Florida’s Scott Follows Texas’s Perry in Education Reform
Gov. Rick Scott is exploring dramatic higher education reforms that are similar to those already under way in Texas’s public school districts.
Patterned after reforms being championed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Florida Gov. Scott is looking at changing the way professors are paid and moving toward a merit-pay system with limits on tenure, writes Denise-Marie Balona at the Orlando Sentinel.
While the proposals have made the Lone Star State a lightning rod in higher-education circles nationwide, Scott said at least some of the ideas might be a good fit for Florida too.
However, college faculty in Florida have warned that the changes would pave the way for similar changes in higher education.
Scott has been quietly promoting the ideas among candidates he’s considering appointing to college boards of trustees. He said he has been sharing copies of a report on which the Texas proposals are based — the “Seven Breakthrough Solutions” written by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.
“It does get the conversation going,” Scott told the Orlando Sentinel recently, although he wouldn’t discuss a timetable.
State Rep. Marlene O’Toole, who’s in charge of the House’s higher education budget committee, said she expects to learn more about the plan in the coming weeks. Legislative committees will begin meeting next month in preparation for the new legislative session, which begins Jan. 10.
“I’m open for all ideas,” said O’Toole, R-Lady Lake. “I think we need to be.”
State Sen. Thad Altman, a Brevard County Republican and member of the Senate’s higher-education budget committee, is also eager to learn more. He’s concerned, though, about any plan to pay professors based on class sizes.
It’s tough, he said, to quantify the value of small group instruction.
“We’re not manufacturing widgets here — we’re trying to give our students a world-class education,” he said.
Teachers are typically a district’s largest expense, writes John O’Connor at State Impact Florida.
The estimated cost of merit pay plans varies, but there are estimates that teacher salaries would increase by more than 30 percent under the program they are currently developing with a Gates Foundation grant. Other state districts are using a federal Race To The Top grant to develop merit pay plans.
“We’ve got to figure out how to do better,” Scott said. “We did the things that should help our kids. We spend the money on instruction, not administration. That’s where the focus has to be.”
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