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DeSantis unleashes new weapon in fiery attack on teachers unions

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is readying a new weapon in his escalating war with Sunshine State teachers unions.

Speaking at a conference of school board members in Orlando Monday, DeSantis announced plans for new legislation that would allow teachers to opt out of union dues.

Arguing that many rank and file educators object to the politics of their union representatives, DeSantis said dues should no longer be automatically deducted from paychecks.

Instead, the law would allow teachers to write a separate dues check to their unions, if they choose to.

“If they don’t have a majority of the teachers who are actually signing up to pay dues it should be decertified,” he said. “You shouldn’t be able to continue as a zombie organization that doesn’t have the support of the people you are supposedly negotiating for.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking after his re-election in Tampa last month
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking after his re-election in Tampa last month
Sarasota Herald-Tribune-USA TODA

DeSantis blistered the organizations throughout his address, accusing them of prioritizing “political, partisan and financial interests” above parental concerns and academic achievement.

The rising GOP star speculated the measure could render some unions insolvent, limiting the funds they would have available to “fritter” away.

“They get their money from being able to be involved in these systems,” he told the board members. “You’re doing it because you think it’s good for your community or your kids or your grandkids or what not. They’re doing it because they have personal interests at stake.”

DeSantis said unions had become accustomed to exerting unchallenged influence over school board races, both financially and otherwise.

The Republican firebrand claimed they routinely use political bait and switch tactics to install left-leaning board members in right-leaning areas.

“They’ll go into a conservative county like Sarasota or Lee and they’ll get behind a liberal candidate,” he said. “But they’ll dress them up as if they’re reflecting the community’s values…Once they get on the school board they basically vote left, which is not consistent with the values of those communities.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking in Las Vegas last month.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaking in Las Vegas last month.
AFP via Getty Images

The DeSantis administration poured $2.1 million into key school board races across the state during the last election cycle, and gave favored candidates his official stamp of approval.

That strategy, he said, caught unions off guard and helped to flip several major school boards red as his choices prevailed.

“It’s really about making sure that these school boards reflect the values of the community and that they’re not a tool for a special interest partisan ideological agenda,” he said. “That’s whats been happening across this country.”

Roundly considered a top GOP presidential contender in 2024, DeSantis said he was girding for further confrontations with the labor organizations.

“I think a lot of these teachers unions were surprised at how much effort all of us put into these races,” he told the audience. “Well, guess what they’re going to do. They are going to double down. They are going to come out even harder with guns blazing.”

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