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Governor DeSantis proposes 'Teacher's Bill of Rights', raising teachers' pay

TAMPA BAY, Fla. (Tampa Bay Now) - Governor Ron DeSantis announced Monday a legislative proposal to create a Teacher's Bill of Rights to empower educators and invest more in teacher pay. He's proposing $1 billion to continue to increase teacher pay in the 2023-2024 school year. This is an increase of $200 million from the prior year. DeSantis wants to streamline the budget so that it would specifically go toward teacher raises.

"I think it's been long overdue. It means the world to us because for far too long in this country, the profession has felt unappreciated," said Pasco County teacher Josh Smith.

"We have an education financing program a lot of money gets sent down to the school districts and then they figure out what to do with it," said DeSantis. "So you could increase education funding, doesn't mean they're going to raise teacher pay. They may use it for other things. And so when we said is we're going to create a special category for that funding that has to go to raise teacher salaries."

Pinellas County Schools tells Tampa Bay Now that as of November, the starting teacher salary is $50,568 which is higher than the state's starting teacher salary.

Smith says increased funding altogether is extremely important as curriculums rely so heavily on technology.

"We definitely need enough computers for all students and then a lot of schools, there aren't enough laptops," said Smith. "Teachers have to share them. And then in Title 1 schools where you need funding for things like constructional assistance and counselors and school resource officers and things like that that can meet student needs, it all costs money."

DeSantis says the proposed Bill of Rights is meant to empower teachers in their classrooms and enact paycheck protection. He's also proposing to reduce terms for school board members from 12 to 8 years and give the Department of Education authority to open up investigations when students', parents' or teachers' rights are violated.

"At the end of the day, we're here to help. That's our number one goal. That's why we get into this profession and I hope that the community still sees us that way," said Smith.

Combined with this proposal, the state has invested over $3 billion into teacher pay since 2020. School districts can choose how to prioritize the potential new $200 million between veteran teachers, minimum pay or both. All bills and funding requests are subject to approval by the Florida legislature.

For more information on this proposal, click here.

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