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DeSantis’ school bonuses should go to all school staff, Lee County Teachers Association president says

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants state lawmakers to approve $1,000 bonuses for teachers and principals, but Lee County’s teacher union President thinks the proposal should include other staff members.

DeSantis said the bonus would serve as a way to thank teachers and principals for their work during the pandemic.

“If we want to talk about having some sort of reward or thank you to people who are in public schools I think it’s everybody,” said Kevin Daly, president of the Teachers Association of Lee County.

Daly said people who made the school year a successful one will not get a bonus under DeSantis’ proposal.

The proposal only includes full-time Pre-K through twelfth-grade public school teachers and principals and leaves out staff like nurses, counselors and bus drivers.

It would cost about $216 million to pay out the bonuses which would come the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund which falls under the federal CARES Act.

“It’s the districts who are supposed to be choosing how to spend these dollars and that will enable us to negotiate perhaps more than $1,000 and also to cover the people who he is neglecting by having such a narrow definition of classroom teacher,” Daly said.

If the Florida legislature approves the governor’s proposal, checks will go out to 180,000 full-time classroom teachers and 3,600 public school principals.

Daly said bonuses are welcomed by teachers and principals but they won’t address the
teacher shortage which has been an issue in Lee County.

The shortage has only gotten worse because of the pandemic.

Daly said many teachers took a leave of absence out of concern for their health and safety which put more pressure on teachers and school staff who remained.

Daly said the bonus is an interesting idea but more has to be done to address teacher shortages.

“If their goal with the bonus is to stop the teacher shortage, it hasn’t worked because we’ve labored under different bonus ideas for 10 or 15 years and we still have a chronic teacher shortage and honestly a chronic staff shortage,” Daly said.

Daly said professional respect and higher salaries are two ways to retain more talent. DeSantis signed legislation last year bumping up the base pay for teachers to $47,500.

But Daly said more has to be done to increase pay for more experienced teachers and school support staff.

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Melissa Montoya
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