Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed $1,000 bonuses for Florida’s principals and teachers this week, but area teachers union and school boards questioned where the incentive is for the rest of school staff.
On March 31, DeSantis announced the proposal for the bonuses to public school principals and full-time classroom teachers for pre-K through 12th grade to show gratitude for their dedication through a challenging year.
More than 3,600 public school principals and nearly 180,000 full-time classroom teachers across Florida would benefit from the proposal as it stands.
The funding for the bonuses would be $216 million from the third round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
“The past year included so much uncertainty for our state’s students, parents and educators,” DeSantis said in a statement. “In Florida, we knew how important it was for our students to return to school, and our principals and teachers answered the call.”
The proposal, however, led the Charlotte Florida Education Association to question DeSantis’ efforts and the division of faculty and staff members.
“I understand that these are federal monies that the state was supposed to pass through to local districts, but Gov. DeSantis wants to add Tallahassee strings to their use instead of letting local districts use as their needs dictate,” said John Jordan, president on CFEA. “Once again, the governor’s plan leaves out a lot of people like custodians, bus drivers, teacher’s aides, guidance personnel and therapists, to name a few.”
Sarasota Classified Teachers Association President Pat Gardner was pleased with the announcement.
“We are thrilled by the bonus with funds under the federal CARES Act, and we think of support staff as part of our school staff family,” Gardner said.
“I welcome any funds that the governor wants to send our hard working teachers and principals and would ask staff to look to the dollars allocated to the district to give a bonus to the employees the governor’s plan doesn’t cover,” Sarasota County School Board member Shirley Brown. “Our janitors, bus drivers, school nurses and counselors have also had an extra burden to carry due to COVID.”
Charlotte County School Board members have their own thoughts on the proposal.
“I am thrilled about the proposal, because what teachers and staff have done has been heroic,” School Board member Kim Amontree said. “But, his bonuses leave out support staff members. We could not have educated these students effectively without them.”
Vice Chair Cara Reynolds also felt the proposal has potential to benefit all school staff members.
“I am in favor of the additional funds,” Reynolds said. “These teachers have worked incredibly hard over the past year. Yet, they all put their health at risk. There are many people who went into making teaching through the pandemic possible.”