Teachers union disappointed with the scope and rollout of bonuses

Florida teachers and principals will receive bonuses this year, however, other school staff...
Florida teachers and principals will receive bonuses this year, however, other school staff members aren't eligible for the $1,000 checks.
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 2:59 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Roughly 175,000 Florida teachers and 3,600 principles can soon expect $1,000 bonuses in their mailboxes as part of a $200 million investment asked for by the Governor and passed by the Legislature this year. But the union representing Florida teachers is criticizing the fact not all of those who worked to keep schools operating through the pandemic are eligible for the payments.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said he knows the teachers and principals who receive their $1,000 bonuses will appreciate the help.

”The devil’s in the details,” said Spar.

The union argues the 120,000 to 130,000 other school staff members across the state should have been included in the Legislature’s thank you package.

”If this was truly genuine, first of all, the money would have been given to all who work in our schools,” said Spar.

FEA is also critical of the decision to send paper checks, which it blames for a delay in the rollout of the bonuses.

“They could have just sent that money to districts and gotten it out immediately,” said Spar.

House K-12 Appropriations Chair Randy Fine didn’t mince words when we asked him what he thought about the union’s critiques.

“This makes me think real long and hard about whether we want to do anything like this ever again,” said Fine.

FEA also suggested that while the bonuses might be a nice gesture, addressing overall teacher pay would have been a better way to show appreciation. The state ranks 48th in the nation for average teacher salaries. However, the state has invested more than a billion dollars over the past two years to raise starting teacher salaries and Fine not-so-gently reminded the union this year’s bonuses didn’t have to happen.

“This was our effort to do something nice for teachers. If they’re not going to appreciate it we can spend the couple hundred million dollars differently next year,” said Fine.

The union is also concerned teachers who retired or quit prior to June 1st of this year might not be eligible for the bonuses, even if they worked through the pandemic. We reached out to the Governor’s Office for clarification on that point and were referred to the Department of Education, which is in charge of distributing the checks. We didn’t receive a definitive answer in time for this story, but the Governor’s Deputy Communications Director Jason Mahoms provided us with this statement: ”Governor DeSantis has fought to provide much-needed relief and appreciation to our teachers, principals, and first responders. It is disappointing that a union would try to politicize this matter in the media.”