Gov. DeSantis boosts teacher pay but FL’s average teacher salary lags well behind other states

The governor doesn’t mention the goal of $47,500 for starting teacher salaries

By: - March 21, 2022 6:06 pm

Teacher with students in elementary school science class. Credit: Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday touted big raises for starting and veteran teachers for 2022-23, but Florida’s average teacher salary still lags well behind other states, national data show.

Over the last three budget years, DeSantis has pushed for increasing starting teacher salaries, with a goal for starting pay for teachers at $47,500 across Florida’s school districts.

But at two press conferences Monday, DeSantis did not make mention that goal, even as he highlighted a significant increase in funding proposed in the 2022-23 budget, which he has not yet signed. (He verbally said he would approve the teacher salary increases.)

Instead, he focused on a different measure related to school districts across the country that have a starting pay at more than $40,000. DeSantis claimed that the vast majority of Florida’s school districts have a starting pay of more than $40,000.

In 2020, the average starting salary for a teacher in Florida was $40,000, which would be 26th in the nation, according to the governor’s press release on Monday. With the 2022-23 budget, the ranking would increase to 9th in the nation, at $47,000 for starting pay.

At his press conferences Monday, the governor did not provide any data or methods to explain those numbers. Later, his press secretary, Christina Pushaw, provided 2019-20 data on starting salaries from the National Education Association (NEA).

She said the $47,500 remains a goal for starting salaries in Florida.

Checking in on the progress of Florida starting teacher pay is difficult, partly because data from a national perspective has a bit of a lag and local district-level union bargaining takes time to implement statewide pay raise initiatives.

The NEA, a nationwide union, tracks and compares the average salary for public school teachers in each state.

Florida was ranked 50th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., at $49,583. That’s  an estimate by the NEA for 2020-21. The overall average nationwide is $65, 090, according to the NEA analysis.

However, the Florida Department of Education data show that average teacher salaries in 2020-21 is $51,166.59. Even with that figure, the vast majority of states would have higher average salaries than Florida, based on the 2020-21 NEA estimates.

That said, the state budgets for 2021-22 and 2022-23 in Florida could push up the average teacher salaries compared to other states, but that would require new data analysis from the NEA and other groups.

In 2021-22, the Legislature approved $550-million to get districts closer to the goal of $47,500 for starting pay.

Kevin Watson, executive director for Florida School Labor Relations Service, told the Phoenix in an email that “many districts continue to negotiate” the second round of pay raises.

As for the 2022 session, Florida lawmakers approved $800 million in funds for 2022-23.

Overall, the dollars would be for starting pay, veteran pay and other pay increases.

The Phoenix has previously reported that it is not clear when all of Florida school districts will reach the $47,500 goal, for starting pay, if at all.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.