Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 31 proposed a $216 million plan to give a a $1,000 bonus to 3,600 public schools principals and 180,000 full-time classroom teachers, saying “principals and teachers answered the call” during a difficult year defined by the coronavirus pandemic.
His proposal, which must be approved by the House and Senate, does not extend to service workers such as food service employees, bus drivers, technicians, plant services employees, administrative and support staff, teacher aides, and many others who all also “answered the call,” and without whom principals and faulty would not have been able to answer theirs. Last year, DeSantis secured a $500 million raise to the minimum salaries of teachers, but again, without a parallel proposal for service employees. The 2021-22 budget also includes another $50 million to further raise the minimum salaries of teachers.
On Wednesday, Angela Bush, Flagler County schools’ Food and Nutrition Services Director, posted a YouTube video response to the governor’s proposal at Cafe EDU, a twitter account that keeps followers informed of “what’s happening in your school cafeteria.” The full response appears below, as does the video.
Dear Governor De Santis: I’m writing to you regarding your proposal to provide a $1,000 bonus to principals and teachers. I appreciate the sentiment and effort put forth by your office to reward the teachers who have undoubtedly had the toughest year in their careers. They are deserving, no question about it.
At the same time, my heart is also saddened [by] another initiative that neglects to take support staff into consideration. My child nutrition staff not only returned to work during their spring break last year, they have never stopped feeding our children even from the first days when most others were told stay home and stay safe. They’re on the front lines serving from drive-thru pickup sites, remote locations, and in our schools. They continue to do more with less, basing staffing and supply shortages on nearly a weekly basis.
Flagler staff isn’t doing anything more or less than the child nutrition staff members in Florida’s 66 Other counties. Teachers have been given raises and opportunities for performance pay that don’t apply to support staff, and it’s understandable. They bear the direct responsibility of educating our future. That’s a tremendous responsibility and calling that indeed deserves recognition. However, proposing to reward only the teachers and principals for keeping schools open amidst the global pandemic, falls short of recognizing many who played a vital role in supporting our students.
I would be remiss if I failed to include custodians, bus drivers, mechanics, maintenance staff computer techs, and so many more. Every member of our district staff contributed to our successful navigation of Covid. Our district computer techs were standing in the elements for hours to distribute computers. The maintenance staff built-in Covid protections. Bus drivers were concerned about spending hours in a small enclosed space each day, but continued to drive. Custodians worked long hours with specialized equipment and sanitizing procedures in order to complete the backlog of extraordinary requests received by the schools.
Our support staff helped each other when needs arose–from custodians who cooked meals to maintenance staff fixing buses, and even food service staff handing out computers, and on a goes.
There’s so much more I could tell you. Stories like these echo across the Sunshine State. I pray my words are impactful to whomever reads them. I’m asking you to consider adding a bonus for support staff to your proposal, to recognize principals and teachers as well as those who play the indispensable roles in these times, wouldn’t just be equitable, it would be appropriate.
Respectfully yours, Angela Bush