The new starting salary, at $47,500, could serve to interest more college graduates in this meaningful career. But unless veteran teachers’ salaries rise in concert with this improvement, our school systems would be grading on a curve that is indefensible.

Almost everyone can recall a favorite teacher. The lucky ones among us can name four or five, or maybe more.


If you enroll your child in a new school, it’s easy to ask around, among the other parents and students: Who are the best teachers in each grade? You’ll get answers, and there will be a consensus.


Is this a perfect evaluation system? Probably not, but it’s always seemed more on the mark than the extremely clunky and expensive mechanisms that departments of education come up with to arrive at a system of teacher rewards — and punishments — that maybe we can now all agree have been counterproductive and divisive.


We also seem to be in agreement, finally, that teachers must be more highly paid if our school systems are to attract and retain high-caliber teachers.


But Florida’s efforts to make this happen have also been extremely clunky — and even downright insulting to the professionals we hope to attract and retain. The state’s Best and Brightest bonus formula that, in the hopes of prodding more teachers to be better and brighter, pointedly ignores the achievements of consistent high performers.


You’d think we would have learned from such mistakes. But a new initiative by Gov. Ron DeSantis is in danger of repeating them. Perhaps the state’s teachers need to circle these errors in red ink and pass out copies to everybody in Tallahassee.


DeSantis’ emphasis on boosting teacher pay is welcome. But while a $600 million infusion to raise starting salaries might help with recruitment, it’s hardly a comfort to the experienced professionals who will be expected to welcome and indoctrinate those newcomers.


The new starting salary, at $47,500, could serve to interest more college graduates in this meaningful career. But unless veteran teachers’ salaries rise in concert with this improvement, our school systems would be grading on a curve that is indefensible.


DeSantis also wants to pump $300 million more into the broken bonus program. Leaving aside repeated objections that the dissemination of these funds has been arbitrary and unfair, what remains is the fundamental capriciousness of any bonus meant to replace — rather than augment — progressive salary increases.


The best possible bonus is a one-time cash award that rightfully acknowledges a job performance that goes above and beyond — something, by the way, that most teachers achieve every day. It cannot be counted on to cover a rent increase or supply regular contributions to someone’s college or retirement fund. It can be bestowed or withheld.


Bonuses are not what most people would call a decent way to make a living, unless perhaps they work on Wall Street.


If the state of Florida insists on singling out favorite teachers, any system of evaluation and reward should be designed with more input from students, parents and the teachers themselves.


In the meantime, spending nearly $1 billion simply to raise teachers’ salaries across the board would surely receive high marks in every Florida school district.


This guest editorial was originally published in the Gainesville Sun, a sister newspaper within Gannett.