JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced proposed legislation that would invest another $1 billion into teacher pay and reduce terms for school board members from twelve to eight years. The proposal would also enact paycheck protection from unwanted deductions for union dues and establish a Teacher’s Bill of Rights that would empower educators to stand up for what is right without fear of retribution from their employers.
“This is a huge package to increase teacher pay, support teacher empowerment, and protect teachers’ paychecks by ensuring they have control over their hard-earned salary,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “We want more transparency into how school unions operate, and we are going to fight against school union haggling that holds teachers and their salary increases hostage. Partisan groups should not be given special privileges.”
The governor’s proposal would create more accountability and transparency for public sector unions, including K-12 teacher unions and higher education unions. School unions would be required to represent at least 60% of employees eligible for representation, an increase over the current 50 percent threshold. The state would also be given authority to investigate suspected fraud, waste, and abuse inside unions.
To ensure that school boards are acting in the best interests of Florida’s teachers and students, term limits for school board members would be reduced from 12 years to 8 years. School board elections would also be permitted to be partisan elections. Senator Gruters and Representative Roach have already submitted a joint resolution for the 2023 Legislative Session to begin this process.
Other paycheck protections would:
- Prohibit any union representing public employees from having its dues and assessments deducted by the public employee’s employer.
- Require employees to submit a form acknowledging that Florida is a right-to-work state and union participation is optional.
- Require school unions to annually notify members of the cost of membership.
- Prohibit the distribution of union materials at the workplace.
- Union officials cannot be paid more than the highest-paid union member.
- Prohibit union work while on the clock for their taxpayer funded job.
- Prohibit school board members and superintendents from accepting a personal or work-related benefit such as a secret “office account” from a school union.
The governor has put education at the forefront of policy-making decisions for the past four years. Current Florida law provides a comprehensive explanation of students’ rights and parents’ rights in education. But there is no clear explanation of teachers’ rights and the authority vested in them as licensed educators.
The new law would establish teacher empowerment provisions, including:
- Establish a new process for individuals to notify the state of a violation of teachers’ rights and ensure that the Department of Education can investigate those claims.
- Empower teachers to maintain safe classroom environments by creating a “stand your ground” classroom safety policy to protect teachers who are often judged unfairly for maintaining order and safety in their classrooms.
- Clarify that teachers have the choice to join their local teachers’ union and will not face any repercussions if they opt not to join.
- Providing civil remedies for teachers who are asked to violate Florida law and punished by their employers for standing up for what is right.
RAISING TEACHER PAY
More than $2 billion has been directed toward teacher pay by the governor and Florida lawmakers since 2020 – the largest pay increase in Florida history. The average starting salary for teachers rose to $48,000 for the 2022–2023 school year.
Today, the governor is proposing an additional $200 million to continue raising teacher pay, bringing the total to $1 billion for teacher pay in next year’s budget.
The additional $200 million would be provided to school districts that would direct the money to best fit the district’s needs. School districts will be able to apply the funding to continue raising starting teacher salaries or to provide salary increases for veteran teachers and other eligible instructional personnel.
“From day one, Governor Ron DeSantis has made it his mission to raise teacher pay and elevate educators in the classroom – and he has succeeded,” said Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. “Today’s announcement goes another step further to provide historic funding for teachers’ salaries and ensure they have control over their classrooms and paychecks.”