Sen. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, is putting forward his “starting point” pitch on Gov. Ron DeSantis‘ proposal to raise teacher salaries in the state.
But that bill may also divert from the Governor’s goals, detailed in his October announcement, by potentially requiring DeSantis to back off his proposed salary floor.
“This is very skeletal in its structure by design,” Diaz said of his legislation (SB 1088), “because I think what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to build a foundation upon how you would actually insert the money.”
In October, DeSantis put forward a package of just over $600 million to raise the starting teacher salary in Florida from $37,636 (as of 2017-18) to $47,500.
But rather than target only districts whose starting salary sits below the $47,500 number, Diaz is seeking to spread any additional money allocated for teacher pay more equitably across the state — even to districts at or near that minimum number.
The measure from Diaz reads, “A school district that meets the teacher salary enhancement requirements specified in the General Appropriations Act may use any additional funds provided in the allocation for any district operating expenditure.”
That would allow districts who meet the starting salary floor to use funds for other items — like raising veteran teacher pay above that floor.
Diaz conceded that dishing out money to districts that have already met the Governor’s proposed floor — should the Legislature sign off on that number — could raise the project’s overall price tag.
“It could. And again, it depends on the approach we take.”
Another approach? Diaz said the starting salary floor could be lowered.
“Do we stick to $47,500? That’s yet to be debated. Does the number $45,000 bring us near the top 10 [nationwide]? Is the number $43,000?”
Monroe County’s starting teacher salary sits at $47,800. In Miami-Dade, that number is $41,000, A referendum approved by Miami-Dade voters has temporarily raised the starting salary to $46,125, though that bonus will sunset if not renewed. Diaz represents Senate District 36, which sits in Miami-Dade County.
The measure from Diaz — who chairs the Senate Education Committee — does not set a minimum salary floor, nor does it propose a final price tag for the measure.
But with a Republican-controlled Legislature, that final price tag will likely not get larger given that the Governor’s original proposal earned a cool reception from House Speaker José Oliva.
“I am in receipt of the Governor’s statement regarding teacher compensation as I am of the over $2B of new spending requests from his agencies,” Oliva said.
“The legislative process will properly vet these among all other state concerns. My initial thought is one of gratitude for those who came before us and saw it fit to bind us and all future legislatures to a balanced budget,” Oliva added.
Diaz also said the precise method of distributing the extra funds has yet to be determined.
“You [can] talk about categorical, you [can] talk about putting in the base student allocation. And then, do we say that everybody [must reach] a minimum $47,500 or do you try to equalize the money across the state and have it where you raise all boats and it brings the average salary higher?”
Diaz stressed there is a long way to go in the process, but he thinks the issue should be debated next Session.
“I think if you ask everybody, in general, are they OK with paying teachers more, I think people will say the general answer is, ‘Yes.’ It’s the ‘how’ where it gets complicated,” Diaz said.
“This is the very beginning of the conversation. But I think that we should give the Governor the opportunity of having the conversation in the Senate. I’m sure the House will do the same thing.”