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Why some Florida teachers aren't happy with DeSantis' proposal to give every teacher a $1K bonus

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a proposal to give all principals and teachers in Florida a $1,000 bonus as soon as possible.

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Our educators have been challenged in ways they never imagined. And, after more than one year into this pandemic, they're still finding ways to connect with and educate students, whether it be in person, online, or both.

Thanks to their resilience and flexibility, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he's proposing the Florida legislature dedicate millions of dollars from the latest federal stimulus go directly to bonuses for teachers and principals across the state of Florida.

RELATED: Gov. DeSantis asking Florida lawmakers for $1,000 bonuses for educators

DeSantis is requesting $1,000 for each full-time teacher, similar to his proposal last month for law enforcement and first responders.

The governor's announcement was met with a round of applause at Palm Harbor University High School, the location he announced his proposal, after three Pinellas County teachers addressed the audience, sharing stories of perseverance and learning successes they've witnessed despite the challenges they faced over the last year.

One of the teachers advocated for standardized testing, saying it's more important than ever to measure where students are at.

However, not all teachers are happy about the extra cash.

"My initial feeling is, anytime you can reward hard working people in our school, that’s a good thing. Bonuses are never ideal. We would always like it to be as part of our salaries so we can count on it from year to year," said Branden Lane, a testing coordinator in Polk County.

In 2020, DeSantis signed a bill that brought the state of Florida from 26th to 5th in the nation when it comes to teacher pay. The bill heightened the base pay for teachers to at least $47,500 per year.

Lane isn't sure he would even qualify for a bonus because he doesn't teach daily in the classroom. He believes this proposal leaves behind a lot of integral people in our schools.

"Unfortunately we have a lot of people on our campuses, and even people who are not on our campuses, supporting our students and our schools who don’t stand a chance to benefit as part of this bonus," Lane said.

The Florida Education Association (FEA), the largest teachers' union in the state of Florida, was quick to criticize the proposal. Andrew Spar, FEA President told 10 Tampa Bay, "The governor is playing politics."

Part of the statement the Florida Education Association released said:

The money would come from the federal Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief, or ESSER, funds passed by Congress in response to Covid. FEA asserts that use of the funds should be left up to our school districts. It is not appropriate for the governor to continue to interfere with local district priorities.

10 Tampa Bay obtained allocation estimates developed by the House Oversight & Reform Committee to break down how much money school districts in the Tampa Bay area will be getting from Elementary and Secondary Emergency Education Relief as part of the American Rescue Plan.

The overall package designates about $130 billion for K-12 education. Here is the estimated breakdown in Tampa Bay:

Hillsborough: $500 million

Polk: $293 million

Pinellas: $178 million

Pasco: $131 million

Manatee: $86 million

Sarasota: $69 million

This a flexible pot of funding that allows local educational agencies to spend funding at their discretion, including hiring teachers, purchasing computers and internet devices, supporting homeless youth, purchasing cleaning supplies, etc.

The governor's recent proposal for teacher bonuses takes money from this federal pot, a move some educators think overreaches his expertise.

"Decisions about what’s happening in our public schools are best left to the professionals, the educators, the administrators, parents, students, that’s what’s best," said Spar.

We reached out to Tampa Bay school districts about how their leaders plan on spending that stimulus money. Most districts don't know when they're getting it and how they'll be allowed to spend it but it will likely have to be approved by local school boards.

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