Gov. DeSantis signs bills limiting School Board terms, chipping away at teachers unions
Screenshot via The Lincoln Project.

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The Governor highlighted new rights for teachers while signing legislation the unions fought.

The Governor signed a slew of bills likely to shake up public education’s status quo, with new limits on School Board terms, the end of automatically deducting union dues from paychecks and a block on students using social media via school Wi-Fi.

Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared at a Miami charter school, True North Classical Academy, with a full complement of legislators highlighting the education legislation that moved across the finish line during the Session that wrapped Friday. He also signed a bill that will create new pathways to become a certified Florida teacher.

“I think we’re leading the way when it comes to teacher empowerment,” DeSantis said, noting record pay increases for teachers and legislation (dubbed the “teachers’ bill of rights”) that will allow teachers following state law to go around “rogue” School Board members or administrators directly to the state.

The legislation (HB 477) limiting School Board members to eight years of service comes one year after the Legislature passed legislation limiting School Board terms to 12 years. It’s the first bill the Governor signed out of three passed during this Legislative Session which potentially alter School Board governance.

The Legislature also passed a bill (HB 411) that would loosen residency requirements so that candidates don’t have to be residents of the district they want until assuming office. And another measure (HJR 31) that the Legislature approved, but not needing the Governor’s signature, will ask voters on the November 2024 ballot to approve making School Board races partisan affairs.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. was among those attending and had high praise for the legislative action.

“I spent 10 years in the Legislature and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much education policy in one stop,” Diaz said.

On Tuesday, DeSantis also signed SB 256, which he called “paycheck protection,” that means teachers, nurses and some other public sector workers will have to write a check to pay their union dues.

Annual renewals would also require unions to name the number of employees eligible for membership and the number of actual members. If a union doesn’t have at least 60% membership, it must reapply for certification. DeSantis said the unions could lose their authority to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of workers.

He excoriated the teacher unions’ role during the COVID-19 outbreak just before signing the bill, which unions fought against.

“The school unions have become very partisan — that’s not what schools are about,” DeSantis said, also raising the “forced masking” of students during the emergency. “What we saw during COVID … they sued me to try to close the schools. And then you saw in other parts of the country, those unions were successful in locking kids out of school not just for weeks, not just for months, but in some cases for a year or more.”

DeSantis also lauded legislation (HB 379) that would likely not win students’ applause. It will mean social media platforms will not be accessible through school Wi-Fi. It also gives teachers the authority to keep phones inaccessible during class time, DeSantis said.

“Let’s have our education system be as much about traditional education as we can,” DeSantis said. “And I think reining in the use of this (cell phone use) or having guidelines as the teachers see fit or the schools see fit, I think is something that’s really important.”

“Put those devices down and live life normally and I think we’re going to be so much better off if we go in that direction,” he added.

DeSantis also signed legislation (SB 1035) that expands the pathway to becoming a teacher. The bill establishes a teacher apprenticeship program where those who complete two years of college and achieve a 3.0 grade point average are eligible to begin a paid apprenticeship for two years. The bill also adds new bonuses for first responders and military veterans who want to pursue a teaching career.

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


  • PeterH

    May 9, 2023 at 11:41 am

    Every American should watch: “A Man Called Otto” streaming now on Amazon Prime. It’s a timely movie about an American neighborhood coming together to solve problems. I only wish Hollywood would make more quality films like this!

    Occasionally Hollywood does mirror the world we live in. Galaxy Invaders gets tiring.

  • Dont Say FLA

    May 9, 2023 at 11:56 am

    Rhonda working hard to run off the doctors and now the teachers too. Why would anybody want this Mo to be in charge of anything at all?

  • Michael K

    May 9, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    Funny thing is, unions are what made a huge difference in the rise of the American middle class – improving working conditions, wages, benefits, and employment security for generations. So of course the Republicans are anti-union, and anti-labor, anti-worker. And amazing how so many people will vote against their own self-interest so long as there is someone even lower on the ladder.

    And by the way, all this posturing may appeal to old white retired people – but young people, generally, are repulsed by what they going on here.

  • Rob Desantos

    May 9, 2023 at 1:37 pm

    This jerk is taking an already-bad state public education system and just intentionally destroying it because Fox News convinced his idiot base that teachers and unions are the enemy. Sorry Florida!

  • Rob Desantos

    May 9, 2023 at 1:58 pm

    And of course he signs off on this attack on public education at a ridiculous charter school that’s almost certainly run by a Desanctus crony or donor.

  • Mr. Haney

    May 10, 2023 at 7:02 am

    DeSantis is a sell out traitor.

Comments are closed.


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