VERO BEACH, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis outlined a new plan on Thursday to increase teacher and principal bonuses at Florida schools, especially for those in low-income areas.
Speaking at Vero Beach High School, the governor said he wants to make $300 million in improvements to Florida's Best & Brightest Award Program.
"That will let us recruit more people to become teachers, it will allow us to retain more, but it also, for the current teachers we have, would be a pay increase for over 100,000 teachers," said Gov. DeSantis.
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The governor said that, using a revised model based on school grades and improvement, teachers and principals would be eligible for three tiers of bonuses.
"We are trying to incentivize teachers and principals who are willing to go to and remain at Title I schools, which are some of the schools in more low-incomes areas that have some of the greatest need," said the governor.
Under the proposed changes, teachers in Title I schools would be eligible for a maximum bonus of $7,500, and principals would be eligible for a $10,000 maximum bonus.
For non-Title I schools, teachers would be eligible for a maximum bonus of $3,700, and principals would be eligible for a $5,000 maximum bonus.
"We think that actually will help increase student achievement," said the governor. "I think it's gonna reward those folks who are working hard for our students."
Back in October, Gov. DeSantis announced a proposal to increase the minimum salary for teachers across the state to $47,500.
According to the governor's office, this would affect more than 101,000 teachers statewide.
Currently, the starting teacher pay in Florida is $37,636, which is 26th in the nation, according to the National Education Association.
Gov. DeSantis is asking the State Legislature to approve an addition $600 million in education spending to increase the minimum salary for teachers.
The Florida Education Association is concerned with where the money will come from, and that will be addressed in the next Legislative Session, which starts in January.
"Our educators don't want another bonus scheme, especially not one built on the back of a flawed school grading system," said the Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram. "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 FL, where adjusting the current bonus plan is almost an annual event."
Education has been a top priority for Gov. DeSantis since he took office in January.
Earlier this year, he announced a plan to eliminate Florida's controversial Common Core program, which will remain in place until at least Jan. 1, 2020.
In February, he laid out a proposal to offer more scholarship opportunities to students with special needs.
Then in April, he outlined his goal to clear the wait list for Florida's Tax Credit Scholarship program. The program is designed to give low-income students better educational opportunities that they normally wouldn't get because of limited financial resources.