TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bipartisan goal of the governor to bolster teacher rights is making steady progress in the Florida Senate, getting through its second of three committees with another unanimous vote.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in January his plan for a "Teacher's Bill of Rights" to enshrine in state law the powers and protections of Florida's educators.
"We've worked really hard since I've been governor to put an emphasis on education, really across the board," DeSantis said at the time.
The bill, SB 244 has a list that includes protections for educators following state law but violating district policy. There's a shield for teachers trying to control a rowdy classroom. Plus, the provisions incorporate a way for teachers to report violations of their rights to the state ed department.
Democrats did have some concerns despite the, to date, universal support of the bill.
"I'll tell you my negative before I tell you my positive," Sen. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville, said
Davis said during a committee debate that the language appeared to be a bit too broad.
"I'm not sure what else we're capturing when we say violation of a student, parent or teacher's rights in such a broad sense," Davis said.
The bill has numerous others provisions, but perhaps the most widely supported are the programs and incentives to bring more into teaching to fight a growing shortage in the state.
"The tools in this bill create a pipeline into teaching that is needed to make sure our school district and our children have what they deserve," Sen. Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami, the bill sponsor said.
Calatayud highlighted a few of those tools in the Appropriations subcommittee like easing teaching requirements for some, scholarship opportunities and an apprenticeship program. The latter is something former teachers liked the sound of during public comment.
"That mentor that I had — who was amazing — really got me through those years," Keith Calloway, a former educator and associate director of the Professional Educators Network of Florida, said. "Got me over that 'hump' of the first two years of just not knowing where I was and what I was doing."
The bill now moves to its final committee before reaching the Senate floor.
"This is part of the constellation of policies that we're moving forward this legislative session that is supporting teachers," Calatayud, "and that is building the future of our state."
Over in the House, lawmakers have filed at least one measure hosting some of these same provisions as the Senate bill. That means we might see one bill folded into the other — and some changes as the legislative process continues. But, with wide support and the governor on board, something will likely get to his desk.