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Florida’s much-touted pay raise leaves experienced teachers feeling ignored

More than 3/4 of school districts pay majority of their teachers less than new minimum salary

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs teacher pay bill.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs teacher pay bill. (WSVN)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At least half of the full-time teachers in Florida could get a pay raise under a new funding measure signed Thursday by Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to data from the Florida Department of Education. But those who will benefit the most are newer teachers in the state’s less affluent counties -- including most in Northeast Florida.

The I-TEAM examined the median salary of fulltime teachers reported by the state’s 73 districts or entities. Our team found that 57 of them, or about 79%, are below the minimum starting salary of $47,500 outlined in HB 641. In other words, those 57 districts paid more than half their fulltime teachers less than $47,500 last year.

County-by-county median teacher salary

Statewide, the median salary for fulltime teachers in the 2019-20 school year was $46,596, meaning at least half of Florida’s 176,933 instructional staff members could be entitled to a pay raise when the bill takes effect on July 1.

Below is a breakdown of median teacher salaries for the districts in northeast Florida.

DistrictNumber of teachersMedian salary (2019-2020)
Duval7,649$45,302
St. Johns2,577$45,968
Clay2,621$46,641
Nassau756$44,800
Bradford220$39,148
Alachua1,582$46,995
Flagler714$49,897
Baker303$42,425
Columbia629$42,650
Union162$39,451

The bill creates a formula for distributing an expected $400 million increase to raise the minimum salary for full-time teachers and another $100 million for other pay raises.

Not every teacher is happy with the new bill as it elevates teachers with little to no experience to the same pay scale as those with many years on the job.

“It’s a good thing that we’re putting money in teacher salaries,” said Justin Vogel, chief negotiator, St. John’s Education Association. “However, most of the money has to go to bring starting teacher salaries up, which is going to negatively in effect, teachers with more experience that have higher salaries already.”

A Clay County instructor who did not wish to be publically identified was compensated with $46,000 for the 2019-2020 school year. Under the new spending measure, she expects to receive a $1,500 raise next year, at which point, she’d be earning the same amount with nearly 8 years of experience as brand new teachers.

“Making it a mandatory base salary does not reward veteran teachers who have been overlooked for years or given minuscule raises,” the teacher said. “It seems as though this bill will encourage new teachers, but may also push out good veteran teachers who do not feel valued.”

Another Clay County teacher, who also asked to remain anonymous, expects to receive a raise from her 2019-2020 salary of $41,000. Despite her 18 years of full-time classroom experience, this teacher told News4Jax she was frustrated that she expects to earn the same amount as her colleagues with little to none.

The Clay County teachers also cited concerns about health benefits.

“With this dedicated salary money, districts can lower their contribution to health care and benefits, which in reality negate the amount of the raise,” the teacher said. “We have terrible health coverage already. I wish this salary allocation was more clearly stated as an equitable percentage across the board instead of a recruitment tool.”

The bill allows for the funding of pay raises for any teacher “who did not receive an increase or who received an increase of less than two percent.” The state budget, which DeSantis is expected to sign, includes $100 million, mentioned earlier, for this purpose.