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PRESS RELEASE

January 23, 2006

Russell Schweiss
(850) 488-5394 or
Jennifer Fennell
(850) 245-0413

Governor Bush Announces $239 Million Initiative to Recruit and Retain Teachers
New initiative arms districts with funds and incentives to attract needed teachers

MIAMI — 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

  • Governor Bush recommends creating a new $40 million grant program to support school districts' efforts to recruit and retain teachers.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • Governor Bush is also recommending that each school district negotiate a professional compensation scale for teachers.
  • School districts should pay teachers more for serving the critical needs of the state.
  • 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

  • Governor Bush recommends an increase of $7.9 million — for a total budget recommendation of $9.7 million — for the Critical Teacher Shortage Program.
  • 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.
  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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)

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    To learn more about Florida's teacher recruitment and retention efforts visit www.myflorida.com or www.TeachinFlorida.com.

    In Support of Teacher Recruitment and Retention

    "Teachers are on the front lines of education. Through their tireless effort and continued commitment to the classroom, they ensure the future success of Florida's students," said Senate President Designate Ken Pruitt. "I applaud the Governor's initiative and look forward to working with him to find solutions to meet our education needs."

    "Once again, Governor Bush is demonstrating visionary leadership and proposing innovative methods to recruit and retain the very best teachers for Florida students," said Speaker Designate Marco Rubio. "When it comes to education, his proposal recognizes that quality teachers are essential in transforming our state's classrooms."

    "I support Governors Bush's proposal to make teachers a priority. Once again the Governor makes those on the education frontlines our state's priority — we need to help teachers, and by helping our teachers we help our children," said Representative Ralph Arza, Chairman, House Prek-12 Education Committee.

    "The effort to raise student performance depends almost entirely on having the right people be the agents of change, that's why teacher recruitment and retention are so important," said Representative Dennis Baxley, Chairman, House Education Council.

    "Governor Bush is proposing a tangible, fiscally reasonable and meaningful plan to recruit and retain high quality teachers for Florida's future," said Representative Joe Pickens, Chairman, House Education Appropriations Committee. "I couldn't be more eager to partner with the Governor in developing, implementing and funding these initiatives."

    "While it is imperative that Florida attracts more quality teachers through an aggressive recruitment effort, it is equally important that we retain the thousands of effective teachers already serving our students," said State Board of Education Chairman Phil Handy. "Through this two-pronged approach, we will raise the bar on teacher quality and ensure academic success for our students. Florida has set high performance standards for our students and we expect the same from our teachers. Every student deserves a great teacher."

    "Governor Jeb Bush is right to focus the next phase of school reform in Florida on the most important and most neglected priority in public education today: the quality of teaching," said The Teaching Commission Chairman Lou V. Gerstner, Jr. "The proposals the Governor is unveiling today would, if implemented, go a long way toward fundamentally upgrading the profession that makes all other professions possible."

    "We are suffering shortages while other states have an abundance of teachers," said K-12 Public Schools Chancellor Cheri Pierson Yecke. "We must be aggressive in our efforts to present the benefits of teaching and living in Florida. Our recruitment action plan, in conjunction with Governor Bush's budget priorities, will attract teachers to Florida."

    "Governor Bush has demonstrated a consistent focus on improving student achievement in Florida, including most recently the adoption of Florida's Sunshine Connections — a comprehensive set of user-friendly, online resources for educators to help their students improve," said Chairman of IT Florida Charles Davidson. "This initiative to provide a laptop to every teacher will be a critical catalyst to ensuring that all of Florida's teachers have the opportunity and the ability to harness the benefits of technology."

    "The problem of recruiting and retaining instructors is exacerbated by the class size amendment, which makes it even more difficult to attract and keep quality teachers," said Florida School Boards Association President, Dr. Jack Lamb. "The Governor's initiatives in this area will greatly enhance the Florida school districts goal of having quality instruction in the classrooms."

    "The commitment of the State of Florida as expressed by Governor Bush goes right to the heart of the greatest concern of parents, teachers, principals and superintendents; how do we put greatness in front of all children and how do we keep great teachers and staff in our schools?" said Florida Association of District School Superintendents President Mike Lannon. "Florida's superintendents relish this opportunity to partner with state leadership, our business communities and other friends of education, in order to maximize the concept of matching funds aimed at keeping and attracting the best and the brightest educators for our children's future. This is a message of hope and a giant step towards ensuring excellence in education for years to come."

    "Principals understand the teacher shortage problem better than anyone else in the state because they are closer to it," said Florida Association of School Administrators Executive Director Jim Warford. "We support the Governor's proposal to put additional resources targeted at teacher recruitment and retention and we are particularly excited about the additional dollars for technology and computers. Principals understand the ability of technology to reduce the paperwork overload on teachers."

    "Florida PTA supports Governor Bush's proposals to retain and recruit highly qualified teachers for our children in Florida," said Florida PTA President Nancy Cox. "We view these proposals, funded by additional monies allocated to education, as positive steps toward continuing efforts to reduce class sizes in our state.

    "We are working with businesses and organizations to send the message that Florida is a great place to teach," said Florida Education Foundation Chairman Jan E. Smith. "With the support of corporations such as Macy's, Sea World Florida and others, we can expand our efforts to reach a bigger audience."