Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has unveiled a groundbreaking legislative initiative that aims to empower teachers and improve education in the state.
The proposed Teacher’s Bill of Rights would give educators more authority in their classrooms, protect their paychecks, shorten the terms of school board members from 12 to 8 years, and provide an additional $1 billion in funding for teacher salaries.
“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,” stated 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 aims to increase accountability and transparency for public sector unions, including those representing K-12 teachers and higher education employees.
The proposal would raise the representation threshold for school unions to 60%, an increase from the current 50%, and allow for state investigations into any unions suspected of fraud, waste, or abuse.
Additionally, the proposal calls for annual audits and financial disclosures for all unions.
To ensure that school boards prioritize the needs of Florida’s teachers and students, the proposal also reduces term limits for school board members from 12 years to 8 years and aims to make school board elections a partisan affair.
Other measures under this proposal include paycheck protections such as:
- Prevent public employee unions from having their dues and assessments automatically deducted by the employer.
- Mandate that employees submit a form acknowledging that union participation in Florida is optional.
- Require school unions to inform members of the cost of membership on an annual basis.
- Prohibit the distribution of union materials in the workplace.
- Limit the compensation of union officials to that of the highest-paid union member.
- Prohibit union activities during paid working hours for publicly funded jobs.
- Prohibit school board members and superintendents from accepting personal or work-related benefits from school unions, such as secret “office accounts.”
Increasing Teacher Pay
Since 2020, the Governor has secured over $2 billion in funding for teacher pay, the largest pay increase for teachers in Florida’s history. This funding has enabled Florida to achieve an average starting teacher salary of $48,000 for the 2022-2023 school year, surpassing Florida’s goal of an average starting teacher salary of $47,500. The Governor is now proposing an additional $200 million to continue raising teacher pay, bringing the total to $1 billion for teacher pay in his recommended budget for the upcoming year.
This $200 million increase in funding compared to the current year’s budget will be provided to school districts with maximum flexibility, allowing them to use the funding in the way that best fits their needs. School districts will have the option to apply the funding to continue raising starting teacher salaries or to provide salary increases for veteran teachers and other eligible instructional personnel.
No eligible full-time classroom teacher will receive a base salary less than the minimum base salary established during the 2022-2023 school year.
Since the Governor’s tenure began, education has been a priority in policy-making decisions. Despite comprehensive legislation related to students’ and parents’ rights, there is currently no clear compilation of teachers’ rights and authorities in Florida law. This proposal aims to address this issue by establishing teacher empowerment provisions in the law, including the following main provisions:
- A new process for individuals to report violations of teachers’ rights and for the Department of Education to investigate these claims.
- A “stand your ground” classroom safety policy protects teachers from unfair judgment when maintaining order and safety in their classrooms.
- The clear language states that teachers have the choice to join their local teacher’s union without facing repercussions for not doing so.
- Civil remedies for teachers who are asked to violate Florida law and punished by their employers for standing up for what is right.