Well, for those who visit this website often, you probably read my much earlier blog on “Pursuing National Board Certification”. I have since completed my retake small group portfolio and submitted it to National Board. Now I am waiting anxiously, yet patiently, for the end of the year when results will be posted. However, the state of Florida has managed to reduce my excitement over receiving this certification because of budget constraints.
A lot has happened during the last few months in Florida to wreak havoc on our state budgets. The main culprit is the housing market slump which has home values quickly declining, coupled with a new amendment approved by voters in January which temporarily reduces the taxable values of homes; both of these basically dropped the bottom out of our real estate taxes which have been a key mainstay for education funds. So, the legislature had to slice and dice programs . . .one of which being the National Board program.
Florida had been one of the leading states in applicants and recipients of this program. The legislature had previously allocated funds to help offset the application fees (around $2250) which was very helpful in allowing teachers to begin the process. They also had money set aside to pay for one retake ($350) for each teacher. They offered a guaranteed bonus equal to 10% of the state’s average teacher salary to all National Board Certified teachers, and offered the opportunity to obtain a mentoring bonus of the same value for completing a certain number of hours mentoring other teachers! In addition, these bonuses were included in salary for the purposes of determining retirement. No wonder we had so many teachers taking part in this wonderful program and had the highest number of teachers receiving certification in 2007.(see http://www.nbpts.org/about_us/news_media/press_releases?ID=339 for more information).
Unfortunately, the changes approved by Florida legislation will greatly change the future of National Board in Florida. Gone is the application help . . .gone is the retake help . . . gone is the mentoring bonus . . . gone is the retirement. The only thing that remains is the guaranteed 10% bonus, but it is limited to the initial 10 year certification, so those who renew their certification will not receive this bonus!
What message does this send to teachers across the state? How many of these National Board certified teachers that the state has invested so much in already will transfer to other states where their credentials are still valued?
Personally, I could not have completed the application process without the state provided assistance . . .my personal budget is too tight to spare that kind of money. However, completing the program has helped make major improvements in my teaching. The continuous reflection that the National Board process requires forces teachers to justify “why” they do what they do in class. This is something that all teachers (I think) know they should do, but don’t generally make the time to do in their crazy lives of preparing, teaching, completing paperwork, parent meetings, field trips, etc. Sometimes we just keep doing, doing, doing, and never stop to reflect on if the doing is really doing anything worthwhile for our students!
Likewise, the National Board teachers with whom I have had the experience of teaching have always done above and beyond the call of duty with their students . . . spending more than enough time and effort to justify the bonus they received from the state. When many districts are paying signing bonuses for new teachers ( a quarter of whom will not return for a second year), should there not be a bonus for the teachers who have spent their own time and efforts to prove their high level of competence and effectiveness in the classroom, and continue to make a difference in our childrens’ lives!
As a parent in Florida, I am disappointed in this new policy. I understand that money must be pulled from somewhere, but there are better ways—reducing the assistance and the bonuses without getting rid of them completely is one way. Maybe by reversing the use of lottery money and substantiated budgets so that our educational system will have guaranteed funds and not have to rely on the gambling habits of Floridians, we would not have to play a guessing game each year with our schools. I don’t have an exact answer, but there has to be a better way!