Teachers union dubious toward Ron DeSantis bonus proposal

school teacher shortage
The Florida Education Association offers praise — but wants more.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) sees Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newly announced bonus program as a step in the right direction, but one that neglects a deeper concern: Teacher salaries.

DeSantis on Thursday highlighted a proposal to direct almost $423 million toward teacher and principal bonuses. The Republican Governor also is seeking to end the practice of awarding teachers bonuses based on their SAT and ACT scores.

FEA, the state’s largest teachers union, is a longtime critic of Florida’s educator-bonus structure. A news release from the group called the proposed changes “a start toward fixing the discriminatory and unfair provisions of that bad legislation.”

Still, the union thinks DeSantis is avoiding an elephant in the room.

“There doesn’t have to be a revolutionary way to solve Florida’s problem with recruiting and retaining teachers,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said. “We will be urging the Governor and the Legislature to go one step further: We need competitive salaries for teachers and education staff.”

FEA’s litmus test for education policy? “Whether it will motivate more students to become teachers, attract more qualified applicants to our schools, and help us keep more qualified teachers in classrooms and in front of our students.”

According to FEA, Florida ranks 45th in the U.S. for teacher salaries. State Sen. Janet Cruz, a Tampa Democrat, said she remains “concerned about the lack of overall pay raises in the Governor’s plan.”

“Simply put, a bonus is not a raise and will not impact the lives of all teachers throughout Florida,” Cruz added. “If we are going to end this growing teacher shortage and recruit and retain the best possible educators for our children, it is vital that Florida offer a base salary for all school personnel that is competitive with the rest of the nation.”

Democrat Andrew Gillum, DeSantis’ political opponent in 2018, had campaigned on a $50,000 starting salary for teachers. Gillum enjoyed support from teachers’ unions during the campaign.

DeSantis’ office estimates his proposal would provide about 45,000 bonuses worth more than $9,000 each. Principals would be eligible for an untold number of $6,500 bonuses.

The proposal also dedicates money — $10 million per year over the next five years — toward a loan and tuition forgiveness program for new teachers who dedicate five years to educating in the Sunshine State. 

Danny McAuliffe

Danny is a contributor at floridapolitics.com. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School and Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. Reach him at [email protected].

One comment

  • Donna Shubert

    February 8, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    First of all, teachers earn and deserve a raise, not a bonus which puts them at the whim of governors, legislators, superintendents and principals. Broward County is notorious for giving out a very small percentage of highly effective and effective evaluations. We have all heard of or experienced principals who will deliberately give teachers low evaluations. These subjective evaluation systems are grossly inequitable. Second, 3/4 of teachers are women and they do not need the governor and the mostly male republican legislators managing teachers’ earned income and doling it out as bonuses. Nor do our male colleagues. Mortgage companies and landlords are not going to want to count bonuses as income if they can come and go with the moods of governors and legislators. So pay the teachers outright. They’ve more than earned it. Third, principals should be last in line for bonuses. Well, next to last after all the highly paid administrators. They make a decent salary and get bonuses for the most ridiculous things. Here in Broward they get up to $8,000 for having a district aftercare program though they might never step foot in it after school hours. Meanwhile the teachers who work the after school programs are paid a fraction of their actual salary. So put the principal bonuses on hold and use the money for ESPs/teachers aides. They work incredibly hard, have a high level of responsibility and earn peanuts. Now having made those points what is the governor doing to repair the damage to veteran teachers? The ones who had their steps taken away over a decade ago, the ones who have struggled but finally paid off their student loans, the ones who have seen real damage done to not only their income level but also to their retirement income — their pension and social security. By cutting steps and keeping salaries low for the past 12 years or so years, teachers will have to live off of less retirement income and social security. I am sure the governor thinks he is a good guy for doing this but if he really wants to solve the teacher shortage crisis he needs to make sure teachers get large raises NOW for their hard work and dedication to the children of Florida, compensate those who lost a great deal of income throughout the past decade or more and then he can give teachers a nice, big bonus to make up for the damage his party did to public education, students and the teaching profession.

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