• Clay County superintendent will not force pre-k teachers to give back bonuses

    By: Jenna Bourne , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    The Clay County superintendent will not force pre-k teachers to repay tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses.

    Action News Jax first reported on Sunday that a state auditor found Clay County gave 22 pre-K teachers Florida Best and Brightest Scholarships they didn’t qualify for.

    Now Superintendent Addison Davis tells Action News Jax the school district is appealing to the state.

    The state auditor recommends the district take the $31,200 back from the pre-K teachers and repay it to the state.

    “I think teachers work very hard and deserve everything they get paid, and more,” said Clay County grandmother Judi Rogers.

    The state auditor said pre-K teachers don’t qualify for the bonuses because they don’t meet the definition of “classroom teachers.”

    Clay County Education Association President Renna Lee Paiva said that’s not true for Clay County pre-K teachers.

    “Our pre-K teachers are part of our elementary schools. They not only teach pre-K, they can teach kindergarten. They can teach 1st grade. They’re classroom teachers,” said Paiva.

    “I am disappointed that the state doesn't regard what I do every day for the last 24 years as ‘teaching’... I am required to teach my students from the school-adopted curriculum,” one of the Pre-K teachers who received the bonus told Action News Jax in an email. “I have a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and hold a Florida Teaching Certificate, just like the rest of the school.”

    Davis is appealing to the Florida Department of Education, asking it not to require the district to return the money.

    “I am working with state legislators to amend the K-12 Best and Brightest Scholarship program to be inclusive of certified pre-kindergarten teachers,” said Davis.

    A district spokesperson said even if the district loses its appeal to the state, the district won’t make the teachers pay the money back; it will refund the state from somewhere else in the district’s budget.

    Next Up: