OPINION: New education budget proposal benefits students, educators

DeSantis proposes an increase in salary of educators and funding for students, offering a positive, non-partisan front for K-12 education in Florida. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE/SHUTTERSTOCK

Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed an increase in the Florida education budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year on Nov. 10. The proposal de-politicizes education in Florida, and is a positive step to support educators in the state.

The Legislature should approve the proposal to help support public education. Educators and students would both benefit from increased funding, leading to a stronger workforce in the future.

An online announcement from DeSantis proposed raising teacher salaries from $40,000 to $47,500 with additional opportunities for bonuses. The proposal also includes over $400 million for school safety and mental health initiatives.

DeSantis has taken hard — and often controversial — stances on education throughout his time as governor. Most notably, he banned mask mandates in schools through executive order 21-175 in July and endorsed a decision by the Florida Board of Education to stop the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in June.

These controversial moves have wrongly politicized education, leading to legal issues in response to his mask mandates and public backlash against his opinions on CRT, according to the Washington Post. In contrast, the recent proposal offers broad support for educators without specification for funding of any political aspect of education.

The funding increase could improve Florida’s low ranking in K-12 education funding.

While Florida is third in federal K-12 funding, it ranks 43rd in state funding in comparison to other U.S. states, according to the Education Data Initiative. The state is underperforming in funding student success. Non-politicized actions are desperately needed to progress education in Florida.

Universities like USF can benefit from improvements in compulsory education as they accept Florida students into future classes. With a funding increase, K-12 students can graduate with better preparation for the state’s workforce in future generations.

The Legislature should approve DeSantis’ education funding proposal. Real progress can be made in Florida education if politicians continue to advance non-partisan legislation. It’s time to move away from the controversies of mask mandates and into a new era of prioritizing students over politics.

This budget increase will upgrade the education of students in Florida. Bipartisan support from Congress may finally symbolize a unified attempt to solve an issue in schools without political bias. Until approval, the idea of a pay raise will continue to hang over the heads of educators.