In January 2016, an amendment to SB 524 made it to the Florida Senate floor. Section 1001.92 “State University System Performance-Based Incentive” is proposed to now include a new metric “wage thresholds that reflect the added value of a baccalaureate degree.” The bill goes on to explain that state universities that do not meet the threshold for performance funding will not be eligible for their share of the performance funding. The Board of Governors will be responsible for establishing the minimum thresholds for state and institutional investments.
The bill is troubling because performance funding will reward the schools whose graduates end up in higher paying careers, careers that may be STEM focused. In fact, one of the existing metrics for the bill includes evaluating “Bachelor’s degrees awarded in areas of strategic emphasis (including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education” as a means of determining performance-based funding. Universities will be rewarded for more STEM majors. With the emphasis on STEM, students majoring in the humanities will not bring universities any financial gains.
As more colleges and universities across the U.S. are relying on adjunct professors to teach more courses, adjunct professors at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Meyers have just had a pay cut. Previously, adjuncts were paid in accordance to their education level; however, in July 2015, the trustee board at the college opted for a flat “$750 per assigned load hour or $2,250 total for a three-hour course.” The only adjunct faculty who will get a raise under the new pay structure are those holding a bachelor’s degree. The faculty holding higher degrees will see a decrease in pay.
Another shift in Florida is the increase in students both taking and passing AP examinations.According to the College Board, 58% of Florida high schools students took an AP examination—the national average is 37%. In Florida, college credit is awarded for 3 or above. For first-year writing, a 4 or 5 on the English Language and Composition allows students credit for both of the first-year writing courses. The increase in students taking AP courses greatly alters the courses the students take when they are first-year students.
A very controversial bill, CB/SB 978 Public School Teachers is coming up before the Florida Senate. Part of the bill, Section 1012.731, addresses a bonus program for Florida teachers. The wording in the bill is to reward the “Best and Brightest” teachers, teachers who scored above the 60th percentile on either the SAT or ACT. Criticism for the bill comes from the Florida Education Association, Florida’s teachers’ union, who cite that, among other things, the bill discriminates against older teachers and minorities. The bill will be discussed further in the Senate. However, the reliance on standardized tests that were taken when a teacher was sixteen or seventeen to determine if the teacher is worthy of a bonus seems to be an unusual and unequitable metric by which to measure a college graduate.