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FEA: Bonuses won’t fix the educator shortage

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) was one of the most vocal critics of the so-called Best and Brightest teacher bonus program when it was initially proposed, and we see the ideas advanced today as a start toward fixing the discriminatory and unfair provisions of that bad legislation. Gov. DeSantis has addressed some of the FEA’s concerns, such as the program’s use of teachers’ personal college admissions test scores in determining bonuses and its unfairness to minority educators.

The FEA appreciates that the governor has listened and is moving quickly to revamp the program, and we look forward to working with him, Commissioner Richard Corcoran and the Legislature to push harder to solve the widespread teacher and staff shortages facing our public schools. 

As we look forward, the key measure of any proposal is whether it will affect the problem we are trying to solve — whether it will motivate more students to become teachers, attract more qualified applicants to our schools, and help us keep more qualified teachers in classrooms and in front of our students.

“There doesn’t have to be a revolutionary way to solve Florida’s problem with recruiting and retaining teachers,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “We will be urging the governor and the Legislature to go one step further: We need competitive salaries for teachers and education staff.”

Currently, Florida ranks 45th in the nation for teacher salaries. Pay for our education staff professionals ranks 47th. Our teachers and staff deserve better, and our students deserve qualified, dedicated teachers and staff in their schools.

Florida has engaged for decades in bonus pay schemes for educators, but we have more classrooms than ever without qualified teachers, we have churn with new teachers entering and then quickly exiting the profession, and we have critical teacher shortage areas.

The FEA believes that — no matter where they work, what they teach, what role is played in our schools – the best and brightest answer to the problem is to pay teachers and staff the salaries they deserve.

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