DeSantis blasts teachers’ unions, proposes paycheck protection for teachers

Gov. Ron DeSantis has big plans for Florida’s teachers – and teachers’ unions – in 2023.

On Monday, DeSantis hosted a “Freedom Blueprint” conference in Orlando, Florida where he announced his plans to increase and protect teachers’ wages without enriching teachers’ unions.

“We are going to continue to work to provide increases in teacher pay. We’re going to increase teacher recruitment,” said DeSantis. “What we don’t want is that money going to teachers’ unions.”

The governor said if teachers chose to join a union, the government would not be responsible for deducting union dues from their paychecks. Instead, teachers would pay their monthly dues themselves.

“We don’t want to play a role in deducting anybody’s money,” DeSantis explained.

He also mentioned Karla Hernandez, a teachers’ union executive and recent running mate of Charlie Crist, noting her six-figure salary is an example of the disparity between unions and the teachers they are supposed to represent. 

The average Florida teacher’s salary for 2020–21 was $49,583, according to the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics. In contrast, the Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, has 43 employees making more than $100,000 annually. The president and other high-ranking employees make more than $200,000 per year. 

The Capitolist calculated these six-figure salaries total $5.6 million, roughly a quarter of all union dues in the state. 

DeSantis’ proposal comes amid reports of teachers fleeing unions. In Florida, FEA lost 4,500 members – a 3.3% decrease in 2021-22. 

The state is also suffering from the nationwide teacher shortage, with at least 9,000 teacher and school staff vacancies across the state. 

DeSantis reiterated his plan to increase teacher pay, saying he hopes to accomplish “the biggest increase for teachers that we’ve ever done in Florida in this coming legislative session.” 

Paycheck protection will guarantee that pay increases go to teachers, he said, instead of being “frittered away by interest groups who get involved into the school system.” 

As The Lion previously reported, teachers’ unions are notoriously partisan. FEA is no exception. During the 2022 elections, FEA endorsed 62 candidates for the state legislature – 57, or 92%, of whom were Democrats.  

In his remarks, DeSantis also expressed optimism his proposed changes would be well-received by lawmakers.  

“I think those will be really, really positive reforms,” the governor concluded.