JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis made two stops Monday touting the Florida Legislature’s efforts to increase teacher pay.
The governor was in Fleming Island announcing $800 million in the budget this year for increasing both starting teacher pay and pay for veteran teachers.
Raising starting teacher pay was one of the governor’s key issues when he took office.
The governor first set a goal of raising starting teacher pay to $47,500 back in 2019.
Since then, the state has invested $2 billion to achieve that goal.
This year’s teacher pay raise allocation alone totals $800 million.
Governor Ron DeSantis said it will not only be used to help the state reach its goal of a $47,500 starting salary for new teachers, but also boost the pay of veteran teachers.
“This is just what school districts have to do. You know, we’re saying you’ve got to pay teachers more with this money. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use some of the other money we’re sending and also do it even more,” said DeSantis.
DeSantis said over 90% of districts in Florida have now achieved starting salaries of over $40,000, compared to just 12% nationwide.
But even still, Florida ranks 49th in the nation for average teacher pay, according to the National Education Association.
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, argued that’s because veteran teachers have largely been ignored in recent years.
“So while he may go around the state saying we’re making this huge investment, he continues to do it in a way that is divisive and causing people to leave the profession,” said Spar.
But Clay Superintendent David Broskie told us the pay increases have made Florida schools more competitive.
“We were at $38,000 in the year 19-20 and now we’re at $47,500 and so it’s a big attractor in a tough labor market,” said Broskie.
On the other hand, Duval School District is struggling with a chronic staffing shortage, with almost 400 teaching vacancies.
The school board recently voted to approve a ballot initiative that asks voters to increase their own taxes specifically to bolster teacher pay.
When asked about the local initiative, the governor seemed skeptical of the prospect.
“You know they’re always saying this is going to be so significant and then they come back and ask for more, so just be careful about that,” said DeSantis.
The governor did note that while the focus in recent years has been on increasing starting teacher pay, the focus will begin to shift toward increasing veteran teacher pay going forward.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
$2 billion has been invested by the Florida Legislature since Gov. DeSantis took office to increase teacher pay.
Over 90 percent of Florida School Districts offer starting salaries over $40,000, compared to just 12 percent of districts nationwide.
$800 million has been invested this year to raise starting pay and increase pay for veteran teachers.
National Education Association still ranks Florida 49th for average teacher pay.
Duval County is short-staffed by nearly 400 teachers and is asking voters to approve a property tax hike to help increase salaries and make the county more competitive.
The Governor was skeptical of the proposed hike when asked Monday, telling voters to ‘be careful’.
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