TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The wish list for 2023 keeps growing.
Gov. Ron DeSantis offered Monday morning a K-12 Education Package for the upcoming legislative session, which includes another increase in teacher pay and a Teacher’s Bill of Rights.
The cornerstone of DeSantis’ plan is a proposed $200 million increase in teacher pay over last year’s raise, a billion dollars in the upcoming state budget. It will continue to raise the starting salary — now about $48,000 — and increase the pay for those already on the payroll.
DeSantis said he will also push for a deadline for counties to distribute the funds or risk losing them. The Republican said the idea came after some schools delayed their previous allocations.
“Some waited until after the election,” Desantis said told reporters during a performance in Jacksonville. “Some have just done it. In many ways, school unions play games with a lot of it. This is wrong.’
Speaking of school unions, DeSantis plans to introduce a number of new rules for them, including a ban on automatic payroll deductions and annual dues reporting. Also, no union official can earn more than the highest paid member they represent.
“From day one, Governor Ron DeSantis made it his mission to raise teacher pay and educate teachers in the classroom — and he succeeded,” Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said in a statement. “Today’s announcement takes another step forward to secure historic funding for teacher salaries and ensure they have control over their classrooms and salaries.”
Today I unveiled my plan to empower Florida educators:
– Securing a $1 billion pay raise for teachers
– Implementation of the Bill on Teachers’ Rights
– Implementation of wage protection and other school union reforms
– The term of limitation for members of the school council is up to 8 years pic.twitter.com/pPKmQ8mX2b
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 23, 2023
In addition, teachers receive a “Teachers’ Bill of Rights.” This is a list of defenses designed to protect educators from lawsuits for classroom discipline that violates instruction or penalties for enforcing state laws when they conflict with district policy.
“We will establish a new process for individuals to report to the state when teachers’ rights have been violated,” the governor said. “We will ensure that our Florida Department of Education can investigate these complaints very quickly.”
Lawmakers have yet to submit official language for the bill, but Democrats are initially in trouble.
“We should have been paying our teachers what they’re worth a long time ago,” said House Minority Leader Fentris Driskel, R-Tampa.
Driskel noted that while Florida’s starting salary is among the top 10 in the nation, its median top salary is about $10,000 below the national average, according to recent NEA data. Participants said the devil is in the details.
“I feel like it’s gaslighting, right?” Driskel said. “You can’t say, on the one hand, “Teachers, I’m going to weaken your ability to bargain collectively, but here’s the money. We hope you are feeling better.’
The Florida Education Association (FEA) was among those who did not oppose the proposal. U statementthe teachers union said DeSantis’ ideas are divisive and contributing to the state’s teacher shortage.
“Teachers and staff in our public schools struggle to pay rent, homeowner’s insurance and other bills because their pay is so low, as are many Floridians,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “Faculty and staff are leaving at an alarming rate, in large part because of the policies being pursued under Governor DeSantis.”
Finally, school boards can also expect reforms. The governor’s plan provided for additional term limits, reducing them from 12 to eight years.
In addition, DeSantis pushed for an amendment to the state constitution that would allow school board candidates to indicate party affiliation during elections. If lawmakers agree, they can bring the idea to a subsequent vote, requiring at least 60% of Floridians to vote “yes” for approval.
Time will tell what the final policy looks like, but with a friendly GOP supermajority in control of both chambers of the Legislature, the governor will likely get most of what he wants.
The 2023 parliamentary session begins on March 7.