Consider Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) underwhelmed. As we continue to watch Ron DeSantis engage in newspeak, we see his latest offering in what he deems as a Bill of Rights for teachers.
What does the governor offer in his proposed legislation?
- Teachers have the right to not join a union. By virtue of accepting a job, teachers will not be forced to become a member of the local bargaining unit. However, Florida is already a right-to-work state and teachers cannot be forced to join and pay dues to the local teacher’s union. No new law is necessary.
- Teachers have the right to not have union dues deducted from their paychecks. But they already cannot be compelled to join the union. If they do, a paycheck deduction is the most convenient way to pay the cost of a voluntary membership. This right is not a right at all. It is union-busting as DeSantis and his Republican buddies hope that while people maintain a membership, they will neglect to pay dues and that will bankrupt the unions.
- Teachers have the right to increased compensation. He didn’t really say this, but the Governor is proposing to earmark additional funding for teacher salaries, this time not to raise the minimum (starting) salary, but for districts to apply to pay schedules in their discretion. It’s interesting that the Governor is finally doing something to address the chief teacher criticism of his salary appropriations in that veteran teachers have been ignored and most now make little more than rookies.
- Pay particular attention to this one. We know DeSantis and how he operates. Veteran teachers will see this as money for them and meant for the upper levels of the pay schedule. But those with little experience will hardly look kindly on missing out on new funding. This one is meant to create dissension among the ranks of teachers.
- Fun fact: After school districts and collective bargaining units negotiate and agree upon a contract, the pay schedules require approval from the state before they can go into effect.
- Teachers have the right to speedy contract negotiations. One of DeSantis’s complaints about the collective bargaining process is that some districts are taking too long and haven’t come to agreement about the 2022 appropriation. He cites districts like St. Johns County in northeast Florida. But that union did negotiate an agreement with the St. Johns County School Board. It was the rank and file, the actual teachers, that rejected it and told their union to go back to the table. So much for DeSantis’s appeal to teachers that it’s not you, it’s your union.
- Teachers have the right not to have their school be a focus of union activity and politicizing during school hours. It seems that would be an employer right, not an employee right, but for the record, union activity cannot take place during the school day, not even during teacher’s planning periods. No new law is needed.
- Teachers have the right to have their school board members limited to eight years of service in place of the existing twelve. Maybe this is an issue worth discussing, but working it into a speech about teacher’s rights is a stretch.
- Teachers have the right to partisan school board races. Again, maybe this issue is worth discussing, especially if it makes the political parties conduct a primary and the two candidates face off for the November vote, but it is a stretch to put it in the context of teacher rights.
- Teachers have the right to see their union decertified if less than 60% are participating members. Let GOT rephrase that. Teachers have the right to suffer union-busting tactics from the government. Minority rule! Not surprising this is coming from the Republicans who haven’t won the popular vote in a presidential election since 2004 and before that, 1988.
- Teachers have the right for restriction of their union officers’ compensation. No union official would be allowed to make more than the highest-paid teacher. Yet again, maybe this is worthy of discussion, but it’s not the government’s business to discuss compensation of a voluntary NGO’s employees. Would DeSantis propose legislation to limit the compensation of corporate CEOs? Of course not.
- Teachers have the right to ‘stand their ground’ (yes, he really used those words) in maintaining order and safety in their classrooms. The topic of school safety and classroom management deserve a post of their own. Let’s limit ourselves to noticing that DeSantis was making these proposals at a charter school. Has he ever visited a traditional public school for one of these announcements? Probably not, those schools are too busy educating students to tolerate an interruption for political purposes.
The above list was compiled from these sources among others: The Florida Times-Union, The Capitolist, and The Tampa Bay Times, here and here.
If you’ve made it this far, you have to be wondering how these are teacher rights. They are not; they are another example in the newspeak manner of how Ron DeSantis runs the (not-so) Free State of Florida.
Here’s a homework assignment for you. Look up the original Bill of Rights and then match each of the first ten amendments against what Florida teachers may think, say, and do in and out of their classrooms. It will be illuminating and disturbing.