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Floridas DeSantis announces $1.25B teacher pay hike

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(The Center Square) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference in Hialeah on Monday to announce $1.25 billion for teacher salary increases.

DeSantis said the funds for teacher salary hikes are earmarked in the budget over the next five years and pointed out that Florida has ranked tops overall in education by U.S. News and World Report for the past two years.

Since 2019, Florida lawmakers have appropriated $4 billion in teacher pay raises, which has increased starting teacher pay by nearly $10,000.

DeSantis noted that this was likely because of Florida’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw other states completely shut down in-person teaching for up to a year and a half. DeSantis pointed out that they approached the situation rationally rather than following the “direction of partisan school unions.”

“In Florida, we said, you know what? Kids need to be back in school,” DeSantis said. “I think we had the highest percentage, 99 to 100% in-person education in the 2020-2021 school year. And yet, some other states that had half the kids, had no access to in-person education.”

DeSantis said that the decision to keep Florida schools open during the pandemic was met with much opposition. Florida’s school union sued, according to DeSantis and also took part in demonstrations against keeping schools open.

“I know there were demonstrations here in Miami, with the school union here trying to say all the kids were gonna die,” DeSantis said. “That was wrong what they were doing; that was politics and putting ideology and their own interests ahead of the interests of students.”

DeSantis added that if the school unions had got their way, the Sunshine State would not be the top state in the U.S. for education and further noted that it was the unions, not the teachers, who wanted schools to remain closed.

“We’ve worked really hard to deliver salary increases,” DeSantis said. “Since 2019 to the present, we’ve had by far the biggest increase in teacher compensation that has ever happened in the history of the state of Florida.”

Florida Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said he is happy to work with a leader like DeSantis, who prioritizes students’ needs.

“In just the last two years, we have put parental rights back in education, we have removed dangerous and divisive rhetoric like critical race theory, diversity, equity and inclusion and we have made tremendous investments,” Diaz said.