April 2, 2023

SCHOOL BULLY: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is targeting teachers in his latest culture war idiocy

FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY: Gov. Ron DeSantis spent HOW MUCH taxpayer money on this?

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Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) continues his all-out assault on the state’s educators by proposing a new plan that could make it harder for teachers to join unions and remain unionized.

The wannabe dictator announced his “Freedom Blueprint” plan for education on Monday, promising that he’d sign the legislation into law that significantly increased educator pay – but at the expense of union protections, a move loudly condemned by the state’s largest teacher’s union, the Florida Education Association.

“It puts big government between educators and their constitutionally guaranteed right to join in union to advocate for their students and profession,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said in 2021, Business Insider reported.

Though the governor has used semantics to push his anti-teacher proposal – referring to it as “paycheck protection” for educators – he betrays his claims that the Republican plan would “be a more accurate reflection of who wants to be a part of this or not” by turning around and saying that teachers who chose not to pay union dues should lose their certification, according to Insider.

DeSantis and teacher’s unions have been at odds since the peak of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.

Tired of the governor playing culture war games with the lives of educators and students, teachers pushed back against the anti-mandate advocate’s policies punishing those who chose people over politics and enacted Covid-19 protections.

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While Florida ranks 16th in the nation for teacher pay with an average starting salary of $44,040, the average salary overall ranks near the bottom – coming in at 48th out of the 50 states, according to the National Education Association website.

The claim that the issue of teacher pay and payment of union dues is rebutted by the FEA, with educator salaries being a part of the state budget.

Republican attacks on the teaching profession have been consistent and ongoing.

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In April 2021, state Senator Ray Rodrigues (R-FL-27) introduced a bill that would close Florida’s pension system to teachers hired after July 1, 2022.

Instead, new hires would be required to enroll in the less stable Florida Retirement System Investment Plan – while excluding first responders, law enforcement officers, and firefighters from the new law had it passed the legislature.

Criticized by the Florida Retired Educators Association, the group released a statement saying the “legislation is fiscally irresponsible, would damage the education workforce and plays favorites among sectors of the workforce, Pensions & Investments wrote.

According to Florida Political Review, the GOP’s plan to remove teachers from the security of the Florida Retirement system was little more than an “an ideological crusade that has nothing to do with the facts,” a spokesman for the Florida AFL-CIO, Rich Templin, said.

“The people making these decisions fundamentally do not understand how pensions work,” Templin added.

The teaching profession has taken a large hit in the previous years and Florida students are paying the price.

A report on the state’s teacher shortage by the Florida Education Association shows the deficit in educator vacancies nearly tripled since 2016.

In 2016, there were a reported 2,400 advertised vacancies for teaching staff, but by August 2016 there were over 6,000 – not including support staff.

In a failed attempt to pander to the veteran community, Gov. DeSantis recently announced a program to allow former servicemen and women to step into the role of an educator without needing to have the necessary qualifications mandated of traditional educators.

Senate Bill 896, which passed both the Republican-controlled state legislative chambers, will give the Florida State Board of Education authority to allow military veterans with a service history of at least four years, to obtain a teaching certificate without a bachelor’s degree for five years.

This bill lowers the bar without addressing the underlying reasons behind the shortage – low pay, low morale, lack of support, and being on the receiving end of an ever-moving goalpost of rules and restrictions handicapping the ability of teachers to provide a consistent and positive learning environment for their students.

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Six months after DeSantis revealed his disastrous plan, Occupy Democrats reported the program was an ultimate failure, with only seven veterans showing up to take advantage of the governor’s offer.

The latest announcement by Florida’s fascist ruler is in line with the Republican push to privatize public education.

So-called voucher programs sold to voters under the guise of parental choice have siphoned tens of millions from the public school system and seeking to deprive the students who need it most, of quality education.

Original reporting by Kimberly Leonard at Business Insider. 

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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