In this year’s budget authorized by the Florida legislature, Gov. Ron DeSantis stated on Monday that he is granting $800 million for teacher pay raises.
“This is something that will go a long way not only to continue to support strong average minimum salaries across the state but also to support increased salaries for veteran teachers,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Wellington.
DeSantis, who made a similar announcement in Clay County on Monday afternoon, said the money will go toward raising the state’s average basic compensation for teachers as well as supporting greater salaries for veteran teachers, although he didn’t specify how much.
“Think about just the average minimum. You want to get somebody in college to say go into teaching that’s a noble profession. People understand you’re not gonna necessarily be a billionaire doing this, but you need to be able to make ends meet,” DeSantis said.
According to the governor’s office, the average starting wage for a teacher in Florida was $40,000 in 2020 (26th in the US), and it will now be at least $47,000 with the funds announced Monday (9th in the nation).
This comes as several sections of the state face labor shortages, including teacher, bus driver, and support staff shortages. Nearly 400 teaching openings are available in Duval County’s public schools.
In Clay County, where the superintendent said the budget boost is extremely welcome, there is also a shortage.
“There’s no doubt, you know, raising teacher salaries by almost $10,000, in a two-year time span is, is really unprecedented,” Superintendent David Broskie said.
Despite state income plunging due to the coronavirus, DeSantis signed a bill in 2020 to raise the minimum teacher compensation to $47,500 and grant additional hikes at a cost of $500 million. Teachers started at little over $37,600 in the 2017-18 school year, so the rise was approximately $10,000 higher than base salary.
Despite DeSantis’ efforts, several school districts have struggled to meet the minimum pay objective, with around 10% of the state having yet to meet the minimum compensation goal. That approach was also chastised for leaving more experienced educators behind.
Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran stated that this budget, which represents a $250 million increase over last year’s financing, will benefit veteran instructors as well.
“Of that new $250 million, in that $800 million, half of that is going to veteran teachers so that they can continue to see a massive increase,” Corcoran said.
DeSantis didn’t say how the money will be distributed, but the commissioner’s response suggests that around 15% of the overall raise will go to educators who have worked for longer periods of time.
That, according to Vicki Kidwell, President of the Clay County Education Association, will not fix the situation.
“Until funding allows districts flexibility to address salary compression and competitive pay for veteran educators, the hemorrhaging of professionals from a challenging career and the resulting shortages will continue,” Kidwell said.
This year’s budget, according to DeSantis, contains a record amount of per-pupil financing as well as the largest base student allotment.
Gov. Rick Scott was questioned about local efforts to gather funds for teacher increases, particularly in Duval County, where the board has proposed raising the property tax rate to finance teacher raises.
“I’ll let them decide, but what I’ll tell you though, is that when they say, ‘We’re going to raise taxes for education,” then, they never solve the problem, so they raise the taxes and then a lot of times the money goes to different things than what they said it would do. So, I would just tell voters to be very careful when people are putting this out,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis didn’t give any particular instances, but he did cast doubt on local school boards’ capacity to handle tax dollars responsibly.