Florida House looks at $462 million for teacher pay

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A House education panel on Thursday unveiled an early budget recommendation that includes $462 million for teacher pay raises after conducting a “budget exercise” for the coming fiscal year.

House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairman Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the exercise was done to see if existing money in the education budget could be shifted to fund other issues. He said his committee will recommend cutting $520 million from some education programs, including $284.5 million from the “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program.

Latvala will recommend $462.6 million be reallocated to what is known as the “base student allocation” with the intent of funding teacher pay raises.

Ever since Gov. Ron DeSantis rolled out $900 million in pay initiatives, lawmakers have been scrambling to find money. The governor has urged state lawmakers to approve a $600 million plan to set a minimum salary of $47,500 for public school teachers and $300 million for a new bonus program for teachers and principals.

House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, opened the 2020 legislative session on Tuesday with a pledge to “work toward a significant, equitable and substantial proposal” on teacher pay that can also accommodate wage increases in other critical areas of state government.

The recommendation from Latvala’s committee will be sent to House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings, R-Fleming Island, for consideration.