The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, says state teachers are still at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to pay, despite a slew of education-related headlines and debates this year. It comes at a time when both the governor and state legislators are pledging to raise wages.
Governor Ron DeSantis, applauding the state’s budget surplus and blaming federal authorities for “creating billions and trillions of dollars” and leading to inflation, has given a lot of attention to the surplus.
With an estimated $20 billion surplus in the state budget, the governor is presently examining the allocations for the next fiscal year. Raising teacher pay is one issue on which state officials have consistently said is a top concern.
State funds have been allocated to raise teachers’ wages to $47,500 from 2020. Another $800 million was set aside in the most recent fiscal year budget, which DeSantis is now reviewing.
The pledge was made throughout the campaign, but it hasn’t been fulfilled in its entirety since before DeSantis was elected president.
Pay data released this week shows that, as promised, 31 of Florida’s 67 county school systems have yet to meet the state’s guaranteed $47,000 compensation level. Like before, the Florida teachers’ union is calling for improved incentives to attract and retain high-quality teachers to combat the state’s growing teacher shortage.
“We all want our students to get a high-quality education, and we know it takes qualified teachers and staff to make that happen. Florida has a severe shortage of educators, due in large part to low pay,” FEA President Andrew Spar said in a statement. “We’re in a double bind in Florida. Even when increases are funded, Tallahassee has tied districts’ hands with more than 20 laws affecting pay. The upshot is that while salaries improve for new teachers, experienced educators are left behind. Improving pay for all career levels would help keep experienced professional teachers in front of our students and attract new people to the field.”
According to the Florida Education Association (FEA), “Florida’s average teacher compensation for 2020-2021 was 10.26% less than in 2012-2013,” or how much money teachers really take home after taxes and perks. Pay is greater in other parts of the country than it is in the immediate area. Both Georgia and Alabama, which border Florida, are ranked 21st and 35th in the United States in terms of average annual salary.
Florida’s attempts to improve teacher pay haven’t been wholly unsuccessful. National Education Association, a U.S. national teachers’ organization, reports that beginning wages for teachers in Florida are $44,040, placing the Sunshine State at No. 16. However, the total average pay drops to $51,009, putting the average wage at number 48.
“In 2020, Florida enacted a plan to increase the starting salary for teachers to $47,500 over a period of years. As a result, Florida saw its ranking in starting teacher pay improve from 30th to 16th among the 50 states and D.C.,” the NEA said in a statement shared by the FEA. “However, the new Florida law did little to help experienced teachers and will leave them behind for years to come; and Florida’s average teacher salary improved by only one spot, from 49 to 48, in the state rankings.”
A lower median wage may be found in just three states: West Virginia (#49), South Dakota (#50), and Mississippi (#51).
However, despite the fact that legislation has been passed to fund Florida’s public schools, the promised funds have yet to materialize. Furthermore, Florida’s investment in children is among the lowest in the country despite the state’s stated aim of having all teachers earn an average of $47,500 per year. NEA said that the average per-student expenditure in Florida is $10,703 per student, and this ranking has not altered from 2019 until the present.
Because the budget is still being scrutinized, it is not yet known exactly where money should be moved or added.
State authorities from the Florida Senate indicated that the appropriations bill presently under consideration by the governor demands “each school district must pay each employee at least $15.00 per hour by October 1, 2022.”
A total of $250 million has been set aside for school districts to raise the minimum base salary for full-time classroom teachers, as defined in section 1012.01(2)(a), Florida Statutes, plus certified prekindergarten teachers funded by the Florida Education Finance Program, but not including substitute teachers, to at least $47,5 million, according to the officials.
For the first time, Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis has promised to raise the pay of state troopers as well as teachers in order to “encourage them to relocate from other places” where they suffer resistance and “mistreatment,” DeSantis said.
Out-of-state law enforcement recruits will get a $5,000 signing bonus under House Bill 3, the legislation that was passed into law to that end. Officers and deputies will not get pay increases as a result of HB 3, according to a legislative review of the law’s impact. However, extra benefits for various officer-specific programs are available.
Senate staff responding to 8 On Your Side’s request about budgeting and salary increases for educators and law enforcement said “beginning July 1, all state law enforcement would receive a 5.38% inflation pay raise. The minimum salary would increase to $50,000, or an additional 5% pay increase, whichever is greater.
Teachers and law enforcement personnel in Florida may not get increases by the dates set by the state since the budget is still under review and Florida has a line-item veto option for adjustment or removal. The governor has the final say at this point.