recommended by the governor — that’s a significant bonus!

Sarasota County Schools is blessed to have incredibly dedicated teachers who work to inspire our students every day. They deserve to be recognized and compensated to the fullest extent possible based on state requirements.

I am hopeful the school district and union officials can come to the table soon as both contracts are set to expire at the end of this school year. The goal is to reward our teachers and classified staff for their hard work and dedication.

In addition, I hope we can join forces to effect positive change in Tallahassee as the Legislature works to create fundamental adjustments to the education system.

I look forward to continued conversations with state leaders, school superintendents and the union to help our A-rated school district be even more effective for our students, staff and community.

Dr. Todd Bowden is the superintendent of Sarasota County Schools.