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Despite Budget Vetoes, Governor Approves Funding To Raise Salaries Of Florida Teachers

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Florida’s 67 school districts will share $500-million to raise teacher salaries. Each district has to negotiate salaries under a collective bargaining agreement. Then, they’ll submit a report to the Florida Department of Education detailing how the funds were spent.

Despite having to chop a billion dollars from the new state budget, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill to fund higher salaries for teachers. The money is allocated primarily to new members of the profession.

The bill provides $500-million to districts. 80% of the money is to boost the salaries of starting teachers as close as possible to $47,500. Then, the remaining $100-million can be used to give raises to experienced teachers and other employees like librarians and school counselors.

“I want our teachers to understand where we came from," says Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association (FEA), a statewide teacher union. "We came from the governor's original proposal that said that he was going to deal with beginning teachers, and he was going to have an all bonus program for veteran teachers. That's where we started, and so we were able to curb that. Unfortunately, in the state of Florida would never go far enough in terms of what our teachers need and our public schools need.”

Ingram says if the governor wanted to address a teacher shortage, that could be done through recruitment efforts and by working to retain those already in the schools. Now, superintendents are faced with what many have referred to as "compression," where starting teachers may be making as much as the veterans.

“Our veteran teachers are angry in some sense," Ingram says, "because it is this overt, blatant disrespect year over year over year that says that the longer you're in this profession, the more lawmakers are going to devalue your existence.”

Ingram says most districts won’t be able to hit the base salary of $47,500 as they also try to boost the pay of veterans. He says local unions will negotiate as hard as they can, since the changes are subject to collective bargaining.

There are already significant pay differences between large and small districts. Plus, higher salaries will impact the amount of money that has to go to teacher retirements.

“Our school districts are going to be expected to try to deal with this pass through that the state did not take care of," Ingram says. "They're passing that increase off of retirement costs to the school districts, and, of course, that's going to take away from money that we call the BSA, the base student allocation. All of that money, again, has to be contemplated on everything from facilities to pay increases to retirement increases; really into insurance increases, and those are things that hurt our teachers and our education force.”

The law uses the money from the now-defunct Best and Brightest teacher and principal bonus program -- which a judge decided was unfair to black, Hispanic, and older teachers.