The new Florida teacher pay bill would eliminate additional pay for additional degrees. The research on advanced degrees and teacher effectiveness is that there is very little correlation between the two. The Florida bill appears to be doing nothing more than following good research.
Teachers who love to teach, but who do not want to go back to school are probably elated. College and university teacher education programs are not. They fear that fewer people will seek masters and doctorate degrees if the bill becomes law. In the words of one education student: "I think colleges will suffer. If it doesn't matter if I have a degree, why am I going to waste my time and money to get one," said Michelle Moreno, who is pursuing a master's in reading education at Florida International University, west of Miami. "My master's is giving me expertise in my field, but if I'm not compensated, why do it?"
Of course, someone with a love of learning may go back to school for the degree or may pursue additional education by reading and studying on his or her own. Schools could use internal resources to assist teachers in gaining necessary expertise. There are many other ways for a teacher to gain expertise than obtaining a degree.
In addition, a new program, if structured correctly, would reward the results of characteristics of effective teaching. Teachers' incentive to pursue a degree or other means of expertise and effectiveness would be additional pay for the effectiveness. It would then be up to the school and the teacher to determine the most effective means of obtaining additional expertise. In many cases, it may be that a degree is not the most effective means of obtaining that expertise.
Teacher education programs might not be out of business, but could choose to restructure their programs to meet the real needs of teachers. In addition to masters and doctoral programs, they could develop a series of focused seminars or certificate programs for specific needs. That way teachers who need specific skills might be able to take a few courses here and there rather than be forced to get a masters degree that they may not need. The upside of this effort is that teacher education schools may begin to rethink their programs and provide courses and degrees/certificates that actually provide value to schools and make better teachers.