(The Center Square) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a pay raise for teachers and the Teacher Bill of Rights bill at a news conference in Miami on Tuesday.
The second-term Republican also signed into law a bill to provide for more transparency for public sector unions that ends their ability to take union dues directly from a member’s paycheck.
“At the end of the day, you can put money into a school, you can have good standards, you can have all that, but if you don’t have a good teacher in the classroom, then you’re not going to have kids perform up to their expectations,” DeSantis said, adding that Florida is leading the way for teacher empowerment.
Senate Bill 256 was sponsored by Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, and it will require a public sector union to revoke an employee’s membership upon receiving a written request. The new law will also require annual audits of union funds and allow state investigations into waste, fraud and abuse.
Teacher salaries will increase over the next four years after lawmakers appropriated $1.05 billion for that purpose. This comes after $3.3 billion has been spent on teacher pay raises over the past five years, according to DeSantis.
Per-pupil funding has also increased by $1,000 since 2019 to $8,600, as part of the passage of House Bill 1, one of the largest school expansion bills in Florida history. The bill allows parents to direct funds towards education of their choosing, including private school tuition, charter schools and learning materials for homeschool students.
SB 244 was sponsored by Sen. Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami, and is known as the Teachers Bill of Rights and allows teachers to file administrative and civil complaints if a school district or school directs that teacher to violate Florida law. The bill also gives those teachers protection against litigation and professional sanctions if they take action to restore their classrooms to order. Furthermore, teachers have a right to not join the teachers union and are protected from repercussions.
HB 477 was authored by state Rep. Alex Rizo, R-Hialeah, and creates more accountability and transparency for public sector unions, K-12 teacher unions and higher education unions. School board terms will also be dropped from 12 years to eight years and the bill ensures that the interests of teachers are being met by also making school board elections bipartisan.
DeSantis noted that part of the reason for the pay increases is to attract new recruits to the Sunshine State.
HB 379 is sponsored by Rep. Bradford Yeager, R-New Port Richey, and gives teachers the authority to establish rules around the use of devices during classroom time. DeSantis stated that students won’t be able to learn while they are on a device and the legislation was just common sense.
HB 1537 was also authored by Rizo and supports new and aspiring teachers. The new law expands the temporary teaching certificate from three years to five years and also eliminates red tape around certification. The Department of Education will be creating a web portal of opportunities for teachers.
HB 1537 includes the establishment of “911 Heroes Day,” which will teach Florida students about the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001 and DeSantis stated that it is important that the next generation is aware of what happened and that those people who sacrificed their lives are honored.