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In Jacksonville, DeSantis proposes more teacher bonuses and $15M to replace standardized testing in budget

Governor Ron DeSantis and education commissioner Richard Corcoran at a Jacksonville charter school November 10, 2021.
Claire Heddles
Governor Ron DeSantis and education commissioner Richard Corcoran at a Jacksonville charter school November 10, 2021.

Gov. Ron DeSantis in Jacksonville Wednesday announced another round of $1,000 checks for teachers and principals will be in his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.

He also wants to put $15.5 million toward replacing the state’s standardized tests, the FSA. If lawmakers pass the legislation DeSantis wants, schools will start using a progress monitoring system instead that has more frequent, less high-stakes student evaluations.

“That will be recurring funding because the progress monitoring tools are more interactive,” DeSantis said. “They're more nimble. They provide more feedback in ways that are helpful for parents and teachers and for students.”

DeSantis said per-pupil state funding is $8,000 in his proposed budget. Florida is ranked in the bottom 10 states for overall funding per student, according to the Census Bureau.

DeSantis was joined by Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran at the Jacksonville Classical Academy charter school, touting their support for charters, which are public schools that are privately run instead of being overseen by the local school board.

“I'd be remiss if I didn't thank these legislators who have, under the governor and the Legislature, of the largest expansion of school choice in the history of the state,” Corcoran said.

Gov. DeSantis chose the same charter school last year to decry virtual learning during the COVID pandemic.

For the third year in a row, Gov. Ron DeSantis is also planning to raise base salaries for teachers. He’s proposing $600 million to boost teachers’ starting salaries to $47,500.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said he thinks this will attract great educators to the state.

“Now you're gonna have all these people who want to come to Florida because they're going to get the best compensation and be in an environment where you have great accountability of great choice,” Corcoran said. “It's a game changer.”

But the state’s largest teacher’s union, Florida Education Association, has a different priority. The union is calling on the governor and Legislature to give experienced teachers long-term contracts rather than focus on recruiting less experienced ones.

The National Education Association ranked Florida 47th in the country for average teacher pay in the 2019-2020 school year.

Meanwhile, the state withheld more than $26,000 from Duval Public Schools last month over its student mask mandate. The Education Department said it would disburse those funds after the district allowed parents to opt out for any reason, which it now does.

Claire joined WJCT as a reporter in August 2021. She was previously the local host of NPR's Morning Edition at WUOT in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her time in East Tennessee, her coverage of the COVID pandemic earned a Public Media Journalists’ Association award for investigative reporting. You can reach Claire at (904) 250-0926 or on Twitter @ClaireHeddles.