MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Monday a proposal to increase the minimum salary for teachers.
The proposal will raise salaries for more than 101,000 teachers in Florida by raising the minimum salary to $47,500.
This applies to all classroom teachers who currently earn less than $47,500.
The Sunshine State ranks 26th in the nation for starting teacher pay at $37,636, according to the National Education Association.
By raising the minimum salary to $47,500, Florida will rank second in the nation for starting teacher pay.
“We are experiencing a teacher shortage in Florida,” said Gov. DeSantis. “With a strong economy and plenty of jobs available in other fields, unfortunately too many college graduates are unwilling to enter the teaching profession. My proposal to increase the minimum salary for teachers to $47,500 will help alleviate this shortage and elevate the teaching profession to the level of appreciation it deserves. This is long overdue, and I look forward to working with the legislature to make this a reality.”
“Getting a great teacher in front of every child is the number one proven way to get great outcomes for students,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “Today, Governor Ron DeSantis is elevating Florida’s teachers like never before and is making a statement nationally that Florida is the Education State and he is the Education Governor. Florida going from number 26 to number 2 in the nation in starting pay sends a clear signal to Florida’s teachers and our entire education family that we are ready to celebrate our teachers and foster lifelong success for our students.”
However, what seems so simple and so good for young teachers can get complex.
“As happy as we are, it’s divisive and can’t be understood,” said longtime educator Terry Lopez Preuss.
The issue was not lost for the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
“It cannot just be an incentive for brand new teachers. It needs to be a distribution that provides an adequate compensation for all teacher across the state,” said Alberto Carvalho.
That was echoed by Karla Hernandez Matz who heads United Teachers of Dade.
“All teachers are important,” Matz said, “and when we talk about starting teacher pay and increasing it, we have to talk about all teacher pay and increasing everyone.”
There’s trouble is on the horizon for the DeSantis plan. Republican Speaker of the House Jose Oliva posted on Twitter:
“I am in receipt of the Governor’s statement regarding teacher compensation as I am of the over $2B of new spending requests from his agencies… The legislative process will properly vet these among all other state concerns. My initial thought is one of gratitude for those who came before us and saw it fit to bind us and all future legislatures to a balanced budget.”
The raise for teachers is included in the proposed 2020 budget recommendation. DeSantis doesn’t have to release his full budget proposal until December.
The state’s overall average teacher pay in 2017-2018 topped $48,000, but educators have long called for higher salaries as Florida has ranked near the bottom nationally.
The state’s schools receive much of their funding through a complicated formula, and county school boards ultimately negotiate contracts with teachers. But the Republican-dominated Legislature in recent years also has emphasized bonus programs for teachers, including putting in state law the controversial “Best and Brightest” bonus program.
That program, however, could be in peril during the 2020 session, which starts Jan. 14.
During the past month, DeSantis has called the bonus program “very complicated” and suggested it might not necessarily be part of his education agenda for the session.
Also, Bradley, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has filed a bill that would repeal the bonus program from state law. However, it remains to be seen whether DeSantis will back eliminating the program.
“He hasn’t told me his position on my bill,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, told The News Service of Florida in a text message Monday.
Bradley’s bill was filed after the state agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle a class-action lawsuit that focused on allegations that the bonus program discriminated against black and Hispanic teachers.
Those allegations stemmed from the state’s past use of teachers’ scores on ACT and SAT college-entrance exams in helping determine whether teachers should receive bonuses. This spring, the Republican-dominated Legislature and DeSantis moved to do away with that test requirement
While Bradley is spearheading the push to repeal the program, Corcoran and some key Republican lawmakers who oversee education policies in the House have continued to support Best and Brightest.
House Education Chairwoman Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, said last month that while she hopes to see across-the-board salary increases, “if you are talking about salary increases, you also have to take a look at our bonus program, and that is the Best and Brightest program.”
DeSantis said Monday in Broward County that he is working with Corcoran on a possible “revamped” teacher bonus program.
Last month, during a State Board of Education meeting, Corcoran said “bonuses will always be a factor because you have to make differentiations when they are justified.”
Corcoran, however, said Monday the governor’s new proposal would be “transformative” for Florida, which is dealing with a teacher shortage. He said raising the base salary would help schools retain and attract new teachers.
Lawmakers will consider the potentially popular plan as dozens of them run for re-election in 2020. But the plan also comes as state economists have warned about a possible economic slowdown and a relatively small budget surplus next fiscal year.
DeSantis said his proposal will fit “neatly” within a budget proposal he will release before the session. When asked how it would be funded, DeSantis said “there is enough general revenue funding” to pay for the initiative.
“I am happy that this is something that is not pie in the sky. This is achievable, so we have to get this done,” he added.
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