House and Senate Appropriations chairs say they are very close to an agreement on teacher pay raises.
The chairs confirmed that bonuses, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recommended budget proposal, are still a non-starter. Sen. Rob Bradley says the final number will be between $500 million and $650 million.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed setting the minimum public teacher’s salary at $47,500, at a cost of $900 million. He said his plan will cover about 100,000 teachers statewide, draw more college students into the profession and help retain current educators.
Critics of DeSantis’ proposal argue the teacher pay portion is good news for new teachers, but it leaves out existing teachers who have worked for years with very few raises, and in some cases, pay cuts.
The Senate’s proposed education budget increase scaled back DeSantis’ proposal from $900 million to $825 million but provided more flexibility in how districts could implement raises. It gave $500 million to pay raises.
The House PreK-12 Appropriations recommends spending $650 million as a “salary enhancement supplement.” Of that, $500 million of that would go to raising the minimum teacher base pay. The other $150 million would go to local school districts, allowing them to raise salaries for veteran teachers and other staff.
They have increased the amount school districts will have to pay into the Florida Retirement System, so they pay $233 million because of the legacy of the Great Recession on the state’s pension fund. Lawmakers passed HB 5007, which would change how much state employees have to pay into the retirement system.
School districts are state employers and they have the most state employees. The employees pay a percentage of their paychecks and districts separately pay into the same pot.
That makes the amount for the base student allocation vitally important. House Budget Chief Travis Cummings says the retirement fund issue is something that they have been paying attention to.
“I think you’ll see a combination of not only teacher starting pay, but also with our hardworking, existing educators,” he said.
The chairs signaled that negotiations were continuing on the base student allocation number. The House was recommending a $50 increase to the base student allocation, the same amount the Governor proposed. The Senate had proposed $40 per student. Cummings says they hope school districts will use BSA will help offset or substantially fund pensions.
The pension bill is currently on DeSantis’ desk.