Governor Ron DeSantis is proposing boosting starting teacher salaries by nearly $10,000. He’s including the goal in his 2020 budget proposals. DeSantis has been vocal about trying to reverse the state’s teacher shortage since taking office.
Florida’s Department of Education has identified critical shortages in science, English, math and reading.
But in recent years, Florida has tried to alleviate pay woes with performance-based bonuses that are non-recurring. The governor says his plan would take the state from 26th to second-ranked nationally, with starting teacher salary at $47,500.
“That shows a commitment to education. I think it’s something that will hopefully attract more people into the profession,” DeSantis told reporters in Clay County Monday. “And then … statewide … this will end up giving over 100,000 teachers increased compensation.”
If roughly 101,000 teachers do receive a salary increase, it would account for the majority of teachers in the state, from a total of 176,000.
DeSantis says the raise would take an investment of more than $600 million.
In the meantime, there’s been no mention of a salary raise for more experienced teachers who have been in the profession for years.
The governor also recently said he’s mulling the cancellation of the Best and Brightest Bonus Program.
Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran was on hand for DeSantis’ announcement, calling him an “education governor,” whose election was a “game-changer” for students. Corcoran, like DeSantis, sees the salary raise as a means of enticing prospective teachers to come to the Sunshine State.
“The basement is $47,500 – and it’s the second highest salary in the nation,” Corcoran said, pointing out New Jersey (where he says ‘nobody wants to live’) is No. 1. “Where are you going to come? You’re going to come to Florida, to our sandy beaches and our great sunshine.”
House Speaker Jose Oliva also weighed in on DeSantis’ proposal in a statement Monday afternoon, but had a decidedly less enthused tone than the governor:
"I am in receipt of the Governor's statement regarding teacher compensation as I am of the over $2 billion of new spending requests from his agencies. The legislative process will properly vet these among all other state concerns,” Oliva wrote. “My initial thought is one of gratitude for those who came before us and saw it fit to bind us and all future legislatures to a balanced budget."
Statewide teachers union the Florida Education Association calls the move "a starting point."
“Raising minimum starting pay is a beginning," FEA President Fedrick Ingram said. "We still hope to hear about what Gov. DeSantis plans to do to retain experienced teachers who have devoted years to their students, and about how his administration will provide fair, competitive pay for all the people essential to our schools — bus drivers, paraprofessionals, food-service workers, office staff, custodial personnel and others.”