Several years ago, the Florida Legislature created a mandatory merit pay policy for public school systems statewide. At the time, the legislature (naively) allowed districts to set their own eligibility requirements. The St. Petersburg Times reports that "many districts, pressured by teachers unions, developed voluntary plans with so many hurdles that few teachers applied." No shock there, merely more proof of the challenge of instituting reforms from the state level when the unions and other interests pull the districts' strings. Now, Florida's vigorous Education Commissioner John Winn is setting new ground rules to crack down on districts that thwart the spirit of the law. And, again - surprise! - the teacher unions are caterwauling. Florida Education Association spokesman Mark Pudlow questioned the rule change: "You say you have to give more money to teachers who are outstanding, and if you don't, they'll take money away from you? This is a theater of the absurd." More absurd? Whining about low teacher salaries while preventing great teachers from making more.

"State forcing teacher bonuses," Ron Matus, St. Petersburg Times, July 6, 2005

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