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West Orange Times & Observer Thursday, Jun. 25, 2020 1 month ago

Governor signs bill allocating additional $500 million to teacher salaries

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House Bill 641, Funds for the Operation of Schools, will increase Florida teachers' base salaries and those of some veteran teachers.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a new House bill Wednesday, June 24, that will allocate an additional $500 million in the state’s budget to raising teacher salaries.

The increase will bump Florida from No. 26 in the nation for teacher salaries to No. 5. Of the allotted $500 million, $100 million will go to veteran teachers who already make more than the average minimum salary — $37,636 during 2017-18, according to the National Education Association.

The other $400 million will go toward raising the base salary of Florida teachers to start at $47,500 per year.

“This historic increase puts Florida among the best states in the nation for minimum teacher pay, a bold step in alleviating the teacher shortage and elevating the teaching profession to the level of appreciation it deserves,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

According to the release, full-time classroom teachers and certified pre-K teachers will benefit from House Bill 641. It also benefits others who did not receive an increase or whose increase was less than 2%, as well as other full-time instructional personnel.

DeSantis praised the efforts of Florida’s teachers to keep students engaged through distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, saying that they stepped up and committed to their students.

“Great teachers are what our students need as they re-enter the classroom in the fall, and that’s why this remained a major priority in our budget,” DeSantis said.

He also hopes the raise in base salary will entice people who are deciding on a career path to consider teaching.

“You’re not going to get rich doing it, just like police officers don't get rich, just like other things,” he said. “You do it because you have a servant’s heart, but it sure does make it easier if you have a good minimum salary and are able to make ends meet. We think it’s important, No. 1, to reward the people who are working hard, but No. 2, to continue to recruit new people to fill the ranks of our teachers for generations to come.”

The Orange County Classroom Teachers Association wrote on Facebook that it’s a positive sign that during this crisis, DeSantis signed the education budget into law without making any cuts — highlighting the importance of public schools. However, CTA representatives wrote, it’s important to increase public school per-student spending.

“Our students are our future and they deserve public schools that are properly resourced and funded,” CTA representatives wrote.

CTA representatives added that it is “unfortunate” in the way that the largest pot of money was mandated to be used for raising salaries of teachers who earn less than $47,500. This would benefit early-career teachers, they wrote, but it “excludes veteran teachers who have dedicated their lives to children and this profession.”

“We need to financially reward loyalty and years of dedicated service in education, as is done in other professions,” the CTA wrote. “It also excludes non-classroom teachers, such as counselors and instructional coaches.”

For more information on House Bill 641, click here.

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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