October 7, 2019 - Governor Desantis Pitches Increase to Teacher Pay - From a schedule press conference in Jacksonville, the Governor released a plan to raise the minimum teacher salary in the state of Florida to $47,500 – impacting a little more than half of all of teachers in the state. Paired with the introduction of legislation by Sen. Rob Bradley to repeal the flawed Best and Brightest bonus scheme, the governor's announcement could be seen as evidence that the voices of FEA members and public education advocates are actually being heard.
While the plan is incomplete, that there is a serious dialogue about increasing salaries is a good start. For the first time we heard powerful legislators and policymakers acknowledge the importance of raising teacher salaries to be competitive with the rest of the nation. It is clear that your hard work and organizing is paying off, but there is much work still be done.
What was not discussed at the press conference is as important as what was discussed. Nowhere in the plan announced this morning was anything to actually do the work of retaining teachers. Senator Bradley did correctly state, “We are at a crossroads in the state of Florida…if we fail to retain and attract teachers going forward, we will not be able to continue the success that we’ve had.” However, Giving a 20-year veteran who is making just under $47,500 a few hundred dollar raise will do nothing to retain them.
Other questions remaining to be answered include:
- How will all members of our educational team benefit from this proposal? Is it only for instructional personnel? Will it recognize our staff professionals (Bus drivers, Pre-K teachers, Para-professionals, teacher aides etc.) that are integral to our public education system?
- Will it avoid a failed evaluation system and a reliance on VAM?
- Does this proposal allow school districts to focus their efforts where their needs are the greatest or is Tallahassee dictating spending priorities?
- Does the proposal simply move the BASE pay to $47,500? That would be a big increase for some that are making $40,000 or less but what about the veteran teacher with 15, 20 or even 30 years of experience who is already at $47,500?
- Who does the proposal pay $47,500? ALL instructional personnel? Classroom teachers? Or just NEW teachers?
- Will the new money be dedicated to actual “salary” increases? Or will it be called “compensation” and really be part of yet another bizarre and unreliable bonus scheme?
- Will it honor collectively bargained pay agreements so we can have a voice in ensuring that ALL teachers and education staff professionals benefit?
- Where is the money coming from? Are the funds being used from a stable, sustainable source or is this just another “year before the election” campaign piece? What will be sacrificed? Will it be reoccurring?
- The Governor can only do so much to enact legislation, so what does the legislature have in mind? Has the governor secured a commitment from state legislative leaders to fund this proposal and when would it take effect?
It is worth noting that this proposal does not address overall education funding. Florida per student funding ranks in the bottom nationally, that is why FEA is asking that legislators increase funding by$2.4 Billion this year. An across the board increase in funding tied to the Base Student Allocation (BSA) would help raise all educator pay and increase funding that could be used to support student learning.
Now is the best time to share your thoughts and concerns with your state legislators. Be sure to let them know that FL's educators are grateful that the governor is elevating the conversation around teacher pay, and that we are counting on the legislature to make sure that this year's budget is part of a sustainable, multi-year plan to support our neighborhood public schools and Fund Our Future.