First group of 4,500 teachers receive $3,000 civics bonuses in Florida

(The Center Square) – As teacher shortages persist in states nationwide, Florida continues to expand teacher recruitment and reward teachers with bonuses, following through on several initiatives…

(The Center Square) – As teacher shortages persist in states nationwide, Florida continues to expand teacher recruitment and reward teachers with bonuses, following through on several initiatives launched last year by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Last July, Florida launched Florida’s first ever Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative. This included the state’s first civics program to prepare high school and college graduate for public service.

Polk State College, Broward College, and Florida State College at Jacksonville received $6.5 million in grants to develop what the state hopes will become a national model for civics initiatives. They launched Civics Academies and developed a new Career Pathways for Public Service Initiative to prepare students for public service.

Florida’s Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative also included a three-day Civics Excellence teacher training course last summer for teachers. They developed supplemental materials for civics lessons including the Civics Reading List and the Portraits of Patriotism video series to further student interaction with civics.

The Florida Department of Education created its first ever Civics Seal of Excellence Course for Florida teachers, which launched in January. By March 23 of this year, the first 4,500 teachers had completed the program and received $3,000 bonuses.

These bonuses are in addition to the $1,000 bonuses teachers already received every year over the last two years and in addition to the minimum salary raises teachers received every year now for the fifth year in a row.

The Civics Seal of Excellence Course is roughly 50 hours and teachers have two months to complete it. It consists of a video-based curriculum presented by 53 expert scholars and practitioners with backgrounds in history, government and political science. For most lessons, teachers submit responses and complete interactive assessments.

Enrollment for the course is at capacity with 20,000 teachers who’ve already signed up. Another 14,000 are on the waiting list.

“The U.S. has had a civics education crisis for many years, so Florida has stepped up for our students,” DeSantis said when announcing the first group of teachers who completed the course. “Boosting civics education and engaging our students is the best way to preserve the constitutional foundations that our country was built upon. These $3,000 bonuses provide a strong incentive for Florida teachers to put in the time necessary to take our civics course and earn the Civics Seal of Excellence.”

“A robust civics education is necessary for students to become upstanding citizens,” Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr., said, adding that, “no state has made a more comprehensive effort to prepare its teaching workforce for civics excellence than Florida.”

In 2020, DeSantis created the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative for students to learn about history and compete with their peers. By the end of this school year, Florida expects to have expanded this initiative to students in every county. The first ever national Civics and Debate Championship was held in 2021.

The National Association of Scholars’ Civics Alliance last year launched a new model for curriculum, “American Birthright: The Civics Alliance’s Model K-12 Social Studies Standards,” to teach students “to identify the ideals, institutions, and individual examples of human liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government,” among other things.

The American Birthright draws on several sources, the alliance notes, but one of the most important it says was Florida’s Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Social Studies, 2021 Revised Civics and Government Strand, which reformed social studies standards.

Florida’s “excellent 2021 Revised Civics and Government Strand used a proper pedagogy to teach K-6 students about America, and we have incorporated Florida’s patriotic emphasis into American Birthright,” the alliance says.