Florida's STAR: Falling to Earth?

See all posts

The fate of Florida's new performance pay program, STAR (Special Teachers are Rewarded), seems grim. Though many of the state's school districts have submitted plans to participate, the Florida Education Association (FEA) teachers' union has challenged the constitutionality of the process by which the program was adopted. The union filed a petition with the state claiming that the legislature created STAR through a proviso to a bill rather than through changes to general law.

The STAR program requires districts to award the top-performing 25 percent of teachers with cash bonuses averaging $2,000 per year. Teacher performance must be determined based on student progress on standardized tests (though some value-added proponents do not believe Florida's model is sufficiently robust). The FEA asserts that the state's plan has unfairly trumped local plans already in the works for years. "Each of our local affiliates has a plan and has been working collaboratively for years to develop a plan that is sustainable, fair and easy for teachers to understand," said union spokesman Mark Pudlow.

Florida Education Commissioner John L. Winn responded to the controversy with disappointment, stating "It is unfortunate that [the FEA] launched yet another attempt to prevent the state's best teachers from being rewarded for their efforts."

The STAR program is also under fire in Florida's Miami-Dade County, where the teachers' union has challenged the program by claiming that school districts do not receive uniform funding under the plan and teachers in different subject areas are not treated equally. According to the union, teachers of basic subjects such as math, science and reading can reap the benefits of the rewards while teachers of non-standardized test subjects like art and physical education are excluded.