Florida Governor proposes new education legislation that could impact teachers unions

Governor Ron DeSantis wants to change how teachers' unions operate in the state.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 6:44 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Governor Ron DeSantis held a press conference on Monday, where he outlined how he said he wants to empower educators within the state.

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Posted by Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday, January 23, 2023

DeSantis referred to his legislative proposal as a teacher’s “Bill of Rights.”

“We want to make sure that teachers that are doing their job well are protected and are able to do that without fear of any reprisal,” Governor DeSantis said.

While the Governor said the bill aims to empower educators, some educators tell NewsChannel 7 that they aren’t happy with some of the legislation.

“I am deeply concerned by the contents of the proposed bill it feels like, several ideas wrapped into a package that in the long run will harm education and be detrimental to the students of Bay County,” Alexis Underwood, former President of the Association of Bay County Educators said.

Detrimental to Underwood because she said the legislation could impact the local teacher’s union. The proposed bill would require clarification that teachers have the choice to join the local union.

“We are a right-to-work state and we have been for decades. In order for a member to join the union they have to complete a form that authorizes the payroll deduction and acknowledges the membership. Of course, they know their members,” Underwood said.

The bill could also impact how dues are paid to the union. The proposal said dues can no longer be deducted from employees’ paychecks.

“The government shouldn’t be in the role of collecting. Why is the government collecting these dues? In today’s day and age dues can be paid but the person needs to be aware that they are participating. How much is being taken from their pay check and what are they getting in return?” Education Commissioner, Manny Diaz said.

“Now we have had payroll deduction in Bay County we negotiated it with the district I believe more than 35 years ago in the same way that the district allows United Way to deduct our donations for United Way. I can purchase annuities and life insurance through payroll deduction,” Underwood said.

Another big change includes the bill increasing the percentage of representation in unions from 50% to 60%, Underwood said the ABCE has around 58%.

“We are close to 60 percent in ABCE we are maybe one and a half percentage points away but it feels like an arbitrary increase designed to make me fail,” Underwood said.

Underwood tells NewsChannel 7, members of the ABCE met and have plans to send people to Tallahassee to try and keep it from passing.

In addition, there are other changes in the bill that would include new term limits for the school board. The current limit is 12 years, Governor DeSantis said he wants to make it 8 years.

This, however, is a proposal and will have to be passed by the state legislature, the meet for regular session in March.