JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed a package of education bills on Monday that could make big changes to school systems across the state.
DeSantis and Education Commissioner Manny Diaz spoke at Duval Charter School at Baymeadows in Jacksonville.
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In addition to proposing raising teacher pay, the governor said he wants to create a special category in the education budget that would go toward funding for teacher raises specifically, so money can’t be used for anything else. DeSantis wants $200 million more for teacher salaries.
“So you could increase education funding, doesn’t mean (school boards are) going to raise teacher pay, they may use it for other things,” DeSantis said. “And so when we said as as part of our education funding in the state of Florida, we’re going to create a special category of that funding that has to go to raise teacher salaries. So we created this provision in our budget in the Florida Education Finance program.”
DeSantis accused school districts of not spending more money on teacher pay and school unions of holding teacher pay hostage for other issues.
He also proposed a teachers’ bill of rights to empower teachers to discipline students in class, and allows teachers to file complaints if the district allegedly tells a teacher to violate Florida law and then disciplines them for it.
Other bills he supports have already been filed by the state legislature, including a bill to create a constitutional amendment to make school board races partisan, a bill to create school board term limits of eight years, and a bill to stop teachers unions from being able to get union dues in a direct deposit from teachers’ paychecks.
DeSantis also wants unions not to be able to conduct union business at work, school union executives to not be paid more than the highest-paid union member, and for unions to have 60% representation in a school district.
Teachers are not required to join unions in Florida already.
The Florida Education Association teachers union, pointed to Florida laws and rules that it said often leave veteran teachers earning little more than new hires. It also criticized DeSantis for a “do what I say, or else” approach to education.
“Teachers and staff in our public schools struggle to pay rent, homeowners insurance and other bills because their pay is so low, just like so many Floridians,” union President Andrew Spar said in a prepared statement. “Teachers and staff are leaving at an alarming rate, in large part due to the policies implemented under Gov. DeSantis.”
House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said she had not seen details of DeSantis’ initiatives, but she called the funding request a “political move by a man who wants to be president and distract from the abortion discussion.”
We should have paid our teachers what they’re worth a long time ago,” Driskell said in a conference call with reporters. “We should have given our districts the control to do what they need to do for teacher salaries a long time ago.”
She also compared the additional money to a form of “gaslighting” teachers.
“You can’t say, ‘Teachers, I’m going to weaken your ability to have collective bargaining and to pay your union dues. Teachers you cannot accurately teach history. Teachers, you’re under the gun and we’re going to make you compete with these for-profit charter schools and give away all these vouchers to these private schools that don’t require their teachers to go through the same sort of training and be certified. But here’s some money. We hope you feel better,’” Driskell said.
All bills and funding requests are subject to approval by the Florida Legislature.
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