DeSantis rolls out education budget priorities, including more teacher bonuses

Andrew Atterbury

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday unveiled key pieces of his plan to pump millions of dollars into K-12 education for the 2022-23 school year in an early budget proposal that includes another round of $1,000 bonuses for teachers and principals.

The Republican governor is preparing to ask the Florida Legislature for a record amount of per-student spending in the upcoming session and money for major priorities such as improving teacher pay and replacing the state’s standardized testing system.

“Our education budget is going to have a lot of wins for families, for students and for teachers,” DeSantis told reporters at an event inside a Jacksonville charter school.

Breaking it down: With Florida sitting on some $10 billion in reserves and revenue projections improving, DeSantis wants the state to inject some of that money into the education system.

DeSantis is proposing that Florida spend $8,000 per student next school year, a rate that would mark a $205 increase over current-year spending. Comparatively, funding rose by about $39 per student for the 2021-22 school year.

That request includes asking lawmakers to raise the base student allocation by $124 per pupil in the budget, more than doubling the increase approved last year for the most flexible spending bucket available for schools.

More for teachers: Additionally, DeSantis wants Florida to spend $600 million specifically on teacher pay as part of his goal to boost the minimum starting salary for educators to $47,500 across the state. This ask is $50 million above current-year spending and would be the second consecutive increase to the funding, which DeSantis originally pushed for in 2020-21.

DeSantis also is looking to award $1,000 bonuses to teachers and principals again next year, doubling up on what was a significant priority in 2021. The $216 million bonus program benefiting about 180,000 teachers was bankrolled with federal Covid-19 relief from the Biden administration.

The DeSantis education budget includes $15.5 million to overhaul Florida’s school accountability system, which is likely to be one of the most pressing K-12 issues during session. DeSantis is leading the charge for Florida to dump its current standardized testing program for a progress-monitoring operation that would gauge students three times annually instead of once toward the end of the school year.

What else: Other DeSantis budget asks of note:

— $421 million for school safety and mental health initiatives
— $65 million for bonuses to teachers who earn a civics certification
— $534 million for local school and state college workforce programs