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Joe Henderson: Don’t forget experienced Florida teachers when increasing pay

Under Governor’s pay plan, beginning teachers could make nearly as much as those with many more years of service.

Florida school teachers are accustomed to hearing bad news from the Legislature. They have earned the right to skepticism even when the news seems good, as it did Monday when Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled a plan to dramatically increase the minimum teacher pay.

If the Governor’s plan is approved, the minimum starting salary for a teacher will increase to $47,500 – a jump of about $10,000. Florida currently ranks 26th nationally for starting teacher pay but would be No. 2 after this.

At a news conference, the Governor said it would mean raises for about 101,000 teachers in the state who make below the proposed new minimum. That would no doubt make teaching more attractive and perhaps help alleviate the state’s severe shortage of qualified instructors.

“With a strong economy and plenty of jobs available in other fields, unfortunately too many college graduates are unwilling to enter the teaching profession,” he said in a news release.

“My proposal to increase the minimum salary for teachers to $47,500 will help alleviate this shortage and elevate the teaching profession to the level of appreciation it deserves. This is long overdue, and I look forward to working with the Legislature to make this a reality.”

So far, so good. And with DeSantis enjoying high approval numbers, lawmakers will probably give him what he wants.

But unless the Governor has something for the more than 70,000 other teachers who might not receive raises, there could be a real problem. Judging by the wording of this announcement, it doesn’t look like there will be – at least not immediately.

Karla Hernandez Mats, President of the United Teachers of Dade, was cautious. She praised a proposal for giving educators a “dignified” salary. But she added, “We will reserve praise until we know more about how this plan will be funded and what, if anything, will need to be conceded to achieve that goal.”

Room, say hello to the elephant.

Imagine you’ve been toiling for years in a classroom and make just a little more than the new minimum. Those teachers have been on the frontlines of a Tallahassee assault on their profession for years. Low pay is only part of what they have endured.

For instance, when the state created the Best and Brightest bonus program to reward top teachers, it came across as insulting. Teachers had to submit their high school ACT or SAT scores even if they had graduated decades before.

Lawmakers sneeringly said the score was a good predictor of teaching success. Actually, success in the classroom is the best predictor of teaching success.

The Legislature finally did away with that nonsense. Putting it there in the first place, though, showed incredible tone-deafness.

The Governor should understand why some of those wounds remain open. There is potential for trouble when someone fresh out of college receives a paycheck nearly equal to what experienced teachers make.

That could lead to some serious tension in the faculty lunchroom. I wouldn’t blame the veteran teachers, either, if that were the case.

I also don’t blame DeSantis, though. Unceasing mandates from lawmakers drove out good Florida teachers over the last several years. We all should be glad to see a major step that reinforces the fact that teaching is an honorable profession.

He deserves credit for that.

Just don’t forget those Florida teachers who have been in front of those classes for a long, long time.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. gary

    October 9, 2019 at 4:56 am

    Don’t forget to not raise taxes to meet the increase!

  2. Sara cuaresma

    October 9, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    Are teachers with temporary certification going to make more money than those certified and experienced teachers?

  3. Tom

    October 9, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Whenever I tell my wife, “I hate to be cynical,” she always says, “Since when?” So, my guess is that any significant increase in beginning teacher pay will be balanced by little to no real increase for the veteran teachers.
    And at least a few of those older teachers may say that’s okay. I wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Because they know it is very important to raise the profession, and it needs to start with the new teachers, all of whom were once the students. Their students. And there is nothing cynical about that.
    The real cynicism lies in the political class that has choked the profession for decades now, for reasons well documented: privatization and profit.

  4. Concerned

    October 9, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    After teaching in the State of Florida for 30 years and a High Impact teacher since the beginning of the program, I will be making $1500 less then the beginning teacher! Never received the Best and Brightest Scholarship due to my SAT scores were not available, even with being one of the top 3% teacher in Florida! Mr. Governor, you need to look into keeping experienced and highly effect teachers and not force them to leave the profession!

  5. Hillsborough County Teacher

    October 10, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    Something must be done for ALL Florida teachers. Florida is the 3rd most populous state in the country with the 17th largest economy in the world, but 48th in average teacher salaries! Shameful. https://www.change.org/p/governor-desantis-educators-have-99-problems-and-pay-is-just-one?fbclid=IwAR2vJYx-gXC8hHkca3Tl0kSxlOoyRxEmvdEDLnQAduTmwW2LfE1GVtrHLOQ&recruited_by_id=5cbbe200-b2c1-11e9-a096-6333ce7b1a2f&utm_medium=custom_url&utm_source=share_petition

  6. Florida Teacher

    October 11, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    I just retired this month and will not see the increase in retirement pay I would have received had we been paid fairly all along. I remember meeting a retired teacher living in near poverty when I first started teaching and vowed not to let that happen to me. I would have done so much better had I chosen a different line of work. Luckily I’m a good money manager and careful spender. Even so, I regret staying for over 30 years.

    Along with more money, something must be done to hold schools to the class size amendment PER CLASS. I had 3 preps and between 211-220 students the first six weeks of school. Forty students in a title one school classroom is simply inexcusable. I decided that it simply wasn’t worth it anymore.

  7. Annemarie Andux

    October 13, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    The new best and brightest cuts out all prekindergarten teachers. zI am a highly effective special education teacher with a degree in Behavior Disorders, I have 28 years of teaching the most difficult students in the county and yet becsuse the outdated Florida statutes say a “teacher” is only “K-12” grade, I have been denied a bonus for doing my job preparing these early years students for a succesful school life.

  8. Less test more pay

    October 16, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    No teacher gets paid what they deserve,neither are any other school staff.They also need to stop making the school year ALL about the GAS results,and exempt the students in the ESE classes. I believe if a study was done that they would find out that at least 70% of students have test anxiety and would not be able to do their best.Finally, the teachers work hard to reach their students,BUT just because the teacher is doing a great job, it does NOT mean that the student is doing their best or that parents are helping.then to succeed.

  9. Eric Garner

    October 20, 2019 at 6:39 am

    I applaud the Governor for recognizing this problem and can only encourage him to extend the program with a minimum base salary at every year of teacher experience. Couple this with an increase in retirement benefits to make up for the ten years our salaries stagnated, or diminished, and the teacher shortage will be over.

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