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Teacher pay raise legislation heads to Ron DeSantis’ desk

The amount for teacher pay raises is still being negotiated.

Lawmakers voted unanimously to pass legislation that spells out how teacher pay raises will be distributed in 2020-21.

The chambers have yet to settle on an exact amount in the budget for what the state will spend on the raises, but are expected to spend at least $500 million on teacher salaries for next school year.

“We’ve sought to kind of recalibrate the discussion here in the Senate when it comes to education in the state of Florida,” out-going Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley said. “This bill today is completely and entirely consistent with the vision of the Senate over the last two years, the balance of traditional public schools with the choice options.”

The amendment to legislation (HB 641) says each school district would get money based proportionately on their share of the Florida Education Finance Program, the main source of education funding. School districts would also give their charter schools a proportionate share. 

The schools would use the money to increase base salaries for classroom teachers and pre-kindergarten teachers to $47,500, which is a top priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis. The governor is looking to bump up starting teachers’ pay. Approximately 100,000 teachers are set to get raises under the proposal. It doesn’t apply to substitute teachers.

The bill would allow school districts to also give raises, as funding permits, to full-time classroom teachers and pre-kindergarten teachers who did not receive an increase or who received an increase of less than two percent. Other full-time instructors could also get a bump in pay.

The bill left some lawmakers conflicted that it didn’t go far enough for the state’s veteran teachers.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Chair Kelli Stargel said the proposal ultimately will hurt teacher morale because not everyone will see a pay raise.

“I’m conflicted because we could have done better,” she said. ““Regardless of the amount, but in our approach.”

It requires that school districts and charter schools shall develop salary distribution plans before handing out the raises.  School district superintendents and each charter school administrators must submit the plans to their school boards or the charter school governing bodies for approval. And they have to go to the Department of Education for approval. 

But once lawmakers raise the pay, districts will be on the hook under the Senate version to maintain those salaries even if the Legislature doesn’t fund it every year, Rep. Rene Plasencia said.

Each school district by December 1st has to provide a draft report to DOE that explains the school district’s distribution plan. By February 1st, DOE has to submit a statewide report to the governor, the Senate president and the Speaker of the House. And school districts have to submit a final report to DOE by August 1st.

But the bill differs from the failed amendment to HB 7103. That contained no mention of pre-K teachers and included a provision tied to educator performance evaluations. It also included language that said that while school districts were “not precluded” from bargaining over wages, DOE had to approve of the allocations. This bill does not require the commissioner, who has frequently clashed with teacher unions, to sign off. House Democrats were able to scuttle that amendment.

Out-going Sen. Bill Montford praised Stargel for saying “no” to suggestions that have come up in committees in from the House.

Written By

Sarah Mueller has extensive experience covering public policy. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2010. She began her career covering local government in Texas, Georgia and Colorado. She returned to school in 2016 to earn a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting. Since then, she’s worked in public radio covering state politics in Illinois, Florida and Delaware. If you'd like to contact her, send an email to sarah@floridapolitics.com.

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