Budget negotiations include pay increases for state workers. But what about public school staffers?

By: - March 9, 2022 1:56 pm

The Florida Capitol, January 2021. Credit: Michael Moline

As state budget negotiations continue, lawmakers have agreed to across-the-board salary increases for state employees by 5.38 percent to address rising inflation.

In addition, the state budget would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour for those workers.

However, school staffers aren’t included in the $15 an hour minimum wage boost, an initiative led by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson who said in early February that the 2022-23 state budget should reward school personnel and other workers.

As of Wednesday, pay raises for school employees, such as bus drivers and others, remain unsettled but that issue could be resolved in the state education budget, according to a spokeswoman with the Florida Education Association.

“Money to give school employees a minimum $15 [an hour wage] will have to be in the education budget — and the budget is still being negotiated,” FEA said in an email to the Florida Phoenix.

“I’m understanding that the House has opposed the $15 for school employees that was proposed by the Senate (and promoted by Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson), so how that will work out in the Legislature’s final proposed education budget is unclear.”

Local school districts, under the Florida Constitution, operate public schools, which include not only teacher pay but salaries for support staff.  President Simpson had said that the $15 an hour minimum wage was also going to be for school personnel and district superintendents would have to ensure that their employees would receive at least $15 an hour. It’s unclear, though, if that provision would be in conflict with Florida Constitution.

Meanwhile, AFSCME Florida President Vice President Vicki Hall said in an email to the Phoenix Wednesday:

“We applaud the leadership of both the House and Senate for historic increases for the state workers who provide the vital, essential services our communities need. State workers are in need of both living wages to lift families out of poverty and enhanced compensation for professionals whose pay has not kept pace with comparable private-sector counterparts. ..These historic increases to starting pay and significant across-the-board pay raises are well deserved and much appreciated.”

Budget chairs for Appropriations, Jay Trumbull and Kelli Stargel, had agreed to the state worker raises but also pushed for more days to complete budget meetings to finalize a $100 million-plus state budget in the waning days of the 2022 legislative session. The session had been scheduled to end on March 11, but that may not be the case now.

State Rep. Allison Tant, a Democrat representing part of Leon County, confirmed with the Florida Phoenix Wednesday that the 5.38 percent increase and $15 an hour minimum wage had been approved by both chambers.

“The budget has not gone to print so there’s no dried ink just yet,” Tant said. “But it’s looking like a great year for state employees. Both full-time and OPS/contract [state workers].  I’m grateful for this solid work for them this year. I’m also grateful to our state employees for the hard work they did for communities across our state to get us through the pandemic.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.