FORT MYERS, Fla – Florida’s largest teacher union is responding to the governor's proposed bonuses for teachers and principals. The Florida Education Association said it appreciates the effort but educators deserve more than a one-time bonus.
FEA President Andrew Spar also said it’s hard to feel valued “when lawmakers are considering bills that go after teachers.”
Governor DeSantis announced Wednesday that he's asking the Florida legislature to approve $216 million in funding to give $1,000 bonuses to public school principals and teachers.
“This proposal will provide a bonus to more than 3,600 principals and nearly 180,000 full-time classroom teachers,” said DeSantis.
But the FEA said it's not just teachers and principals who deserve a reward. It says the proposal fails to recognize support staff who have also put in extra time and their own resources to keep kids safely learning during the pandemic.
In a series of weekly legislative updates, Spar has also addressed proposed legislation like SB 1014. The FEA says it would make it more difficult for educators to join a union, ultimately hurting their ability to fight for students.
“Why are they picking on us? In a year in which we have stepped up to make sure that our student learning continues,” said Spar.
The governor said the proposed bonuses are about rewarding that effort. The money would come from the state's Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), which is part of the federal CARES Act. But the FEA said local school districts should be able to decide how those funds are used.
Spar also said the focus should instead be on things like additional funding and fair salaries.
According to a National Education Association ranking, Florida is 47th for average salaries of public school teachers.
Spar said it's also hard to be excited about the thousand-dollar bonuses when other proposed legislation could eliminate pension options.
Governor DeSantis is asking the Florida legislature to approve the funding during its current legislative session so the bonuses can be distributed to educators as soon as possible.