DeSantis Reenvisions Teacher Bonus Program, And Title I Schools Have Most To Gain

Nov 14, 2019

Governor Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran announced a new program that would offer thousands of dollars in bonuses to teachers and principals at schools that show improvement under the state’s grading system.

Teachers and principals at schools that improve between one and six percentage points under the state’s grading system would be eligible for the bonuses ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 dollars.

DeSantis says teachers and principals at high-performing Title I schools, where most students receive free or reduced-cost lunches, would earn additional awards on top of that.

“We are trying to incentivize teachers and principals to be willing to go to and remain at Title I schools which are some of the schools that are in more low income areas but that have some of the greatest need.”

The Florida Education Association says the proposal does not go far enough and describes the program as a cheap and short-term solution to the state’s teacher shortage. 

President Fedrick Ingram says he’d rather see salary raises across the board.

“One of the main reasons that we continue to lose teachers in Florida is because teachers can’t afford to live on one paycheck, or one job, simply because lawmakers have not done right by teacher compensation.”

United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats is skeptical about whether and how the Legislature will fund DeSantis’ priorities.

The price tag for DeSantis’ teacher salary and bonus proposals is nearly $1 billion. Republican leaders in both houses of the Legislature have questioned whether the state can afford it.

Hernandez-Mats also pointed to a proposed constitutional amendment from state Sen. Manny Diaz, Jr., a Republican from Hialeah who chairs the Senate education committee. His plan would cap school property taxes for people 65 and older who have owned their homes for at least 25 years.

“So you have a senator that’s talking about taking away funding for education, and you have a governor that’s talking about increasing funding for education,” Hernandez-Mats said. “We really don’t know where this is coming from.”

WLRN reporter Jessica Bakeman contributed reporting.