ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - With Florida's economy on the rebound, Gov. Rick Scott is proposing a $1.2 billion increase in education funding for kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as raises for every classroom teacher in the state.
Scott is criss-crossing Florida to tout his commitments and was at Nease High School on Friday.
"Our teachers across the state are working very hard. They care about these students," Scott said.
He said education is one of his top agenda items for the legislative session that begins in March. His proposal amounts to total per-student funding of $6,800, an increase of more than $400 per student.
The total includes $10.7 billion in state funding for Florida K-12 schools. The budget also includes a $480 million commitment to give each and every classroom teacher a $2,500 pay raise along with the cost of related benefits.
"Another thing we want to put in the budget, hopefully, is money so they spend less out of their own pocket on supplies," Scott said. "Also putting money into professional training for our teachers to improve education across the state."
Sen. John Thrasher was at Scott's side touring the school.
"Our economy is coming back, now it's time to ensure we have the kind of double-edge sword where we invest in education and we invest in jobs," Thrasher said.
Students and teachers at Nease said they're thrilled the governor is putting more money into education.
Stephanie Martineau has been a teacher for 13 years -- five of them at Nease. She said she hasn't had a raise in five years and actually took a pay cut to teach in Florida.
"We work hard every day. It would be nice to be recognized for our hard work and effort," Martineau said.
Students say it's about time.
"I think the teachers here deserve it, they're great. I love my teachers, so I'm excited to know they're going to get a raise," student Marisa Payne said.
Florida teachers' salaries still lag behind the national average. The average teacher salary in Florida is about $46,000. Nationally, the average is about $56,000.
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