And on Day 61 … the House and Senate agree to $500 million for teacher pay raises
The bill would let school districts offer the most effective teachers longer contracts.

good teachers (Large)
Lawmakers are putting aside $100 million of the $500 million for veteran teachers.

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 The Legislature also repealed the Best and Brightest bonus program and did not replace it.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.

Sarah Mueller

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 [email protected]


3 comments

  • James R.

    March 14, 2020 at 9:26 pm

    Five hundred million dollars. Teachers. That’s a great deal of money. Teaching, in theory, is a noble way to earn one’s living. But not all teachers are equal in quality, in the difficulty of their classroom (if any) environment, or in the subjects they teach.

    Wouldn’t it make a great deal more sense to allocate limited funds based upon objective showings of excellence? The fact that one calls oneself a teacher, and is, in fact, stationed in a classroom or an athletic field, does not entitle him or her to pay raises. Exceeding objective levels of performance demonstrates the entitlement.

    It is not unlike other professional and non-professional occupations. A pizzeria that serves inconsistent food loses customers. If it then attempts to raise prices to make up for the lost business, it loses more customers. Throwing additional money, especially public money, at all teachers, irrespective of their effectiveness or the difficulty of their subject rewards non-performers and those with less complex tasks to teach. Even if excellence is its own reward for the true performers, they have the same or similar financial pressures that the low performers do.

    Doubtless, salaries differ, at least in part, based upon years of service. It would be far better if salaries differed based upon years of excellence measured by objective standards.

    • CMS

      March 14, 2020 at 10:41 pm

      James, while that sounds perfectly reasonable the trouble is there is no universal standard as to what “excellence” means. A few things to think about:

      Ultimately learning is an active process the student must participate in. If the student refuses there is not much a teacher can do.

      So, you might say, we can observe the teachers and rate their performance. But there exists no universal standard as to what constitutes “good” teaching. And often times the observer has less training and experience than the teacher, making it hard to trust their judgment.

      Teaching is also a team sport. Behavior management starts at home and at the school level. If a school is in chaos and the students’ home life is chaos, the teacher stands little chance in the ~4 hours they might see that student each week.

      Finally, teaching is not sales or entrepreneurship. In those professions, one might give up some security for the chance at a big payday. Teaching is a salaried position. To attract candidates there needs to be some semblance of security. If you are on a year-to-year contract, where your salary is based on “performance” (performance in quotes because the measurement will be arbitrary, and not a true reflection of your ability), how are you going to buy a house? Decide to have children? Plan for retirement?

      So you may ask my solution and it’s that we have strict standards for teacher candidates in terms of education and training. After that there should be ongoing monitoring and support, but not while hanging a pay cut over their heads.

  • James R.

    March 15, 2020 at 1:28 pm

    CMS–What you say makes a great deal of sense, especially the aspect of ongoing monitoring. But for that to be effective, there have to be objective standards against which performance is measured–which is why I mentioned them in my initial post.

    Testing of student performance (as a reflection of teacher performance) is one alternative. However, that routinely gets poor political, and even parental reviews–especially from parents who do not wish to take an active role in their child’s education or maturation. There is little if anything that a teacher can do about that. Parents of that orientation do a disservice to their children and have no right to expect “the public” to pick up the slack.

    From a political standpoint, the danger exists that “government schools” (read: public schools) inculcate or indoctrinate the political views of the majority, which may well differ from the family’s. That’s what recommends school choice, charter schools, and, as needed, subsidies to families to enable them to send a child to a school that aligns with their beliefs. That is also what fails to recommend teacher’s unions to the extent that they advocate for all teachers regardless of their performance, disdain monitoring, and, as needed, the discipline or discharge of underperforming teachers.

Comments are closed.


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