DeSantis announces 3 proposed initiatives aimed at Florida teacher recruitment, retention

Teachers union say proposals aren't enough
DeSantis teacher proposals NPR.png
Posted at 9:34 AM, Aug 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-17 05:36:19-04

NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced three initiatives aimed at recruiting and retaining teachers in Florida, which will be proposed during the next legislative session.

DeSantis said the initiatives include:

  • Governor's recruitment program which will focus on veterans and first responders with bachelor's degrees
    • Will waive exam fees
    • Those who take part will be eligible for a $4,000 bonus and another $1,000 depending on the subject they teach
  • Teacher apprenticeship program
    • Allow Floridians with an Associates Degree to get experience in the classroom under another teacher for two years, then go on to get their Bachelor's Degree
    • Mentor gets $4,000 for every apprentice
  • New scholarship program to help current high school teachers to earn a Master's Degree to teach dual enrollment classes at their current schools


DeSantis announced the proposals from River Ridge High School in New Port Richey.

Pasco County Schools entered the first week of classes with 350 teacher vacancies. Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning said one week later, 195 openings remain.

"Which is much better, not as good as where we were this time last year," he said. "I believe that the initiatives that the governor is proposing today will go a very long way to helping us recruit and retain great teachers in Pasco classrooms."

Hillsborough Classroom Teacher's Association President Rob Kriete said the governor's plans are focused in the wrong direction.

"We love our veterans, and we love our first responders. We would argue that our teachers and support professionals are already first responders, doing what they can for our students every single day and that they need to be paid what they deserve," said Kriete.

Kriete said Hillsborough County is down roughly 900 teachers. He said the key to get them back is better pay and more time to focus on their job.

"The job is more difficult than ever before. I mean, the mental health challenges that students are exhibiting puts more pressure on our employees, our teachers, and support professionals," he added. "Those that are actually working in the schools are working wall to wall. They're not getting a period off where they could actually work on their lesson plans or grade papers. They're exhausted, so people are leaving the field."

Kriete said the answer isn't to borrow workers from other professions.

"We train teachers through the programs that we have in the district, through the state certifications, and quite frankly, through our universities to get prepared for that. Whether that is in how we operate our classroom, how we design our lessons, and how we actually diagnose and help each student in the classroom. That's much more nuanced and difficult than maybe the governor actually understands," Kriete added.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Sparr mirrored Kriete's sentiments and said this announcement is too little, too late.

"What the governor should be talking about is instead of waiting till the next legislative session, he should be talking about what he's going to do today," Sparr said.

Sparr agreed teacher pay is a high priority. Florida ranks 48th in the nation for teacher pay.

But DeSantis said his administration has taken great strides to increase pay.

"We have done the largest teacher pay increases in the history of Florida over the last two to three years. And we focused a lot of that on increasing the average minimum salary across the state of Florida. Three years ago, it was barely $40,000. Now with the budget we just enacted, the average minimum salary throughout the state will be over $48,000," DeSantis said.

"In 2010, the average teacher pay ranked 36th in the nation. Today we rank 48th. While average teacher pay ranks 48th in the nation, beginning teacher pay has actually gone up to 16 in the nation, which means he's literally taken money out of the pockets of experienced teachers and giving it to those just coming into the profession," said Sparr.

Florida's 2023 legislative session starts on March 7.