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STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS: Crist Seeks Additional Funding for Merit Pay for Teachers

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"The Merit Award Program . . . created last year rewards our best and brightest public school teachers."

In his state of the state address on March 4, Florida Governor Charlie Crist (R) talked about the need to direct the money to five priority “pillars,” with one being world-class schools.

Crist advocated fully funding the Merit Award Program, a merit-based pay system signed into Florida law in March 2007. Under this program, school districts are able to provide financial rewards to teachers whose efforts have resulted in positive outcomes for students. The program allows for bonuses ranging from 5 to 10 percent of the districtwide average pay and has no cutoff. Currently, the number of bonuses issued is limited by the dollars appropriated.

“The Merit Award Program . . . created last year rewards our best and brightest public school teachers,” Crist said. “I recommend we fully fund these teacher bonuses for those who improve student achievement and who work diligently to improve their teaching skills through national peer review.”

The governor also remarked upon Florida’s gains in student achievement in reading and math over the past several years. He noted, “Florida’s school performance has now risen from thirty-first to fourteenth among all states and risen to seventh in achievement.”

Finally, Crist proposed an increase for higher education. “Florida’s universities and community colleges provide the next critical step in the education of our people,” he said. “These institutions are producing the future leaders of our state, our nation and the world. We must continue to invest in higher education.”

Governor Crist’s complete speech is available at http://www.flgov.com/2008_sos.

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