House Democrats spoke in a joint press conference Tuesday morning, where they called for increased spending towards schools and educational services in Florida public schools centered around mitigating critical staffing shortages.
Florida schools have not escaped the burden many industries felt amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, facing staff shortages in critical sectors such as bus drivers, food service workers, and classroom aides, according to Rep. Felicia Simone Robinson (Miami-Dade).
“We need to have a fully staffed transportation system within our schools and districts,” said Robinson. “The shortages are related directly to low salaries for public sector workers in education fields. Respect for the value of experienced workers is eroded by policies like the current salary increase that puts the majority of funding towards the raising of base salaries without providing adequate funding to increase the salaries of experienced teachers.”
The requested additional funds, however, would come at the expense of higher taxes, which would be ostensibly difficult to pass through a Republican-led Florida government.
“A strong education budget would invest in what it takes to help our students learn in spite of the setbacks presented by the pandemic has presented,” continued Robinson. “As a state, our priorities must be in educating our children by investing in the people in our schools who bear the responsibility that teach, transport, and feed them.”
Governor Ron DeSantis announced his education budget proposal in November, where he planned to allocate $534 million to support workforce education programs, including $100 million for a new workforce development capitalization grant that will create and expand workforce development programs at Florida school districts and state colleges.
DeSantis also made clear his intent to provide teacher bonuses alongside base salary increases. If passed, the starting teacher salary in Florida would be $47,500, nearly an $8,000 increase from 2018.
“By continuing to boost teacher pay, give bonuses to principals and teachers, prioritize workforce education, foster a strong civics curriculum, and replace the FSA with progress monitoring, we’re making a significant difference in the lives of our students,” said DeSantis.