Florida Education Association challenges governor's budget proposal for education

Raising teacher pay in Florida

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A new report shows when it comes to teacher salaries, the Sunshine State gets an 'F' grade.

Florida is in 46th place for teacher pay in the nation, according to the Florida Education Association.

Action News Jax anchor Courtney Cole is investigating the new proposal to increase what teachers earn.

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"We have a crisis in our classrooms with teachers," said Fredrick Ingram, the President of the Florida Education Association.

There aren't enough of them and the FEA said they certainly aren't getting paid enough.

"Our young people are going to make conscious decisions not to become teachers if they can't survive on their own," Ingram said.

The FEA began its Fund For Our Future bus tour at the end of October to call for more money for public schools.

Now, the push feels even more urgent, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis releasing his budget proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year on Monday.

That includes setting aside more than $600 million to raise minimum salaries for full-time teachers to $47,500 -- no matter how long they've been teaching.

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The Governor's Office also told Cole more than 101,000 teachers would receive the raise.

Cole asked the Governor's Office if teachers currently making more than $47,500 would receive a bump in pay. She's still waiting to hear back.

"We have a lot of veteran teachers that have given their life, blood and soul to our children for 5, 10,15, 20 years in this system. So we ought to not create division between teachers. We ought to be coming up with a program that provides all teachers equitable pay," Ingram said.

Cole: "If you could talk to the governor face to face what would you suggest -- to at least start mending all of the holes in the system?"

Ingram: "We're calling for a decade of progress. We'd like to see, over 10 years, $22 billion into public education."

Ingram broke it down further, and told Cole they'd like to see $2.4 million go into the state legislature for teachers this year, and $1.4 billion go directly to students (for things like band equipment, counselors, band equipment, etc.)

"It's shameful that we pay our educators, those closest to our children, those closest to the classroom, who we entrust in educating our kids -- that we pay them so poorly across the state," Ingram said.

Cole: "Have you voiced this to the Governor's Office?"

Ingram: "We certainly have tried. In fact, just last week we sent a letter to the Governor's office and we invite him -- and we'd like to be invited -- to the Governor's mansion."

DeSantis is also proposing a new $300 million bonus program for teachers and principals.

"That will have a really meaningful impact in terms of recruiting and retaining folks," DeSantis said.

As a product of the public school system in Florida, and a band director, Ingram told Cole he would beg to differ.

"Bonus programs don't work. And in fact, it is a cheap way to pay our teachers. It is an insult to teachers that we don't talk about total compensation and salary -- that we only talk about having a bonus program for teachers," Ingram said.

The Governor's office told Cole the bonus program would be based on merit. Here's the breakdown provided by the Governor's office:

The new bonus program would provide financial incentives based on merit to eligible full-time classroom teachers and school principals who met one of the following tier structures:

  • Tier 1: Schools earn 85 percent or greater of the total possible points or gains 6 or more points in their A-F school grading calculation;
  • Tier 2: Schools gaining 3 to 5 points in their A-F school grading calculation; or
  • Tier 3: Schools gaining 1 to 2 points in their A-F school grading calculation.

The bonus award amounts for teachers are as follows:

  • Tier 1: Title I schools will receive a bonus of up to $7,500 and non-Title I schools receive up to $3,700;
  • Tier 2: Title I schools will receive a bonus of up to $3,500 and non-Title I schools receive up to $1,750; and
  • Tier 3: Title I schools will receive a bonus of up to $1,000 and non-Title I schools receive up to $500.

The bonus award amounts for principals are as follows:

  • Tier 1: Title I schools will receive a bonus of up to $10,000 and non-Title I schools receive up to $5,000;
  • Tier 2: Title I schools will receive a bonus of up to $5,000 and non-Title I schools receive up to $2,500; and
  • Tier 3: Title I schools will receive a bonus of up to $2,500 and non-Title I schools receive up to $1,250.
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