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Teacher pay a centerpiece of DeSantis budget for Florida

Teacher pay a centerpiece of DeSantis budget for Florida

Teacher pay a centerpiece of DeSantis budget for Florida

Teacher pay a centerpiece of DeSantis budget for Florida

Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing a $1 billion injection into Florida's public education system in the upcoming fiscal year, money that would largely go toward pay increases as the state deals with a teacher shortage.

After dubbing next year the "Year of the Teacher," DeSantis has made two major teacher-compensation packages the centerpiece of his education spending plan for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.


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The governor's overall $26.99 billion proposed education budget --- the second biggest slice of his $91.4 billion spending plan --- also includes funding issues such as school security and mental-health services. The $26.99 billion total includes public schools and higher education.

"Of course, as many of you know, education has been probably our top issue that we have been talking about in the last couple of months," DeSantis told reporters Monday, when he unveiled the budget proposal.

The proposal is an initial step as lawmakers prepare to negotiate a 2020-2021 budget during the legislative session that starts Jan. 14.

The governor's biggest teacher-pay proposal would require the Legislature to set aside $603 million to raise minimum salaries of classroom teachers to $47,500 a year.

Also, the governor is pitching a new $300 million bonus program for classroom teachers and principals. DeSantis wants the program to replace the controversial "Best and Brightest" bonus program, which the Legislature created in 2015.

"We are getting rid of the Best and Brightest, which has gone through these iterations, and I think it was well-intentioned, but I don't know if it ever hit the mark," DeSantis said.

The governor says the proposed bonus program aims to provide incentives for classroom teachers and principals to work at schools in low-income areas. DeSantis said his plan would provide bigger bonuses to educators who work at Title 1 schools, which serve the highest percentages of students living in poverty.

DeSantis' minimum-pay and bonus initiatives would be funneled through specific pots of money with explicit direction about how the money could be spent. Under state law, changes in teacher pay must go through school boards to allow unions an opportunity to bargain salaries.

The way the governor wants to fund the pay plan raised concerns from the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union. In a statement, the union said Monday the governor's plan is "removing pay decisions from local hands." 

"We are excited about the concept that the governor recognizes that, in fact, we need to increase funding. ... We just think he's going about it in the wrong manner," Martin Powell, the chief of staff for the FEA, told the News Service of Florida on Tuesday.

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The union has long been opposed to bonus programs, calling them "schemes" and not a solution for teachers who are seeking long-term financial stability. Also, the union has raised concerns that many school employees could be left out of the minimum-pay plan, such as school counselors and pre-kindergarten teachers.

House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, issued a statement Monday that described DeSantis' overall budget recommendations as "encouraging." But he also said the "the details of his ambitious teacher-pay program remain obscure --- not a small matter."

House Democrats, however, touted the need to increase teacher pay.

"It is absolutely critical that we give teachers and school staff raises this year. This is the number one priority of the Florida House Democrats," said House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee, D-Miami.

"We look forward to working with Gov. DeSantis and our Republican colleagues to craft a budget that includes raises for our educators," he added.

In addition to calling for more money for teacher salaries, DeSantis also wants to provide $100 million to schools in mental-health spending --- a $25 million boost over the current year's amount. The extra dollars would be used to hire more service providers, according to the proposed budget.

More money is also being recommended for a program that provides voucher-like scholarships to students with disabilities.

DeSantis is seeking an additional $24.9 million more for the Gardiner Scholarship Program, which would be able to serve roughly 2,300 more students, according to the governor's staff. The Gardiner program has drawn relatively little controversy compared to other school-choice programs, which did not get more funding under the governor's plan.

Other parts of the proposed budget also would not see increases.

For example, the governor wants to continue spending $500,000 on stipends and training for school "guardians," who opt to be trained to carry guns in schools. The controversial guardian program was created after the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The proposal also would lead to a $40 million cut in the "Schools of Hope" program, which involves a type of charter school aimed at areas where children have been served by low-performing traditional public schools.

"The one-time reduction of $40 million is being dispersed into various other projects and Schools of Hope already have adequate funding to see them through this year," Helen Aguirre Ferre, a DeSantis spokeswoman told The News Service of Florida.

While DeSantis' budget looks to slash some money from the Schools of Hope program, $262.4 million in unspent money would still be available for the program.

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The Latest News Headlines

  • A suspect died Friday morning after opening fire at Florida’s Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing at least three people and injuring seven others. >> Read more trending news  Authorities said the shooting was reported just before 7 a.m. local time in a classroom building at NAS Pensacola. Responding deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office exchanged gunfire with the suspected shooter, killing him, officials said. Update 2:25 p.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities declined to confirm the identity of the person who shot several people Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three people before being shot and killed by deputies. “I think there’s obviously going to be a lot of questions about this indivdual being a foreign national, being a part of the Saudi Air Force and then to be here training on our soil and to do this,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday morning at a news conference. “The FBI is working with (the Department of Defense), they’re working with (the Florida Department of Law Enforcement), they’re working with Escambia County sheriff’s to answer those questions.” DeSantis said he spoke earlier Friday with President Donald Trump. “One of the things that I talked to the president about is given that this was a foreign national in the employ of a foreign service ... obviously the government of Saudi Arabia needs to make things better for the victims,' DeSantis said. 'I think that they, they are going to owe a debt here, given that this was one of their individuals.” Authorities confirmed at a news conference that the suspect used a handgun in Friday’s shooting. Capt. Tim Kinsella, commanding officer of NAS Pensacola, said the suspect was at NAS Pensacola for aviation training. Earlier in the day, deputies said the suspect opened fire just before 7 a.m. local time in a classroom building at NAS Pensacola. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 1:45 p.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities in Pensacola are expected to provide an update Friday afternoon on the investigation into the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola that left four people dead. Update 1:20 p.m. EST Dec. 6: President Donald Trump said Friday afternoon that he’s spoken to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and received a full briefing on the deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. “My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” Trump said. “We are continuing to monitor the situation as the investigation is ongoing.” Update 12:50 p.m. EST Dec. 6: An official told The Associated Press that the person who opened fire Friday at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three people and wounding several others before being shot and killed by authorities, was an aviation student from Saudi Arabia. Authorities are investigating to determine whether the shooting was terrorism-related, according to the AP. Military from around the globe attend the Naval Air Station in Pensacola. Authorities are expected to hold a news conference at 12:30 p.m. local time Friday to update the public on the investigation. Update 11:50 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities expect to hold a news conference at 12 p.m. local time Friday to provide more updates on the shooting that left four people dead at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 11:05 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities said a total of 11 people were injured or killed in Friday morning’s shooting, including the suspected shooter. The injured included two responding deputies with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff David Morgan said Friday at a news conference. One deputy was shot in the arm and the other was shot in the knee, Morgan said. They were both expected to survive. Morgan described walking through the scene left by Friday’s attack as being similar to “being in a movie.” “You just don’t expect this to happen here at home,” he said. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 10:45 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials are holding a news conference to update the public on Friday morning’s deadly shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Update 10:25 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Vice President Mike Pence said he’s monitoring the situation in Florida after a shooting left two victims and a suspect dead at Naval Air Station Pensacola. “Praying for the victims & their families,” Pence wrote Friday morning in a Twitter post. “We commend the first responders for their swift action in taking down the shooter & getting those on base to safety.”  Update 10:20 a.m. EST Dec. 6: White House officials said President Donald Trump has been briefed on the deadly shooting reported Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 10:15 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with Naval Air Station Pensacola said the base will closed for the day Friday after a shooting left three people dead earlier in the day. Authorities said at least three people, including the suspected shooter, were killed in the incident. Reports indicated at least eight other people were wounded in the shooting. The incident happened two days after authorities said a U.S. sailor shot and killed two civilian employees before turning the gun on himself at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. One other person was injured in that shooting. Naval Air Station Pensacola employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel, according to officials. Update 10:10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said his office has been in “close contact with all the relevant officials & closely monitoring events” after a shooter opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola on Friday morning, killing two people. Authorities said the shooter also died. “Please pray for everyone impacted by this horrible situation,” Rubio said in a Twitter post. Update 10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: A spokesman at Ascension Sacred Heart Hospital told CNN that hospital officials expected to get three patients who had been injured in Friday morning’s shooting, down from the six expected earlier in the day. Hospital spokesman Mike Burke told the news network most victims were taken to Baptist Hospital because of its proximity to the base. Kathy Bowers, a spokeswoman for Baptist Hospital, earlier told the Pensacola News Journal that the hospital had received five patients wounded in Friday’s shooting. Update 9:45 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with the U.S. Navy have confirmed that a second person has died after a shooter opened fire Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola.  Update 9:35 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials told the Pensacola News Journal two people were confirmed dead after Friday morning’s shooting, in addition to the shooter. Naval officials previously said at least one person had been killed. Update 9:20 a.m. EST Dec. 6: At least 11 people were hospitalized in the immediate aftermath of Friday’s deadly shooting, according to The Associated Press. Ascension Sacred Heart spokesman Mike Burke told the AP six people were taken to the hospital after a shooter opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola early Friday. The Pensacola News Journal previously reported five other people were taken to Baptist Hospital with injuries. Naval officials said at least one victim was killed in Friday’s shooting. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 9:10 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Officials with the U.S. Navy said at least one person died Friday morning in a shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida. Authorities said the suspected shooter was also dead Friday morning. Update 9 a.m. EST Dec. 6: An official with Baptist Hospital told the Pensacola News Journal five patients were taken to the hospital after Friday morning’s reported shooting. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 8:55 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Authorities with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said a suspected shooter was dead Friday morning at Naval Air Station Pensacola. Original report: Authorities are responding Friday morning to reports of shots fired at Naval Air Station Pensacola, according to base officials. Authorities at NAS Pensacola said both gates to the base were closed Friday morning as authorities investigated. Officials with the U.S. Navy said the base was on lockdown around 7:45 a.m. local time. A spokeswoman for ECSO told the Pensacola News Journal deputies were working to “take down” what was described as an active shooter around 7:30 a.m. local time. Officials with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office told WEAR-TV injuries were reported. Details on the number of people wounded and the extent of their injuries was not immediately available. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Check back for updates to this developing story.
  • Nearly a year to the day after a DUI crash killed a bailiff with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and seriously injured a JSO officer, the woman behind the wheel has been sentenced. A judge sentenced Kim Johnston to 15 years in state prison for driving under the influence causing death and five years for driving under the influence causing seriously bodily injury, though the sentences will run concurrently. Restitution was also ordered, though the exact amount will be determined at a later hearing.  WOKV first told you back in December 2018 about the crash that killed JSO bailiff Cathy Adams and seriously injured her husband, William 'Jack' Adams (pictured below). Police say Johnston was driving under the influence on I-95 when she hit the Adams' SUV, causing it to hit a guardrail and flip over. Johnston's blood alcohol level was 0.127, according to investigators. The Adams’ two kids were in the vehicle, but survived with only minor injuries. Johnston pleaded no contest back in October 2019 and was adjudicated guilty. Before the plea agreement, Johnston had been facing a maximum of 20 years and a minimum of 4 years.
  • Authorities in Connecticut are searching for a toddler missing since authorities found the girl’s mother dead Monday evening. >> Read more trending news  Authorities issued an Amber Alert on Wednesday for Venessa Morales, 1. Police believe she may be in danger. Here are the latest updates: Update 11:40 a.m. EST Dec. 6: Ansonia police have identified the woman found slain Monday as Christine Marie Holloway, 43, the mother of Venessa Morales, 1. Officials with the FBI and several police agencies continue to search for Venessa, who was reported missing when authorities found her mother. “We are not looking to arrest or start criminal proceedings against whoever has Venessa. We just want to know where she is and that she is safe and well,” Ansonia police Lt. Patrick Lynch said Friday. “She is a 1-year-old child who is wholly dependent on others for their care and well-being, and we know locating Venessa would bring a sense of relief to her family.” Venessa’s aunt Anna, who was identified only by her first name on Thursday, pleaded for Venessa’s return in a brief, emotional statement from the family. “Anyone with any information on her whereabouts, we beg of you to please contact Ansonia Police Department or call the FBI tip line, 203-503-5555,” Anna said. “We desperately need anyone that might be with baby Venessa to keep her safe, unharmed and get her back to us quickly.” Authorities continue to investigate. Update 12:45 p.m. EST Dec. 5: The search for Venessa Morales, 1, has shifted to Hamden, a town about 10 miles east of Ansonia, according to the Connecticut Post. The newspaper and WTNH reported authorities were focused on a donation bin on State Street. Police said family members last saw Venessa on Friday, according to WFSB. Authorities were reviewing a report Thursday from a witness who claimed to have seen Venessa with an unidentified man Saturday, WTNH reported. Authorities continue to investigate. Update 1:50 a.m. EST Dec. 5: Authorities on Wednesday issued an Amber Alert for 1-year-old Venessa Morales of Ansonia. If you know where she may be, call Ansonia police at 203-735-1885 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-225-5324. Original report: According to the Connecticut Post, Ansonia police discovered the body of the woman, whose name has not been released, while conducting a welfare check at the pair’s Myrtle Avenue home about 7:30 p.m. Monday. Investigators believe the death was a homicide, the newspaper reported. Officers could not find Venessa. In a Tuesday news release, the Ansonia Police Department said the girl, who hasn’t been seen since Friday, “may be endangered.” Authorities said Venessa has brown hair and eyes, stands 2 feet, 2 inches tall and weighs 17 pounds. WFSB-TV reported Tuesday that Venessa’s father, who did not live with the mother and daughter but sometimes stayed with them, has been cooperative. Officials have not released his name. Police, who have teamed up with investigators from state and federal agencies, have not yet named any suspects, the Post reported. Read more here or here.
  • Tennessee executed a blind man Thursday night convicted in the 1991 murder of his estranged girlfriend, multiple news outlets reported. According to the Tennessean, death row inmate Lee Hall became the state’s fourth prisoner executed in the electric chair since 2018. Hall, 53, was pronounced dead at 7:26 p.m., according to the Tennessee Department of Corrections. >> Read more trending news  Hall, also known as Leroy Hall Jr., was found guilty in 1992 of first-degree murder and aggravated arson in the 1991 death of his former girlfriend Traci Crozier, the newspaper reported. According to CBS News, electrocution is an execution option available to Tennessee inmates convicted of crimes prior to January 1999. A witness to the execution said that Hall’s final words were that 'people need to learn forgiveness and love and make the world a better place,” the network reported. According to the Tennessean, Crozier’s sister, Staci Wooten, read a prepared statement following the execution, stating 28 years of pain for her family has finally ended. “Our family’s peace can begin, but another family’s hell has to begin. We all fought this battle for you, Traci, and today we won,” Wooten said. The paper also noted Hall released his own statement – read by his attorney John Spragens following the execution – apologizing to the Crozier family. “I’m sorry for the pain I caused,' Hall's statement read. “I ask for your forgiveness, and I hope and pray that someday you can find it in your heart to forgive me.' Read more here and here.
  • A woman died following a rollover crash this morning on County Road 210 and I-95 in north St. Johns County this morning.  According to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, the woman was leaving the Pilot Travel Center shortly before 5:30 am when her vehicle was struck by a pickup truck, causing her vehicle to overturn. She was later pronounced dead at Baptist Hospital South.  She was not been publicly identified.  

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