Gov. DeSantis announces plan for teacher pay raises, teacher rights, school union limitations

The governor is proposing increasing the budget for teacher pay by $200 million.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 2:41 PM EST
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - During a press conference in a Duval County classroom on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his plans for new education laws and funding in the upcoming legislative session. The proposals aim to raise teacher pay, create a teacher’s “Bill of Rights”, limit the influence of unions, and limit terms for school board members.

The governor is proposing increasing the budget for teacher pay by $200 million for a total of $1 billion in next year’s budget. According to the governor’s office, the state has secured $2 billion in funding for teacher pay since 2020. As a result, the average starting teacher’s salary in Florida is $48,000 for the 2022-2023 school year.

“This is a huge package to increase teacher pay, support teacher empowerment and protect teachers’ paychecks by ensuring they have control over their hard-earned salary,” said DeSantis. “We want more transparency into how school unions operate, and we are going to fight against school union haggling that holds teachers and their salary increases hostage. Partisan groups should not be given special privileges.”

According to the Florida Education Association, a teachers union, Florida had 5,294 teacher vacancies in January and 4,631 support staff vacancies.

The governor is also announcing his “paycheck protection” proposal targeting union memberships and dues. It would require school unions to represent at least 60% of employees eligible for representation, an increase over the current 50% threshold. It would also empower state officials to launch investigations into accusations of fraud, waste, and abuse.

Union dues would no longer be taken from teachers’ paychecks by the school district. Instead, the dues would be paid separately and unions would need to annually notify members about the costs. Union work must be done off the clock and union material would be prohibited from the workplace if the proposal passes.

“While the governor touts ‘empowerment’ and funding for teacher salary increases,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar. “Florida remains stuck near the bottom in national rankings for average teacher pay,” said Due to a tangled web of laws and rules governing pay, teachers with years in the classroom continue to face an “experience penalty” that can leave them making little more than new hires.”

The governor also outlined his plan to cement certain rights and authorities for teachers in the classroom. His proposal would create a process to notify the state of a violation of teachers’ rights to allow the Department of Education to investigate. It would also create a “stand your ground” classroom safety policy to protect teachers trying to maintain classroom safety.

“From day one, Governor Ron DeSantis has made it his mission to raise teacher pay and elevate educators in the classroom — and he has succeeded,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. “[Monday’s] announcement goes another step further to provide historic funding for teachers’ salaries and ensure they have control over their classrooms and paychecks.”

The administration also plans to try and reduce term limits for school board members from twelve years to eight years.

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