Much has been justifiably made of how some schools have spent their Florida School Recognition Program reward dollars. More than $300 million has been ladled out since 1999 to reward schools for good FCAT results.
A lot of it has gone where it was intended — for teacher bonuses and traditional educational purchases. But some of it hasn’t. FCAT cash, as we now know, has paid for pizza parties, PlayStation video game systems and playground equipment. And some even went to BoJo the Clown, who was hired with FCAT money to entertain at an elementary school celebration in Sumter County.
It’s really two issues. One is the dilemma of how — literally — to spend such money. Does everyone get a little bit, including the best and the worst teachers? If not, how does that shake out for morale? Do you recognize support people who are not unimportant and could really use a few extra bucks? Do you spend it on the students whose performance earned the reward in the first place? Do you buy some stuff, such as lawn mowers, that the school really needs?
The other issue is the principle involved. Aren’t teaching and learning and performing what the educational process is all about? Whatever happened to certificates, banners and assemblies to honor those who helped make it happen? Is learning no longer its own reward?
Couldn’t that $306 million have been better spent on something other than bonus rewards for those who did their jobs?