They're known for their style, their expertise and, above all their independence, but now Florida's professors could be headed for a tough new reality.
Governor Scott is eyeing a plan being developed in Texas that would make professor pay contingent on their performance. Everything from class sizes to student surveys would be taken into account, and tenure could be eliminated.
"We've got to make sure that our state colleges spend their money well," the governor said. "We don't waste any money; our universities do the same thing, but that it's really focused on 'what's the end product', and that's what I want to make sure we're focused on."
Coming as it does on the heels of contentious battle over merit pay for Florida's school teachers, expanding that to professors may be tough politically. In fact, one leading lawmaker tells us it may not happen for a number of years.
Republican Steve Oelrich heads up the higher education committee in the Senate. On Thursday, he'll be meeting with the governor to talk about the Texas approach, one he says university leaders are worried could make it more difficult to recruit top-level talent.
"I'm certainly willing to consider and look at this Texas plan, but right now I'm not completely sold on it because the university presidents don't particularly like it," Sen. Oelrich said.
But with a statewide graduation rate of only 61 percent, the pressure on lawmakers may ultimately be too intense to ignore. Meaning professors may be in for a final exam of their own.
Oelrich is doubtful the Texas merit pay plan can be properly vetted before the annual session and says Florida most likely wouldn't see a carbon copy. Professors could be graded on student retention rates and exam scores.
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