JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) — Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference in Jacksonville, Wednesday highlighting a number of educational budget initiatives including a plan to boost teacher pay and continue school bonuses for teachers and principals.
“Our education budget is going to have a lot of wins for families, for students and for teachers,” DeSantis said.
Standing alongside Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, the governor announced his budget recommendation will include $600 million to boost teacher pay, a record amount since the initiative’s inception two years earlier.
“Our goal is particularly to increase the average minimum salary in the state of Florida so we can continue to attract great people into the teaching profession,” DeSantis said. “With our proposal, we are going to be in a really really good spot.”
DeSantis did not reveal a dollar amount for the initiative but noted the increase in teacher wages from approximately $40,000 to $47,000 since his time as governor. According to previous reports from WFLA 8 On Your Side, the increased pay promised to move Florida among the top five states in the nation for minimum teacher pay.
DeSantis also noted Florida’s “great success” this past year in giving $1,000 bonuses to 177,000 total school principals and teachers across the state. He added that the next fiscal year’s budget will continue the bonus payments.
“Fortunately for Florida, we’re in a very strong budget position,” DeSantis said. “Our reserves are Incredibly healthy, particularly what people were projecting when COVID first hit. Every month we tend to bring in significantly more revenue over the revenue estimates.”
In March, the governor said funding for the last round of bonuses would cost $216 million and come from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), but no source of funding was mentioned for the next round of bonuses during Wednesday’s press conference.
DeSantis also noted the budget will include $8,000 in per-pupil funding, the highest amount in state history, an increase of $124 in base student allocation funds and $421 million in funds for school safety and mental health initiatives.
The budget will also include $15.5 million to replace the FSA (Florida Standards Assessments) with a new progress monitoring system.
“We said that one of our major legislative proposals this year would be to eliminate the FSA with progress monitoring, and we’re following through with that budget to make sure that we have the resources to be able to do the progress monitoring and do it in a way that is really value-added,” DeSantis said.
“We’re going to absolutely turn upside down the accountability system by getting rid of the FSA and going to a much more meaningful progress monitoring system where you are tracking these kids throughout the whole year and making sure you can catch them before it’s too late,” Corcoran said. “Education is the one thing left that will save our country, protect our futures and bring about other 200-plus years of prosperity.”