- Teacher salaries could get another boost in 2023, as Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a series of proposals to allocate additional funding toward educator pay
- The proposals also outline regulations on school unions, including the methods by which they collect payment from members
- Union literature would also be prohibited on school grounds, should the proposals be adopted by lawmakers this year
- DeSantis also seeks a reduced term limit for school board members, as well as making board elections partisan
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a proposal for a ‘Teacher’s Bill of Rights’ on Monday, which includes provisions to increase teacher pay, alter school board member term limits, and impose new school union regulations.
Speaking at a press conference in Jacksonville, DeSantis detailed his proposal to lawmakers that would allocate $1 billion to increase pay for teachers across the state.
If adopted, the proposition would increase funding for teacher salaries by $200 million dollar compared to the year prior.
DeSantis also laid out provisions within the proposal to grant school districts the autonomy to choose how to prioritize or allocate the extra funding, including minimum teacher pay, teacher recruitment, or similar district initiatives.
“We want to make sure we’re focused on what’s important,” said DeSantis. “If teachers are doing what they need to do to be the best they can be, we want to reward that.”
As part of the comprehensive education package, DeSantis is introducing a law altering school board member term limits, capping those serving at eight years.
The governor also wants to build upon legislation filed by top state lawmakers to make school board races partisan again.
“We did the twelve-year school board term limits, but I think it should be eight-year term limits,” DeSantis said. “The fact of the matter is, you get in there, you have ideas, eight years is enough to get your ideas in and see the success or maybe some of the things you need to change. I’m a big believer in term limits across the board. I think we need it in a lot of different areas.”
In December, Sen. Joe Gruters filed a joint resolution proposing amendments to the State Constitution to establish partisan school board races. The filing was submitted less than two weeks after Rep. Spencer Roach filed a similar motion in the House.
Presently, school board elections in Florida are non-partisan, meaning that no political party affiliation appears next to their name on the ballot.
The proposal package also takes a swipe at teacher unions, outlining a series of regulations that would prohibit unions from deducting dues from the paychecks of members.
“[Unions] are not going to have, if we do these reforms, automatic deductions for school union dues,” said the governor. “If you want to do it, send money, that’s fine. But to have it automatically deducted … they don’t even tell you how much is being deducted. We want more transparency into how that is done, and we believe that school unions have a responsibility to notify members of the cost of membership.”
Further, the policy would require a 60 percent participation rate among employees to exist and prevent any school union executive from being paid more than the highest-paid member.
Any literature pertaining to joining or starting a school union would additionally be prohibited in workplace settings, including school campuses.
The Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teacher’s union, was quick to fire back against the proposals, claiming that DeSantis’ policies are pushing teachers to leave the profession.
“Our schools don’t need to go back to 1950; we need to move forward toward 2050. Florida’s students deserve strong public schools. Teachers and staff are leaving at an alarming rate, in large part due to the policies implemented under Gov. DeSantis,” said FEA President Andrew Spar.
Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity applauded the measures, stating that the legislation would promote personal freedoms.
“We applaud Gov. DeSantis for making it a priority of his administration to empower individuals over organizations when it comes to union membership in Florida, said Americans for Prosperity-Florida State Director Skylar Zander. “Hardworking Americans deserve the freedom to choose whether they want to join a union and how their dues are collected, and we commend the Governor for fighting for that freedom here in Florida.”