Lawmakers are set to hand out $500 million in teacher pay raises.
The House and Senate Appropriations chairs hammered out their differences on that issue Saturday. The House accepted the Senate’s offer, which also includes $42 million in school hardening grants and more money for school readiness.
Senate budget chief Rob Bradley says of the $500 million for teacher pay raises, $400 million is expected to go to lifting starting teacher pay to as close to $47,500 as school districts can manage. Not every school district will be able to meet that minimum base pay and some will be able to get closer than others. The other $100 million is to go to veteran teachers.
It’s slightly unclear if the $100 million can be used for veteran teachers if the school district doesn’t meet the salary requirements as detailed in the bill (HB 641). The education budget will also include $340 million in flexible spending for school districts.
The budget would give about $13.7 billion to the Florida Education Finance Program, the main source of education funding. Each school district would get money based proportionately on their share of the FEFP. School districts would also give their charter schools a proportionate share of their funding.
Gov. Ron DeSantis had asked for $602 million to increase starting teacher pay for about 100,000 instructors across the state. Bradley says this was a negotiation. The Legislature also repealed the Best and Brightest bonus program and did not replace it.
“We landed in a place where everybody won on teacher salaries,” he said. “This is the year of the teacher. We delivered. The governor promised it. The promise was kept.”
The base student allocation would go up by an additional $40, which Bradley says it more than enough to cover the increase lawmakers are requiring state employees to pitch into the state retirement system. That bill (HB 5007) is on DeSantis’ desk.
The Florida Education Association says under the proposed budget, almost all teachers and instructional staff in the state should see pay increases next year. It points to what it says is a positive move by including certified pre-K teachers, who were ignored in previous pay-enhancement plans. And FEA President Fedrick Ingram says lawmakers have signaled that they will take a multi-year approach to increasing salaries.
“We look forward to building upon this salary plan next year with a keen focus on our veteran teachers and our education staff professionals,” he said.
House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings says the $42 million they’re allocating for school hardening is significant.
“We really go by what we’re hearing from the respective schools and areas of the state and we definitely felt that was adequate,” he said.
Lawmakers also plan to spend $60 million to expand access to the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program for families currently on its wait list. The proposal also includes $8 million classroom technology, which had been zeroed out in previous budget offers.
The appropriations chairs didn’t immediately have the final top line total budget number, but it’s expected to be around $92 billion. A final vote could come Wednesday or Thursday.