Florida's Ron DeSantis Giving Teachers $1,000 Bonuses Upon Return to Classroom

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is giving public school teachers and principals in the state $1,000 bonuses as a reward for returning to classrooms following pandemic closures.

The governor announced the bonuses at a news conference in Baker County Wednesday and said the funds have been approved by the legislature. The final step is for him to sign the state budget, which he expects to do soon.

"We're proud of the teacher compensation momentum we have, and we're proud of these $1,000 bonuses for principals and for the teachers. We think that when the schools are open, when people are working hard and putting the kids and families first, you know, we want to reward that sacrifice," DeSantis said.

Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran attended the announcement.

About 174,000 teachers will be receiving the bonus checks, as will more than 3,600 public school principals.

"Schools in Florida are open, and we're saying thank you to our hard-working teachers in the classroom," DeSantis wrote on Twitter Wednesday, alongside the announcement.

Schools in Florida are open, and we're saying thank you to our hard-working teachers in the classroom by giving them $1,000 bonuses and raises. #180Days #OpenSchools

Watch live: https://t.co/fXlYaNB77a

— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) May 26, 2021

He said he hopes to sign the state budget within the next couple of weeks, as there are many provisions to go through.

"Hopefully, we can turn that around over the summer. We're working hard on it," he said. "It's a lot of checks, so we got to do it right."

The $1,000 for teachers and principals comes from $216 million from a third round of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, according to DeSantis' website.

In late March, the governor asked the Florida Senate and House of Representatives to include the $216 million in the budget in order to fund the $1,000 bonuses.

DeSantis and Corcoran both expressed their appreciation to teachers who went back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic. "Last summer, we really felt strongly that every parent in Florida needed the ability to send their child to school in person," DeSantis said during the news conference.

"Now, everyone says the kids should be at school. That was not the case then," he added.

He criticized schools across the country that have kept their doors closed to in-person learning.

"I asked the legislature to step up to the plate, recognize a job well done and authorize bonuses of $1,000 for every principal and classroom teacher throughout the state of Florida for school districts and for public charter schools," DeSantis said. "I am happy to report they answered the call."

Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for DeSantis' office, told Newsweek: "The Governor has heard from many teachers about the difficulties of adapting to remote learning, and fortunately, most Florida educators returned to the classroom by August 2020."

Pushaw said that DeSantis believes most children "really need the full in-person schooling experience to flourish academically and socially."

"The Governor emphasized that many families have moved to Florida from lockdown states, to ensure that their children would have access to full in-person education," she added, saying he "is looking forward to a totally normal school year for all students and educators in Florida for 2021-22, with full in person learning and no mask mandates in schools."

Alongside the $1,000 bonuses, Pushaw pointed to DeSantis' additional remarks at the news conference that there is an additional $550 million investment from the state's budget in raising the minimum salary for Florida's teachers.

She said the total package of teacher compensation increases for Florida is $765 million next to the funds allocated for the $1,000 bonuses.

"Last year, Governor DeSantis called for and secured a $500 million investment to raise the minimum salary for teachers, and his Florida Leads budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 includes an additional $50 million to continue raising the minimum salary for Florida's teachers," the news release on DeSantis' proposal for the bonuses included.

DeSantis also said during the news conference that more than 100,000 members of state law enforcement, as well as first responders, will also be given $1,000 bonuses.

Updated 4:20 p.m. ET, to include comments from Pushaw and an additional statement from the news release on DeSantis' proposal on the bonuses.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attends a flag-raising ceremony prior to the Walker Cup at the Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach on May 7. DeSantis is giving public school teachers and principals in the state $1,000 bonuses as a reward for returning to classrooms following pandemic closures. Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images