Bay News 9 | by Tim Wronka | April 28, 2021
PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Teachers across Florida are worried by some moves being made by the state legislature.
They’re concerned about a potential end to pensions for new teachers and changes to unions.
What You Need To Know
- Two Florida Senate bills could impact teacher unions and retirement funds
- One prevents unions from collecting dues through automatic deduction
- The other blocks teachers from the state’s pension plan
Don Peace, head of the Pasco County teacher’s union, the United School Employees of Pasco, summed up how many teachers may be watching the session play out.
“It was deemed the year of the teacher by our governor,” Peace said in an interview with Spectrum News. “I think considering all of the things that have happened — and have come out of Tallahassee — I think if you ask teachers if they feel this was a year to celebrate, I think very few would say they feel rewarded this year.”
He’s talking about several bills making their way through the legislature.
Senate Bill 1014 looks to take on teacher unions, prohibiting them from collecting dues with automatic deductions. The Pasco teacher’s union says that could affect how much money comes in.
Senate Bill 84 would block new teachers from the state pension program, instead enrolling them in a 401(k). Those opposed worry that could affect the funds of teachers who have already retired.
The state senator sponsoring SB 84, Ray Wesley Rodrigues (R-Fort Myers), declined an interview. But his office said it’s because the bill, which already passed the Senate, may not pass the House before the legislative session ends this week.
Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Lady Lake), who is sponsoring SB 1014, did not answer a call for comment.
Even if these bills don’t pass, it does send a signal to teachers worried about their jobs and future in Florida.
“Education should not be political in nature. It should not be Republican or Democrat. We should be making decisions because it’s the right move for our students and right thing for employees,” Peace said.
The union leader did thank Gov. Ron DeSantis for pushing for teacher raises. However, he added that not enough has been done for support staff and other school employees.
On Monday, the Florida Senate passed an expansion of the state’s voucher program that Gov. DeSantis will likely sign into law. Critics worry it will shift tax dollars from public schools to private ones.
Many of the bills that don’t pass this week could still make a comeback in future legislative sessions.