Gov. DeSantis plans to increase teacher pay – and it’ll be more than a few dollars

School teachers protest for higher wages at a Miami-Dade School Board meeting. Pay for Florida’s teachers ranks 46th in the nation. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’ll be rolling out “something significant on teacher recruitment and compensation” in the next month or so, and it will be more than “a little token.”

Florida’s public school teachers are at the bottom of the pay scale compared to almost all other states, national data show, and educators and teacher unions have been pushing for salary increases — not just one-time bonuses.

Talking to reporters after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, DeSantis says he has asked Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran to develop a proposal within existing funding levels that could boost teacher pay, which is now set by negotiations between teachers and each local school board.

“I think there are ways we can make it work,” DeSantis said. “We’re in the process of doing that. We haven’t made any final decisions yet, but we will be rolling out something hopefully within the next month or so.”

Whether the governor’s plan will satisfy educators remains to be seen.

The Florida Education Association has proposed a 10-year, $22-billion commitment to boost school revenues, restore funding for art, music and physical education and hire school counselors, psychologists and social workers. And the biggest piece of all: A 10 percent, across-the-board pay increase for every public school employee in Florida — which will help recruit and retain teachers and staff.

As to bonuses compared to salary increases, DeSantis did say the current $285 million “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus plan would be folded into his new compensation package, which is likely to focus on a salary increase rather than bonus payments.

DeSantis says the current Best and Brightest bonus plan is too complicated. “I don’t want it to be that complicated,” he said.

He also says his teacher compensation plan will be more than “a little token” of “a few dollars a year.”

DeSantis says the pay plan will be part of his overall education plan that includes the expansion of school choice for low-income students, including charter schools and tax-supported vouchers to send students to private schools.

But a key component will be “getting the best possible teachers in the classroom.”

“I look around now and I think that teaching is viewed not as favorably as we’d like it to be with young people coming out of college. And I’d like to be able get more people going into the profession,” he said.

DeSantis said “you can talk about bells and whistles about this classroom, this technology, all that, and I’m not saying none of that that matters, but if you have a really great teacher in front of the kids, that’s probably going to be the single best thing that can happen.”

The average starting salary for Florida teachers was $37,636 in 2017-18, according to the National Education Association. In that analysis, Florida ranks 27th of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. and is below the national average of $39,249.

However, Florida’s average for all teachers — not just beginning teachers — is $48,168, which is ranked 46th in the analysis. That compares to the national average of $60,477 in 2017-18.

Phoenix editor Diane Rado contributed to this report.

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