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DeSantis hails Pinellas kindergarten teacher in State of the State address

While calling for additional teacher pay, he touts the rise of St. Petersburg’s Lakewood Elementary.
A smiling Brittany DuQuaine, a kindergarten teacher at Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg, stands in the House gallery after being recognized during Gov. Ron DeSantis' State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Lakewood received an F grade from the state in 2019 but improved that to an A grade in 2021.
A smiling Brittany DuQuaine, a kindergarten teacher at Lakewood Elementary in St. Petersburg, stands in the House gallery after being recognized during Gov. Ron DeSantis' State of the State address on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022. Lakewood received an F grade from the state in 2019 but improved that to an A grade in 2021. [ The Florida Channel ]
Published Jan. 11

The hard work and success of Lakewood Elementary School got another plug from Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday during his annual speech to open the legislative session.

DeSantis cited efforts by Lakewood’s teachers and staff to boost the long-struggling Pinellas County school as he called for added compensation for educators statewide.

Related: Lakewood Elementary defies the ‘COVID slide’ with a burst of success

He specifically recognized kindergarten teacher Brittany DuQuaine, who sat in the audience in Tallahassee for the joint session of the House and Senate where DeSantis spoke. The governor also singled out DuQuaine for praise in August, when he visited Lakewood to reveal its state grade.

“She has benefitted from the bonuses and salary increases and the experience at Lakewood shows why this is important, as Brittany and her colleagues took the school from an F grade in 2019 to an A grade in 2021,” the governor said Tuesday.

“Let’s continue this progress by further increasing teacher pay and by approving $1,000 bonuses for a second year in a row,” he added.

DeSantis’ push to provide teacher bonuses and increase minimum salaries has benefited thousands of educators across the state. However, the effort has not been universally applauded.

Many district officials have noted that the state funding for these initiatives in the past have left out many school employees, including more veteran teachers. Some districts have dipped into other portions of their budgets to provide added pay to those staff members.

This year, DeSantis has called for adding $50 million more into the budget for improving classroom teacher salaries. Senate President Wilton Simpson highlighted the importance of increasing pay for school employees in his session-opening speech, while House Speaker Chris Sprowls did not mention the issue.

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