Education budgeters kick the can on federal relief, which could include teacher bonuses
Rice field burned after the harvest, in the famous Jatiluwih rice terraces in Bali, Indonesia

'These stimulus dollars were not designed for Florida.'

Gov. Ron DeSantis requested lawmakers approve $1,000 bonus checks for teachers with the latest round of federal funding, but budget leaders in charge of education funding pushed back on the need for bonuses and federal aid.

The latest budget offer from the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee doesn’t include the Governor’s request because lawmakers are saving American Rescue Plan funding considerations for the next phase of budget talks. However, Chair Randy Fine on Sunday appeared to suggest the bonuses were unnecessary with the $500 million in pay raises the Legislature put forward last year and the additional $50 million DeSantis and the House proposed for the coming fiscal year.

“We just thought there were other things that could be done with that money other than giving teachers bonuses,” Fine said.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls‘ office clarified Fine’s comments after the meeting. A spokesperson for the Speaker’s office said Fine was referring to the distinction between general revenue and federal relief and that bonus checks will be a part of final talks.

Yet Fine’s Senate counterpart, Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Doug Broxson, pushed back on the need for federal relief altogether.

“These stimulus dollars were not designed for Florida. We’re real close to being in budget. Other states aren’t,” Broxson said. “But we’re going to look over and see if that money can be used in an appropriate way where it’s non recurring so we get back to running Florida and let the other states run it the way they want to.”

Fine has repeatedly railed against the American Rescue Plan, calling it “supposed COVID relief.” On Sunday, he added that it’s “all borrowed from our kids.”

When asked about the bonus checks, Broxson focused the conversation on what the House and Senate have considered so far.

“Well, I think we’ve already established that last year in the $500 million we set aside,” Broxson said. “The question is really $50 million and we’ll talk about that later.”

Sunday marks the second day of negotiations since the budget conference kicked off Friday evening.

DeSantis announced the teacher bonuses for working through the COVID-19 pandemic as one of his priorities last month after President Joe Biden signed off on the American Rescue Plan, expected to send more than $10 billion in relief funds to the state coffers. However, the House and Senate didn’t announce specifics on how they plan to use those relief funds when they unveiled their budget proposals earlier this month and still haven’t fully.

Fine will be one of 33 representatives in the final round of budget debates, when lawmakers will hammer out how to use the federal relief funds. Broxson isn’t on the team of nine senators who will be directly involved in those talks.

Top House budget leader Jay Trumbull said Friday that lawmakers would consider teacher bonuses and first responders bonuses.

“The Governor just came out with that not too recently and (it is) not something that was contemplated in either of our budgets as we rolled them out, especially dealing with December’s general revenue conference numbers,” Trumbull said. “That’s obvious that’ll be something that we focus on as we look at it in conference.”

Last year, the Governor signed a plan to raise the minimum teacher salary to $47,500 annually, which cost the state $500 million. The plan to continue those raises would cost $50 million for the coming fiscal year.

DeSantis first proposed the plan months before COVID-19 hit the state, but the pandemic helped justify the pay raise. Yet when Fine shut down the pandemic bonuses, he noted the prior and coming pay raises.

“We obviously do not set — local politicians get to decide what teachers get paid, and there’s plenty of money now for them to make those decisions,” Fine said.

The bonus checks would cost the state $216 million from the anticipated $10.2 billion in federal relief.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


  • Frankie M.

    April 18, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    So new teachers get pay raises while veteran teachers take pay cuts. Sounds legit.

  • Shannen McKenzie

    April 18, 2021 at 7:07 pm

    I am a teacher of 21 years. I didn’t get a raise. What raise are they referring to?

  • Beverly

    April 18, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    Vote these politicians out of office!

  • Robert Burns

    April 18, 2021 at 9:10 pm

    A raise goes to those who are unproven and the ones I mentor on a daily basis, with classroom management, lesson prep, standards, and student data and how to incorporate it in the student’s growth. Yet, I am not worth a raise unless my insurance skyrockets. My raise covers the health insurance increase.
    But let me understand when they want a raise they vote themselves a raise and no one stops them. No checks or balances in that court.
    You ladies and gents of our congress pride yourselves in the double talk you send to our districts,parents, and superintendents to relay to the veteran teachers to why you can’t afford our raises. Well after 35 years let’s say I have a NO CONFICDENCE VOTE in your ability to follow through with any promise. Do the new teachers coming in know you are planning to have a maximum pay scale of around $56,000 when they retire in 30 years with NO PENSION.
    Your not laying out the whole picture to our future teachers. The new “Civics” is a way to get our young minds to vote in one direction. GOOD TRY! We as educators have already seen through that hoax,not working the word is traveling like a wild fire. The money is not enough to keep the dream alive for your team, so what’s your next move. We see through your plan.

  • Tampa Teacher

    April 19, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    This is all deliberate. These fat cats are trying to dismantle public education. They have sold the charter school lie to the citizenry and are raking in the corporate cash— it only serves them to bleed public schools dry of quality educators so that parents feel like they have to choose charter.

  • Roseann Cronister

    April 20, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Do citizens and the politicians realize that teacher salaries were NOT raised to $47,500? The word “recommend” does not mean it’s going to happen. Veteran teacher’s saw very little or no change at all to their salaries. Yet, we were still there to respond to the idea of brick and mortar teaching during a pandemic and the majority of teachers were playing two roles as online teacher and in-person teaching. We went back to work with no safety resources (unless we bought them ourselves) and dealt with every issue under the sun. Such short lived praise for educators and now that they can show a small amount of appreciation the politicians state we don’t deserve a $1000 bonus. Such hypocrisy to state that Florida doesn’t need this Federal money because everyone knows they will accept it but it just won’t go to those who deserve it. Instead it will end up lining the pockets of the greedy as always. Disgusting!!!

Comments are closed.


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