TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Governor Ron DeSantis announced Wednesday his proposal to provide $1,000 bonuses to public school principals and full-time classroom teachers for grades pre-K through 12th grade.

DeSantis said the funding for the bonuses would be $216 million from the third round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). 

If approved by the Florida Senate and House of Representatives, the proposal would provide a bonus to more than 3,600 public school principals and nearly 180,000 full-time classroom teachers.

“The past year included so much uncertainty for our state’s students, parents, and educators,” DeSantis adding. “In Florida, we knew how important it was for our students to return to school, and our principals and teachers answered the call. I urge the Florida legislature to join me in awarding our great educators through this bonus program as a show of gratitude for their actions and hard work.”

“The governor’s proposal is just one way we can show our appreciation to our hard-working teachers and principals who guided Florida through these immense challenges, and I look forward to the legislature making it a reality,” Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said.

A few months into the pandemic last year, DeSantis announced a bill aimed at increasing teacher pay for the minimum earners in public and charter schools. The increase in pay would put Florida among the top five states in the nation for minimum teacher pay.

“This bonus shows that we’re being validated, honored and respected for the decisions that we made that we knew would be the best for children,” said Sarah Painter, a 5th grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School in Pinellas County. “We knew we were taking a risk by doing this. And, our focus shifted instead of just academics, now it’s mental health and well-being. So with that focus shifting we’ve had to kind of change our mindset as well.”

The Florida Education Association (FEA) responded to the news saying the organization, “appreciates that Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to show he values teachers, but we maintain that all public school employees deserve recognition and reward.”

“We support money for teachers and school staff, as almost all have put in extra time and their own personal resources to keep kids safe and learning during Covid,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “They transformed the learning system in March of last year and then again in August as we reopened. Recommending a $1,000 bonus for some school employees continues the governor’s strategy of picking winners and losers in our schools. It takes a village to educate Florida’s children.”

The FEA also went on the say that all educators deserve “fair salaries that take into account and reward their years of experience,” according to a news release.