TALLAHASSEE, Florida. The governor’s bipartisan goal to strengthen teacher rights is making steady progress in the Florida Senate, passing the second of three committees with another unanimous vote.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in January his “Teachers’ Bill of Rights” plan to enshrine the powers and protections of Florida educators in state law.
“Since I’ve been governor, we’ve been working really hard to put the emphasis on education, really across the board,” DeSantis said at the time.
SB 244 has a list that includes remedies for educators who follow state laws but violate district policy. There is a shield for teachers trying to control a noisy classroom. In addition, the provisions provide for teachers to report violations of their rights to the State Department of Education.
Democrats did have some concerns, despite the bill’s overwhelming support.
“I’ll tell you my negative opinion before I tell you my positive one,” said Sen. Tracey Davis, D-Jacksonville.
Davies said during a committee debate that the wording seemed too broad.
“I’m not sure what else we mean when we talk about violating the rights of a student, parent or teacher in such a broad sense,” Davis said.
There are many other provisions in the bill, but perhaps the most widely used are programs and incentives to put more emphasis on training to combat the state’s growing deficit.
“The tools in this bill create the learning pipeline that is needed to make sure our school district and our kids get what they deserve,” said Sen. Alexis Calatayud, of Miami, who sponsored the bill.
Calatayud highlighted some of these tools in the appropriations subcommittee, such as easing teaching requirements for some, scholarship opportunities, and an apprenticeship program. The last one is what ex-teachers liked during the public comment.
“This mentor I had – he was amazing – really helped me get through those years,” said Keith Calloway, former educator and associate director of the Florida Professional Educators Network. “Helped me get over that ‘hump’ of the first two years where I just didn’t know where I was or what I was doing.”
The bill now moves to its final committee before hitting the Senate floor.
“This is part of a comprehensive policy that we are promoting in this legislative session that supports teachers – Calatayud – and builds the future of our state.”
In the House of Representatives, lawmakers have filed at least one measure containing some of the same provisions as the Senate bill. This means that we may see one bill folded into another, and some changes as the legislative process continues. But with broad support and a governor on board, something is likely to hit his desk.