Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently unveiled a paycheck protection bill, which already received significant criticism of teachers’ unions in the Sunshine State. For context, paycheck protection is the act of preventing mandatory dues payment from public employees and giving employees the right to opt-out of these paycheck deductions.
The two-term governor announced a Teacher’s Bill of Rights, which not only addressed paycheck protection and included reducing school board members’ terms down to 8 years from 12 years, while investing “$1 billion in teacher pay.”
DeSantis said, “This is a huge package to increase teacher pay, support teacher empowerment and protect teachers’ paychecks by ensuring they have control over their hard-earned salary.” He added, “We want more transparency into how school unions operate, and we are going to fight against school union haggling that holds teachers and their salary increases hostage. Partisan groups should not be given special privileges.”
The proposal requires teachers’ unions to increase their representation percentage to “at least 60% of employees eligible for representation” (increasing the threshold from 50%), annual audits and financial disclosures for unions, and allows state of Florida to investigate unions when they are suspected of waste, abuse, or fraud. DeSantis’s proposal includes:
- Barring unions from deducting dues and assessments,
- Barring union work called “on the clock” while being paid for their taxpayer-funded day job,
- Limiting union officials’ pay,
- Requiring unions to notify members of annual membership dues cost,
- Preventing the distribution of union materials at work,
- Requiring public employees to submit an acknowledgement form, which notes that union membership is optional,
- A ban on benefits from school unions to school board members or school superintendents.
The teachers’ union in Florida, the Florida Education Association (FEA), did not agree with DeSantis’s proposal. FEA is the state affiliate of the National Education Association (NEA) and claimed it has over 150,000 members.
FEA President Andrew Spar said, “While Gov. DeSantis seeks to punish and divide, we seek to unite.” Spar claimed, “Teachers and staff are leaving at an alarming rate, in large part due to the policies implemented under Gov. DeSantis.” He added, “Our schools don’t need to go back to 1950; we need to move forward toward 2050. Florida’s students deserve strong public schools.”
But Spar did not present a case explaining why paycheck protection is not good for teachers or any potential union member. Instead, he relied on rhetoric.