STATEWIDE — According to the U.S. Department of Education, Florida is misusing federal dollars it plans to use for Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to pay teachers $1,000 bonus checks. 

What You Need To Know

DeSantis says $1,000 bonuses paid for by funds from the Biden Administration’s American Rescue plan are meant to show appreciation to teachers.

“So those should be hitting in August, we’ll be looking forward to doing that,” DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday. 

But in a letter from the U.S. Department of Education, federal officials say Florida’s plan to give teachers and principals bonuses uses money that is only meant to address student learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But when asked about this Tuesday,  DeSantis said there was no problem with using those funds for bonuses. 

“I think we’re good to go, we have um, these were, we’re using the federal funding from (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) ESSER, one of the ESSER pots, and it absolutely can be used for bonuses,” the governor said. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, he is partially correct. 

ESSER funds come in different pots, including “Required” and “Optional.” States can use “optional” funds for things like bonuses.  

But the U.S. DOE stated the problem it has with Florida is that it appears the state planned to use funds classified as “required,” which are meant solely to address student learning loss. 

Spectrum News 13 reached out to the Florida Department of Education to clear up this issue, but has not heard back. 

Orange County high school teacher Matthew Panzano says he feels the proposed bonuses are the least the state can do after a year in education like no other.  

“And we do appreciate the fact that there is more income, but our wish is that it was a permanent part of our financial plans,”  Panzano said.

Panzano says this could have all been avoided if Florida would just give educators the raises, not bonuses, they deserve. 

“A raise is secure, a raise can go towards your retirement, a bonus does not provide that same sense of security financially,” Panzano said.