GOVERNOR BUSH ANNOUNCES $239 MILLION INITIATIVE TO RECRUIT AND RETAIN TEACHERS
~~ ~New initiative arms districts with funds and incentives to attract needed teachers~ ~~
Governor Jeb Bush and Lt. Governor Toni Jennings joined by Education Commissioner John L. Winn, state officials, local leaders and teachers at North Miami Middle School announced a comprehensive initiative to recruit and retain high-quality teachers. They are recommending $239 million in the 2006-2007 budget to fund incentives to attract teachers to Florida and draw students to the teaching profession. The goal of the plan is to reward Florida's teachers and recruit 31,800 new teachers to meet a growing demand.
"Next to parents, teachers are the most important influence on a student's ability to achieve academic success," said Governor Bush. "Lt. Governor Jennings and I are committed to securing the funding necessary to attract not only the quantity of teachers we need, but also high-quality teachers who can lead our students to higher levels of achievement.
The initiative will appeal to existing and aspiring teachers while giving districts flexibility in how the funds are allocated. In addition to financial incentives, the plan will increase teachers' efficiency and effectiveness by providing a laptop computer for every teacher.
"By using strategies at the state and local level, we will attract high-quality teachers to Florida," said Commissioner Winn. "We know that a major contributing factor to student success is the quality of the teacher. Most teachers enter the profession because of their desire to teach. Now we can show them that there is no better place in the nation to achieve that goal than Florida."
Teacher Recruitment & Retention Matching Grant Program
Ø Governor Bush recommends creating a new $40 million grant program to support school districts' efforts to recruit and retain teachers.
Ø School districts will submit plans to the Florida Department of Education (DOE), who will match the local commitment to retention and recruitment dollar-for-dollar.
Ø The proposal provides the school districts with the flexibility to use the funds to meet the unique needs of their communities. Funds may be used for a variety of incentives, including signing bonuses, housing assistance, a down payment on a home, training and professional development, or payment of student loans.
"This program is all about attracting and retaining top quality teachers who will ensure the academic success of our students," said Senator Evelyn Lynn, Chairwoman, Senate Education Committee.
Professional Compensation Scale
Ø Governor Bush is also recommending that each school district negotiate a professional compensation scale for teachers.
Ø School districts should pay teachers more for serving the critical needs of the state.
Ø Teachers could receive differentiated pay for teaching in a shortage subject area identified by the Florida State Board of Education, working in a high-need school, assuming additional duties outside the classroom, such as serving as a mentor to a beginning teacher, or producing high student achievement in the classroom.
"We want to make certain our districts have the means to provide every student in the state with a highly-effective teacher," said Representative John Stargel, Chairman of the House Education Choice and Innovation Committee. "These common sense proposals should help us retain the quality teachers we have and better compete with the other states to attract the best teachers in the country."
Critical Teacher Shortage Tuition Reimbursement and Loan Forgiveness Program
Ø Governor Bush recommends an increase of $7.9 million - for a total budget recommendation of $9.7 million - for the Critical Teacher Shortage Program.
Ø The program reimburses teachers for up to $10,000 in student loans for teaching in a shortage subject area and reimburses up to $78 per credit hour for up to nine semester hours annually for completing courses that prepare current teachers to teach in a shortage area.
Ø This increase in funding -- a 456 percent increase -- will provide financial assistance for 3,900 teachers.
A New Education Minor at State Approved Colleges of Education
Ø Governor Bush announced his support for the State Board of Education's new rule that allows our state colleges and universities to create an "education minor" to satisfy the requirements for teacher certification. Board of Governor's Chairwoman Carolyn Roberts and State University System Chancellor Mark Rosenberg also support the effort to encourage state universities to offer these education minors.
"There are many students in our State University System who have a desire to teach but also want to build a strong base of knowledge in other fields of study," said Chancellor Rosenberg. "The education minor opens a new door for these talented individuals - it allows them to pursue their degree and then to carry that expertise into the classroom. For our students and for Florida's public schools, the education minor brings together the best of both worlds, and I am sure our universities will adopt this new approach."
Other Recruitment Tools
Ø Governor Bush is also recommending $1.3 million for the Great Florida Teach-In, teachinflorida.com and other statewide recruitment and retention initiatives run by the
Ø Department of Education. Last year, 1,900 prospective teachers were interviewed for positions in Florida's school districts at the Great Florida Teach-In, a statewide job fair for prospective teachers.
T3 (Technology Tools for Teachers)
Ø The proposal recommends $188 million, in non-recurring slot revenue, to fund T3 (Technology Tools for Teachers), which will provide every teacher in Florida with a laptop computer to ensure more time is spent with students and less time on paperwork.
Ø Laptop computers will allow each teacher to access Sunshine Connections - a web-based system that provides teachers with quick and easy access to classroom-management tools and links them to student data, curricular materials, and other educators around the state.
Ø The DOE will work with all districts to evaluate their individual needs, negotiate the purchase of the laptop computers and provide support and maintenance when necessary.
The DOE is launching a tri-fold approach to attract teachers, including a public awareness campaign, a national recruitment effort and expansion of the www.TeachinFlorida.com website where teachers can post their resumes online and review job announcements. Governor Bush's budget priorities include $1.3 million to enhance the website and bolster the Great Florida Teach-In, an annual event that saves time and money by allowing teachers to interview with multiple school districts in one location. The website will also provide information about low interest loans and zero-down payment housing programs to expand the access to affordable housing for teachers
The Florida Education Foundation is playing a key role in the initiative by raising private funds to support recruitment efforts. In partnership with the advertising firm Cooper DDB, which is providing its services pro bono, the public awareness campaign includes ad copy with emotional appeal such as: "Florida needs 30,000 new teachers - she needs only one If that one teacher is you, you belong in Florida where we're as dedicated to education as you are." Recommended campaign components include using internet marketing techniques, advertising placement in college publications and development of other collateral materials.