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Florida Board of Education adopts DeSantis budget as its own

Board members call the governor’s agenda ‘bold’ and ‘incredible,’ offer to help promote it.
The Florida Board of Education meets at Mort Elementary School in Tampa in May 2019. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK  |  Times Staff]
The Florida Board of Education meets at Mort Elementary School in Tampa in May 2019. [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK | Times Staff]
Published Dec. 19, 2019
Updated Dec. 20, 2019

In an unusual but not uncharacteristic move, the Florida Board of Education met by phone Thursday to adopt Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education 2020-21 spending proposal as its own.

The board previously had voted for a separate legislative budget request, as in the past. But members said they wanted to get on the same page as the governor and the Department of Education, and speak as one in promoting the DeSantis agenda.

That type of vote hasn’t historically occurred, even if the lobbying efforts have.

“It’s an incredible budget,” board member Ben Gibson said during the brief session, adding that he was excited by the regular announcements of new education initiatives by DeSantis and education commissioner Richard Corcoran.

He mentioned specifically the most recent proposal on civics education, in which the governor called for added lessons and testing for students about the nation’s government and foundations.

“Let us know what we can do to assist you in the months to come,” Gibson told the staff.

In presenting the budget to the board, department chief of staff Alex Kelly said the governor’s office had adopted several ideas from the board’s legislative request, including added funding for prekindergarten and continued support for apprenticeship programs.

Kelly also spoke about the governor’s plans to increase teacher pay, revamp bonuses, enhance school security and mental health services, and raise the overarching base student allocation.

“This agenda is shockingly more transformational than last year’s,” Corcoran told the board. That makes it important to say “this is where we’re all at, and we’re on the same page,” he said.

Only board member Michael Olenick had a question. He wanted to know if the board should weigh in on the importance of providing added wages for veteran teachers who would not be affected by DeSantis’ plan to boost the minimum salary.

Corcoran said the proposed bonus model would help many veteran educators, and added that the higher base student allocation would allow school boards to improve wages locally beyond the state proposal.

“The package itself is the greatest teacher compensation package in the history of the state,” Corcoran said. “I am sure the local districts will do the right thing with the BSA.”

Board vice chairwoman Marva Johnson praised the department for its presentations, and like Gibson urged the staff to tell the board how they can help promote “this very bold and wonderful budget agenda.”

Corcoran said they could count on it. With several big asks on the table, he said, “We will be calling.”


  1. In a body cam video from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, two police officers are heard questioning why a school allowed a 6-year-old student to be committed to a mental health facility under Florida's Baker Act.
  2. The Voluntary Prekindergarten room is one feature of the new Bardmoor Branch of the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. The location also includes a child-care center and Preschool Academy.
  3. FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, file photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., after a shooter opened fire on the campus. School districts continue to improve their security plans in the aftermath. (Mike Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP, File)
  4. Clay County Schools Superintendent Addison Davis (wearing a pink tie), center, takes photos with the  Hillsborough County Public Schools board members after being voted unaminous as the new incoming superintendent in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday, January 21, 2020.
  5. University of Florida students walk through Turlington Plaza in between classes on Thursday afternoon, February 13, 2020, in Gainesville, Fla.
  6. Chikara Parks, right, along with her children in front of their home in St. Petersburg. In the back is Kamijah Laswon, 14. In front of Kamijah is her sister Tanijah Clark, 12. Their brothers are 7-year-old Tai'jon Carter, left, and Dai'quan Carbart, 9. The four children used to attend Pinellas public schools. Now they are in private schools, using Florida's tax credit scholarship program. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  7. Florida Board of Education member Michael Olenick speaks during a July 17, 2019, board meeting in Polk County. [The Florida Channel]
  8. A new house under construction in Waterset on Big Bend Road in Hillsborough County's Apollo Beach area. Developed by Newland Communities, which also developed Fishhawk Ranch  in Hillsborough, Waterset has had more housing starts in the past year than any other new-home community in the Tampa Bay area. [SUSAN TAYLOR MARTIN | Times]
  9. Janiyah, left, and Stephanie Davis of Philadelphia, stand as they are recognized by President Donald Trump during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  10. School buses line the parking lot of the Hernando County Schools Transportation Center earlier this month. Detailed bus route information is expected to be available July 31, and can be found on the district website, (select "District," then "Transportation". [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  11. Florida lawmakers are considering changes to the state grant that helps students who attend private colleges and universities such as Eckerd College, whose 2005 commencement is shown here.
  12. Students from Lakewood Elementary School dismiss for the day in St. Petersburg, Monday, February 10, 2020.