The Phoenix Flyer

FL Gov. DeSantis wants to boost minimum teacher pay to $47.5K a year

By: - October 7, 2019 2:41 pm

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to among the highest in the nation.

In a series of press conferences around the state on Monday, the first-term Republican governor outlined a $603 million plan to set the minimum salary for all teacher at $47,500 a year, beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.

The average starting salary for Florida teachers in 2017-18 was $37,636 a year, according to the National Education Association. Florida ranked 27th of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., just below the national average of $39,249.

During a stop at Middleburg High School in Clay County, DeSantis said his proposal would increase Florida’s starting teachers’ salaries to second in the nation. He also said that increasing the minimum salary would boost salaries for more than 100,000 new and practicing teachers across the state.

“Having a great teacher in front of the students is really the best thing that you can do,” DeSantis said. “We really believe in teacher quality and in rewarding and in recruiting and in retaining good teachers.”

The pay plan, which lawmakers will consider during their 2020 session that begins in January, “shows a commitment to education,” he said.

“I think it’s something that will hopefully attract more people into the profession,” DeSantis added.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Clay County Republican, voiced support for the governor’s proposal.

“If we fail to retain and attract good teachers going forward then we will not be able to continue the success that we’ve had thus far in Clay County and in so many districts across the state,” Bradley said. “I think it’s important that we invest in retaining and attracting teachers.”

DeSantis said he expects the proposal to draw bipartisan support in the Legislature, which has a Republican majority.

The state’s major teachers’ union, the Florida Education Association, has proposed a 10-year, $22-billion plan to boost school revenues; restore funding for art, music and physical education; and hire school counselors, psychologists and social workers. It includes a 10 percent, across-the-board pay increase for every public school employee in Florida.

The FEA’s plan addresses concerns that are likely to be raised by veteran teachers about the governor’s approach, since the latter could end up paying newly hired teachers at a level similar to more experienced educators.

The average pay for all Florida teachers — not just beginning teachers — is $48,168, which is ranked 46th in the National Education Association survey. That compares to the national average of $60,477 in 2017-18.

“We thank the governor for opening a dialogue on salaries and for acknowledging that our teachers are woefully underpaid,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a written statement. “Raising minimum starting pay is a beginning.”

“We still hope to hear about what Gov. DeSantis plans to do to retain experienced teachers who have devoted years to their students, and about how his administration will provide fair, competitive pay for all the people essential to our schools — bus drivers, paraprofessionals, food-service workers, office staff, custodial personnel and others,” Ingram said.

DeSantis insisted his pay plan is not a “pie in the sky” proposal, saying it can be achieved within existing state revenue. “I think it’s easily doable,” he said. “It’s all about setting priorities.”

He will release his full budget plan for 2020-21 in December, ahead of the Jan. 14 starting date of the legislative session.

In the current budget year, DeSantis and lawmakers supported an education budget that boosted per-student funding in the 67 districts by $243 a student. The overall $783 million increase in state and local funding was enough for some districts to increase teacher pay this year, including Clay County.

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Lloyd Dunkelberger
Lloyd Dunkelberger

Lloyd Dunkelberger has been covering Florida government for over three decades. He’s reported and edited in Tallahassee for the New York Times Regional Newspapers group, Florida Politics, and the News Service of Florida. He grew up in Jacksonville and Palm Beach County and got his journalism degree at the University of Florida.