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FEA reacts to DeSantis bonus plan announcement

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Education Association (FEA) was disappointed to learn Thursday that what Gov. Ron DeSantis envisions as a way to properly compensate experienced teachers is another bonus plan.

 “Teachers and all school employees should be paid fair, competitive salaries,” said FEA President Fedrick Ingram. “Our educators do not want another bonus scheme, especially not one built on the back of a flawed school grading system. Bonuses don’t help you qualify for a mortgage; they can’t be counted on from year to year. We know that all too well here in Florida, where adjusting the current bonus plan is almost an annual event.”

The bonus plan announced Thursday and DeSantis’ minimum teacher salary proposal provide no benefit to many of the school employees who provide essential services to students. Despite the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission’s call for more support in addressing mental health needs in our schools, the plans do not appear to account for guidance counselors,school psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals. The plans as outlined also leave out thousands of other employees, including pre-K teachers, librarians, nurses, teacher’s aides, bus drivers, custodians, office personnel and food-service staff.

But the basic fact on bonuses is that they do not work. Merit pay and bonus structures for instructional personnel have been tried again and again both in this country and this state, for decades, without proven success. Florida has tried six bonus programs in the past 13 years. Meanwhile, we face a severe teacher shortage along with shortages of other school employees. Why do we continue to throw money at a failed concept? State dollars would be better spent on an effective strategy for recruiting and retaining educators — overall salary increases.

To overcome years of disinvestment in our public schools, the Florida Education Association is calling for a Decade of Progress, starting with a down-payment of $2.4 billion for public education in the next state budget. Florida currently ranks 43th nationally in funding for public education.

CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055

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The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 145,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees. 

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