The Florida teacher bonus was put into place last school year and it looks like it is back heading into school starting this year
The public education system has taken its lumps over the last couple of years with more and more teachers leaving the profession and some schools struggling to hire and retain enough staff prior to the start of the 2022-2023 school year. It’s meant some districts and states having to incentivize current teachers to stay and recruit soon-to-be teachers into the profession. One of those plans has been to provide either hiring bonuses for new folks or retention bonuses for those already in the gig. The Florida teacher bonus is one such measure, meant to go out for this school year across the state to those who qualify.
Let’s take a look at the Florida teacher bonus, who is able to get one, who might have received one already, and what it actually cost to put these in teachers’ mailboxes.
WHAT IS THE FLORIDA TEACHER BONUS?
Governor Ron DeSantis announced last year that there would be a Florida teacher bonus going out as part of a proposal to increase teacher pay and incentivize current educators to stick around the gig for another year. There had already been a first round of these Florida teacher bonuses for the 21-22 school year which went out to some administrators as well.
In all, there are about 177,000 teachers and administrators in the Florida public school systems and DeSantis was also, at the time, proposing that the state raise its education budget by $50 million to $600 million in order to begin raising the base starting pay for teachers to around $47,500. Whether the larger initiative has the desired effect remains to be seen. The states, and really the country are fighting issues on a number of different public education fronts right now.
WHO QUALIFIES FOR THE FLORIDA TEACHER BONUS?
All classroom teachers qualified last year for the Florida teacher bonus and that is the plan with this year’s as well. There was some haggling around eligibility when it came to retired teachers for those who resigned last year, but according to the Florida Educational Association, if teachers taught all the way through until the last day then they qualified.
Substitute teachers do not qualify for the Florida teacher bonus and certain administrators don’t as well. It appears that the Florida teacher bonus was meant for teachers working directly with students throughout the school day.
Additionally, there were questions raised about other teachers who may or may not qualify. According to the Florida Department of Education, Pre-K teachers funded through Title I, and private school teachers working with a state scholarship do not qualify for the Florida teacher bonus.
THE FLORIDA TEACHER BONUS COST WHAT?
Apparently, the Florida teacher bonus checks had begun going out to educators in August, prior to the school year. According to the FEA, not all had received the checks as of this writing but the plan was for all who remained eligible to be included in this round.
But of possibly bigger concern here is just how much the round of Florida teacher bonus checks might have cost the state. Additional updates from the FEA claim that the decision to send the checks through the mail rather than just increasing school budgets to handle the increase in salary might have really cost the state a pretty penny. Their calculation has it that by privatizing the Florida teacher bonus check process, the overall cost is more than $3.5 million dollars. That’s a staggering amount all things considered.
There are some reasons why sending the money directly to the schools wasn’t the most prudent option, but it mostly has to do with how budgets are calculated. Otherwise, the extra administrative payment made to privatize the process does seem a curious one.
WILL THERE BE ENOUGH FLORIDA TEACHERS?
Despite the Florida teacher bonus going out this summer for a second consecutive year, there is mounting concern about the overall teacher shortage in the state. The Florida Department of Education released some areas of concern heading into the school year with some subjects reaching a critical level in the state. They’ve said that English, Exceptional Student Education (ESE), Science, Reading, Math, and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) remain in needed supply. It’s almost like they could have released which subjects were fine because this kind of feels like the whole school list.
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And it isn’t just Florida where there seems to be a teacher shortage. It’s become a nationwide issue coming out of the pandemic which saw mass attrition from the profession for a variety of reasons. It’s part of why the Floriday teacher bonus was put in place. To retain who was still there. In Florida, there remain more than 8,000 open teacher positions with the school year only a few weeks away.
Education and teacher associations have argued that in the current job market, the starting salaries in the teaching profession just aren’t matching the private world and that’s leading to fewer job applicants and others just leaving and switching careers. This combined with a number of Covid-19 restrictions put in place over the years has the number of teacher vacancies reaching a tipping point throughout the country.
Other states and districts have rolled out incentives like the Florida teacher bonus, but the results have been mixed in terms of keeping the school numbers viable. Many schools could struggle severely with staffing this year with salary and compensation being just a couple of the major reasons.