School board sheds negative light on Best and Bright program

Board members would rather spend the money on teachers’ salaries


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County School Board is hoping the Florida legislation drops its Best and Brightest Program during their upcoming session so more money can be allocated across instructional personnel throughout the district.

The Florida Department of Education states that the Best and Brightest Teacher program is meant “to recruit, retain, and recognize teachers who meet the needs of this state and have achieved success in the classroom.” That recognition comes in the form of bonuses taxed heavily to a handful of teachers in a state where Gov. Ron DeSantis recently proposed that the minimum salary of teachers be increased across the board.

“We are experiencing a teacher shortage in Florida,” DeSantis said at a Middleburg High press conference held earlier this month. “With a strong economy and plenty of jobs available in other fields, unfortunately too many college graduates are unwilling to enter the teaching profession.”

DeSantis proposed the minimum teacher salary be increased to $47,500 across the state. While teachers wait for that to happen, the CCSB has called for the legislature to eliminate the Best and Brightest program to alleviate additional funds that can be shared with instructional personnel.

“The DOE however has maintained Best and Brightest in all of their documentation going forward so now we’re sitting back going, ‘well, will they dump the Best and Brightest?’ which we would hope,” board member Mary Bolla said. “Somewhere in here (legislative priorities) that we could say we encourage the dissolution of the Best and Brightest and have that money instead go to salaries for instructional personnel.”

Bolla and the board use the term instructional personnel rather than teachers so pre-K teachers will be included.

The Best and Brightest is dissolved in the board’s ideal world, but their legislative priorities include wording to extend the program to pre-K teachers if the legislature decides to continue the program.

The Best and Brightest program no longer takes into account SAT or ACT scores. Instead, it will be based on retention, principals, newcomers or recruitment and recognition. The program states these are the four qualifying measures and it’s up to each district to determine the order of priority within those four. The Clay County School District opted for the following order: retention, principals, newcomers/recruitment and finally, recognition.

Recognition likely won’t see much funding as the first three measures receive the bulk of the funding. What’s left over goes toward recognition.

The awards have ranged from $1,000 to $4,000 in the past. However, because bonuses are taxed at a rate of 38%, teachers see significantly less than the award amount. That’s why the board wants the money salaries.


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