Will Florida increase the starting pay for teachers?
On Oct. 7, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his proposal to increase the minimum salary for teachers across the state. The governor’s proposed 2020 budget recommendation will include a pay raise for more than 101,000 teachers in Florida by raising the minimum salary to $47,500.
According to the National Education Association, Florida ranks 26th in the nation for starting teacher pay at $37,636. With this investment of over $600 million, raising the minimum salary to $47,500 will rank Florida 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, Gov. 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 No. 26 to No. 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.”
Just how the governor’s plan will affect teachers in the school districts around the lake remains to be seen.
“It will be interesting to see how it is funded,” said Glades County Superintendent of Schools Scott Bass. “Right now, we start teachers at $40,250. This would be an increase of $7,250 and would ‘level the field’ between districts in recruitment on the salary issue. But I would like to see if there will be funds to also increase the salaries of teachers who have been in the profession for five, 10, 20 years or will there be funds to bring all teachers up to the $47,500 amount who are currently under that amount? In Glades County, you are talking about roughly 45% of the instructional staff.
“In addition to difficulty in recruiting, we are having a difficult time statewide in retaining teachers. So if the state provides districts with funds to start teachers out at $47,500 and then leaves the districts responsible for salary increases for those who are currently over the $47,500, you will see the top of the salary schedule very close to the beginning teacher pay. It will be great if this goes through, but it is going to leave lots of work to be done during negotiations and lots of budget work.”
Mr. Bass said continued funding for such initiatives is always a concern for more rural communities.
“I expect the governor will have a line item in the budget for each district to use for starting salary increases. Like other initiatives over the years, the line item will be in the budget for a few years and then the cost will be absorbed in the Base Student Allocation (BSA),” he explained.
Palm Beach County
According to the district’s website, Palm Beach County School District’s beginning teacher salary is $41,000. Teachers in the Glades area (Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay, Canal Point) receive a supplement of $3,750. Those with advanced degrees receive a supplement of $3,000 and up. The school district also pays teacher retention supplements of $1,000 for those with one to four years’ experience, $5,000 for those with five to nine years’ experience and $10,000 for those with 10 or more years’ experience.
“I admire the governor for keeping true to his campaign promise to focus on teacher salaries,” said Okeechobee County Superintendent of Schools Ken Kenworthy. He added that he is concerned about increases for all teachers. In the 2018-2019 Okeechobee County pay schedule, beginning teachers make $40,000 and teachers with 17 years of experience make $47,200, he said. Mr. Kenworthy said that if the starting salary is $47,500, they need enough funding from the state to increase all of the steps so that a teacher with 17 years’ experience is not making the same salary as a first-year teacher. In addition, he said teachers currently making more than $47,500 should also get an increase. “We would have a couple hundred teachers who would not benefit from his current proposal,” he said.
Mr. Kenworthy said most of the funding for the Okeechobee County School District comes from the state allocation per student. He said the school board can’t just raise taxes to generate more income. The state tells the school board how much millage the district must levy.
For school districts to increase teacher pay, the state will have to increase the base student allocation, he said. Last year, the allocation was increased $75, which was appreciated, but the year before it was increased just 47 cents. Mr. Kenworthy said he is also concerned that in the past some state programs that benefited classroom teachers did not help other instruction personnel such as reading specialists and guidance counselors.