Lawmakers started settling their differences on teacher pay Saturday as conference committees kicked off.
The House’s first offer gives total education funding at $22.7 billion. The House also made its first offer on higher education funding. It’s proposing nearly $8.4 billion in total funding, $98 million more than the House originally wanted to spend.
The offer has about $13.8 billion going to Florida Educational Finance Program, the main source of education funding. But the House added funding compression back in and said they’re considering some tweaks to the district cost differential.
The House accepted the Senate’s position on teacher pay raises, meaning that the legislature will spend $500 million on raises, with no bonuses. Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed $900 million, with $600 million going to teacher raises for starting teachers and $300 million going to teacher bonuses.
PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Chris Latvala says how the money will be distributed is still being worked through. The House wanted to direct the money toward raising new teacher pay to $47,500, which was DeSantis’ focus. The Senate included more school staff in its approach than limited it to just classroom staff. He thinks the distribution will end up being more in-line with the House’s approach.
The House is offering nearly $14 million to counties that would lose out because of the school formula tweaks. The House was able to prevail with a higher increase in the base student allocation, with $50 more per student compared with the Senate’s proposed $40.
There’s still some differences.
The House wants to spend more for Voluntary Pre-K than the Senate and is holding firm to increase the Voluntary Preschool base student allocation and is waiting to see the Senate’s counter.
“It’s the first increase I think in like 10 years,” he said. “It’s important to our members, it’s important to our presiding officer and other members and VPK has not seen that increase in many years.
Latvala says the takeaway for the education budget is that teachers will be getting a massive raise. He praised the Governor for his leadership on the issue.
The House budget also increases the base student allocation by $50, which will help offset school districts’ increasing contributions to the Florida Retirement System. The Senate plan would increase the base student allocation by $40.
The FRS increase is expected to hit $233 million, in part due to the legacy of the Great Recession on the state’s pension fund.
“The FRS will be something for districts to contend with,” Latvala said. “But I think they will have the funds.”
The House moved more to the Senate’s position on state universities’ national ranking and universities of distinction. It also eliminated some of the cuts Higher Education Subcommittee Chair Randy Fine had proposed, from $50 million to $35 million.
The offer gives $1.2 billion to state colleges, $5.1 billion to universities and $163 million to private colleges. The House’s offer also gives $15 million to Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Education committees will meet Sunday to get the Senate’s offer back on K-12 and Higher Education.