Representative Spencer Roach and Lindsay Killen
March 20, 2023
Year after year, hundreds of thousands of people move to Florida from other states. Many are lured by the promise of freedom, the bedrock principle of the Sunshine State. And now Gov. Ron DeSantis is delivering on that promise yet again, with policy proposals to expand educational options for families and protect teachers’ paychecks from unions’ money grab.
The governor’s Teacher Bill of Rights outlines bold steps to curb union overreach, freeing teachers to teach. It also establishes guardrails and requirements for union representation. Chief among these is the requirement that teachers be informed that union membership is optional – they are free to decline without fear of losing their jobs. Teachers would also be informed of what membership costs them. In Florida, union dues can cost more than $700 a year, with a portion of that money exported out of state to support the union’s national political agenda.
If teachers do opt to join, the governor’s proposal will require the union to collect dues themselves. For years, dues have been deducted directly from teachers’ paychecks. Unions prefer this method because it benefits them. It’s easy for teachers to forget they’re paying dues every month, much less stop to consider the value they get for their money. And the collection and processing are done on the taxpayers’ dime rather than at the union’s expense. No more, Gov. DeSantis says.
Paycheck protection is a popular policy – not just with teachers but also with the public. A 2019 Poll conducted by The James Madison Institute and Workers for Opportunity revealed that more than 70% of likely voters think the government should have a public employee’s permission before deducting union dues from their paycheck.
The governor’s proposal also strengthens and expands a Florida law requiring a union to stand for election. This process – known as “recertification” – means that a union will not be recognized if employee membership falls below a 50% threshold. Gov. DeSantis’ plan aims to increase that threshold to 60% and create more accountability around how these elections are conducted and reported. The reform will offer teachers more frequent chances to vote on whether they keep their current union or choose a new one.
Yet, these reforms – bold as they are – just scratch the surface of what Gov. DeSantis envisions to protect and empower teachers. His proposal would also free teachers from near-constant union politicking by prohibiting the distribution of union pamphlets and flyers on school grounds.
Across the country, we’ve seen union practices driving a wedge between teachers and students. Whether it’s strikes that keep kids out of school, elongated COVID lockdowns, or having woke propaganda sown into classroom curriculum, teacher’s unions have shown they care more about union bosses and progressive ideology than about educating students – or actually representing teachers.
That’s why, in addition to protecting teachers’ basic freedoms, the governor proposes another much-deserved pay increase for educators. In his Framework for Freedom budget, Gov. DeSantis has requested $1 billion for teacher pay, an increase of $200 million. The governor has, since 2020, overseen the biggest teacher pay increase in Florida’s history.
hat’s critical because our state is growing. Families and parents of small children are migrating to the Sunshine State in droves. Maintaining Florida’s high-quality educational options includes protecting teachers, our classrooms, and our taxpayer funds from the woke politics often propagated by the unions.
As Gov. DeSantis envisions it, Florida’s schoolchildren won’t just grow up learning about American freedom in the classroom. They’ll live it.
Rep. Spencer Roach represents Florida’s 79th House District and chairs the House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law & Government Operations Subcommittee.
Lindsay Killen is the senior national advisor for Workers for Opportunity, a national initiative of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and vice president of national strategy for the James Madison Institute.