TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants the Republican-controlled Legislature to set aside an extra $200 million to bump teacher pay for the upcoming school year as part of his “Teacher Empowerment Plan.”
The governor wants to increase funding for teacher salaries from the $800 million already allocated by the legislature to $1 billion. He announced the proposal Monday during a news conference at Duval Charter School in Jacksonville.
“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,” DeSantis said. “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.”
Local teachers union leaders say the pay increases come with strings designed to take power away from unions, and will eventually end union representation for unions in the state.
The governor is concerned school districts may not use the funds as intended.
“So you could increase education funding, doesn’t mean they are going to increase teacher pay, they may use it for other things,” he said.
To qualify for the funds, school districts must distribute the pay increase within a specified time frame. The governor is also looking to eliminate automatic pay withdrawals from union dues, and require that unions represent at least 60% of the teachers in the county in order to be certified.
Rob Kriete, the President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers association says it’s obvious what DeSantis is trying to do.
“Well, the intent is to get rid of the teacher union—I mean we’re the quality control for public education, here locally and across the state and quite frankly it seems he does not want that,” Kriete said.
In the past, the governor has claimed Florida ranks ninth in the nation for teacher pay, but the National Education Association says he’s not painting the full picture.
According to the NEA, Florida is ninth in the nation for first year teachers, but 48th when it comes to average teacher salaries.
Kriete says this information is creating a divide between new teachers and those with experience.
“So in our county, right here in Hillsborough County, that first year teacher is going to make the same for their first eight years of their career based on these strings that have come from Tallahassee and all of our veteran teachers have gotten virtually nothing over the past few years,” Kriete explained.
The governor says he will propose his “Teacher Empowerment Plan” during the next legislative session.