When he rolled out his latest budget proposal, Gov. Ron DeSantis said 2020 would be the “Year of the Teacher.”
On Thursday, the appointed State Board of Education had its say, by approving the legislative budget request.
The DeSantis proposal is ambitious: $22.9 billion for the Florida Education Finance Program (FEDP), an increase of over $1 billion. $900M to “recruit and retain” teachers, with $600M to boost the minimum salary of all teachers to $47,500, and $300M more for the Florida Classroom Teacher and Principal Bonus programs.
Additionally, $25M is slotted to workforce development schemes, and a $46M boost year over year for colleges and universities.
Total student spending, said a speaker from the Governor’s Office on the call, was $7,990 … a “massive increase” in investment. Likewise, the teacher’s pay boost, as was messaged in October, would make starting pay the second-highest in the country.
Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the budget was “more transformational and bolder than last year’s,” urging the board to send a message to the Legislature that “this is the agenda, we’re all on the same page.”
Vice-Chair Marva Johnson likewise called it a “bold and wonderful” agenda.
Board member Mike Olenick, calling while driving, questioned what the starting salary proposal would do to experienced teachers “at a certain level.”
Corcoran noted that “this whole package is minimum base pay, 60% of all teachers” with bonuses and other “components” making it “an urban-beneficial, rural-beneficial, veteran-teacher-beneficial budget.”
The Commissioner lauded the budget as the greatest teacher compensation package in history.
The plaudits and superlatives continued, with multiple board members pledging to assist.
“We will need everyone’s assistance,” Corcoran asserted.
Indeed, the Legislative session will offer a robust discussion of a number of bills related to this proposal.
Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who chairs the budget committee, filed a bill to end the “Best and the Brightest” teacher bonus program.
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.
“Do we stick to $47,500? That’s yet to be debated,” Diaz told Florida Politics’ Ryan Nicol. “Does the number $45,000 bring us near the Top 10 [nationwide]? Is the number $43,000?”
Diaz chairs the Senate Education Committee, which clearly will be tweaking the DeSantis proposal.