Working off the momentum of last year’s push to improve starting teacher pay in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year recommended $550 million to increase minimum salaries for teachers in 2021-22, up from last year’s $500 million.
But both House and Senate lawmakers working on the 2021-22 state budget have proposed $500 million for the governor’s initiative, budget documents show, meaning it doesn’t look like DeSantis will get that extra $50 million.
The goal is to raise starting pay for teachers to at least $47,500 a year. In 2019, when DeSantis was a first-term Republican governor, he outlined a $603 million plan to set the minimum salary for all teacher at $47,500 a year, beginning in the 2020-21 academic year.
At the time, the average starting salary for Florida teachers in 2017-18 was $37,636 a year, according to the National Education Association. Florida ranked 27th of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., just below the national average of $39,249.
In the 2021 legislative session, the language in proposed budget bills for 2021-22 say that the $500 million will go to increasing teacher salary to $47,500, or to the maximum amount achievable — just like last year’s funding.
That said, the budget proposals are still a work in progress — the state budget usually gets finalized in the last few days of the two-month legislation session.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate will negotiate how to best use funds for the next fiscal year. During discussions, some projects may get more money while others will get chopped.
In the case of teacher starting pay, both chambers for now went with $500-million in their proposed budget bills for 2021-22. But you never know what may happen in the world of crafting a state budget in the next few weeks.
Even now, it’s not clear if every school district will be able to pay their teachers at least $47,500. In the year since the initial pay raise, not many of Florida’s school districts were able to reach that goal.
Some districts may fall short again following 2021-22 budget allocations.