Gov. DeSantis approves $800M in Florida’s budget for teacher raises

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday announced he is approving $800 million for teacher pay raises in this year’s budget passed by the Florida legislature.

WELLINGTON, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday announced he is approving $800 million for teacher pay raises in this year’s budget passed by the Florida legislature.

“This is something that will go a long way not only to continue to support strong average minimum salaries across the state but also to support increased salaries for veteran teachers,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Wellington.

DeSantis, who made a similar announcement Monday afternoon in Clay County, said the money will go towards increasing the average minimum salary for teachers across the state and also to support increased salaries for veteran teachers but didn’t give specific numbers.

“Think about just the average minimum. You want to get somebody in college to say go into teaching that’s a noble profession. People understand you’re not gonna necessarily be a billionaire doing this, but you need to be able to make ends meet,” DeSantis said.

According to the governor’s office, in 2020, the average starting salary for a teacher in Florida was $40,000 (26th in the nation), and with funding announced Monday, it will now be at least $47,000 (9th in the nation).

This comes as many parts of the state deal with employment shortages, including shortages in teachers, bus drivers and support staff. In Duval County’s public schools, nearly 400 classroom positions are open.

And a shortage is also being felt in Clay County where the superintendent said this budget increase is very welcome.

“There’s no doubt, you know, raising teacher salaries by almost $10,000, in a two-year time span is, is really unprecedented,” Superintendent David Broskie said.

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In 2020, DeSantis signed a bill to raise the minimum teacher salary to $47,500 and provide other raises at a cost of $500 million despite state revenue plummeting because of the coronavirus. The raise was about $10,000 more than base pay in the 2017-18 school year when teachers were starting at just over $37,600.

But despite DeSantis’ efforts, some school districts still haven’t reached the goal for the minimum salary, with about 10% of the state yet to reach the minimum salary goal. That plan was also criticized for leaving behind more experienced teachers.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said this budget, which is a $250 million increase over last year’s funding, will help those veteran educators too.

“Of that new $250 million, in that $800 million, half of that is going to veteran teachers so that they can continue to see a massive increase,” Corcoran said.

DeSantis didn’t reveal any specifics about how that money would be doled out, but the commissioner’s comment indicates that about 15% of the total increase will be directed at the longer-serving educators.

Vicki Kidwell, President of the Clay County Education Association, said that’s not going to solve the problem.

“Until funding allows districts flexibility to address salary compression and competitive pay for veteran educators, the hemorrhaging of professionals from a challenging career and the resulting shortages will continue,” Kidwell said.

MORE: Duval school board explores increasing property taxes to improve teacher pay, bolster programs

DeSantis said the budget this year also includes a record amount of per-pupil funding and the highest base student allocation.

News4JAX asked the governor about local efforts to raise money for teacher raises, specifically, in Duval County, where the board has advanced a proposal to raise the property tax rate to fund pay bumps for teachers.

“I’ll let them decide, but what I’ll tell you though, is that when they say, ‘We’re going to raise taxes for education,” then, they never solve the problem, so they raise the taxes and then a lot of times the money goes to different things than what they said it would do. So, I would just tell voters to be very careful when people are putting this out,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis didn’t cite any specific examples but did however cast doubt on the ability of local school boards to responsibly use tax revenue.

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