Mon, Jan 23, 2023 2:41 PM
By Andrew Powell, The Center Square
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a news conference in Jacksonville on Monday to propose sweeping changes to education, including a Teacher's Bill of Rights which will empower educators to be leaders in their classrooms.
In the proposed legislation, teachers will have their paychecks protected, while $1 billion will go towards teacher pay increases. School board members will have a maximum term of eight years, instead of twelve.
"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," DeSantis said.
DeSantis added that unions have been interfering in teacher salary increases.
"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 proposal will encourage transparency and accountability for unions, including teacher unions and higher education unions. Unions must represent at least 60% of employees eligible for membership, up from 50%.
The legislation will also allow the state to investigate any union suspected of fraud and financial records must be made available, as well as annual audits.
Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, and Rep. Lal Roach, R-Cape Coral, began the process of reducing term limits for school board members from twelve years down to eight in an earlier special session.
The new laws will also allow educators the ability to report to the state anything that violates a teacher's rights, and the state Department of Education will investigate any claims made.
"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."
DeSantis made it clear that since taking office, education has been at the "forefront of policy," as shown by the Parental Rights in Education Act that was signed into law in 2022.
The law, which "requires district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying student's parents of specified information," and reinforced the rights of parents. The act also banned teachers from teaching gender identity and sexual orientation to children aged from kindergarten through to third grade.
The new proposal specifies that teachers have a right to choose whether or not they join a union, and are protected from any repercussions if they refuse to do so.
Union officials will also no longer be paid any more than the highest paid union member, and those teachers who join a union, will be prohibited from doing any union work during teaching hours.