(The Center Square) – Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposed budget for fiscal 2023 would devote historic $ 23.9 billion in education funding, of which $ 13.3 billion would go to K-12 public schools serving nearly 3 million Florida students.
DeSantis proposal invest more direct cash payments to teachers and principals in the form of bonuses, increase funding per pupil and prioritize parental rights.
In a second round of cash payments led by DeSantis, the budget would allocate $ 238 million for one-time $ 1,000 bonus checks for Florida’s 179,000 teachers and principals. It would also increase teacher pay with a stipend of $ 600 million, an increase of $ 50 million from last year, with the goal of reaching a minimum wage for teachers of $ 47,500.
The budget plan calls for an increase in per student funding to $ 8,000 per student, the highest amount of per student funding in Florida history.
While the cost per California student is more … than $ 20,000, and students are subject to severe COVID-19 restrictions, including the requirement for a COVID-19 vaccine to attend classes in person, children in Florida remain exempt from such restrictions and warrants.
On the issues of COVID-19 shootings and facial blankets, DeSantis said, “Let parents make the decision that’s best for their children.”
In November, the governor of Florida called a special legislative session to ban masks and vaccines. The legislature has passed bills that DeSantis enacted banning the two as part of Florida’s “freedom agenda.” Florida has also sued the Biden administration over COVID-19 vaccine warrants and forced the US Department of Education to abandon efforts to force Florida schools to impose facial coverage requirements on students.
Although Florida spends less than half of what California spends per student, kindergarten to grade 12 students in Florida ranked third in the country for accomplishments in the last edition of Education Week. Report on quality counts, well above California students who consistently rank among the bottom in terms of academic performance. And while schools nationwide were reporting failing grades in 2020 and falling in their rankings, Florida’s ranking improved from 2019 and received its highest score in ranking history.
“The hard-working teachers and families in Florida have suffered greatly as a result of our response and our recovery and we must thank them for continuing to keep our students on track, to learn and to grow,” the Commissioner said. education Richard Corcoran said of the classification. He argued that the implementation of Florida’s BEST Standards, early learning and literacy initiatives, and supporting struggling schools and at-risk students will help close the achievement gaps and enable Florida students to “become # 1 in the country”.
The budget also aims to allocate $ 421 million for school safety and mental health initiatives. This includes $ 210 million for the Safe Schools program, a proposed increase of $ 30 million over the previous year, and $ 140 million for mental health, a proposed increase of $ 20 million over the previous year. ‘last year. It would also allocate $ 42 million for school strengthening grants and $ 4 million for Jewish school safety initiatives.
To completely eliminate the Florida Standards Assessment and replace it with tracking progress, the budget proposes $ 15.5 million in recurring funding to provide schools with the necessary tracking tools.
“The governor’s decision to end Florida Standards Assessments (FSA) is a perfect opportunity to meet the needs of struggling students in a real and impactful way,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, in a statement. recent editorial published by Orlando Sentinel.
The budget would also prioritize early childhood education by allocating $ 1.4 billion for a range of programs, including more than $ 406 million for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten, a free, high-quality education initiative. which serves approximately 158,000 four- and five-year-olds.
Early years funding includes $ 72 million for the school readiness program, $ 100 million in federal funds to increase reimbursement rates for eligible providers of early learning coalitions and $ 40 million for the funding the performance of all participating school readiness providers. It also includes $ 3.9 million to deliver a high-quality school readiness program directly to parents to help at-risk children.
The budget would also allocate $ 36.4 million to serve approximately 36,000 4-year-old children eligible for preparation for at-risk school through direct support for teaching reading, $ 10 million for scholarships. ‘studies for early childhood educators and $ 1.8 million to connect children and families to early childhood resources. childhood development.
Spar says the budget is not doing enough to retain veteran teachers. He said WCTV News that DeSantis “… clearly recognizes the value of experience. But when it comes to education, he basically says to increase the salaries of beginning teachers at the expense of seasoned teachers and other staff who work in our schools because he has no intention of increasing the salary. salary of those who work in our schools.
He says the legislature must “increase wages and address wage inequalities for teachers and staff in our public schools.” It is foolish to think that there are more than 20 rules and laws that dictate the remuneration of teachers, and it is quite wrong that a teacher with 20-30 years of experience earns less than teachers with the same experience. 10 years ago. We cannot give bonuses to excellent teachers and staff; we need to revise the policies and make a real investment.
When the legislature meets early next year, it will be responsible for approving a budget, as well as authorizing a range of other initiatives, including DeSantis’ proposal to cut taxes by $ 1 billion. of state on gasoline and fuel.