Gillum’s idea became DeSantis’s idea: Give more pay to starting teachers

Teacher in her classroom
Teacher in her classroom. Photo by Dave Einsel/Getty Images

On the 2018 campaign trail, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum was pushing a $1-billion plan to invest in public schools, including paying new teachers a $50,000 starting salary — a big boost for educators.

His Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, was focusing on school vouchers, career technical education and making sure 80 percent of K-12 education dollars go directly into the classroom.

Gillum lost the governor’s race to DeSantis, and the governor is now  focusing on boosting salaries for starting teachers in Florida, according to a recent television interview in South Florida.

DeSantis spoke to WPLG’s Glenna Milberg about doing more to recruit and retain good teachers. “The single biggest factor on whether students are going to succeed is the quality of the teacher,” said DeSantis, a public high school graduate from Florida.

DeSantis had pushed to create a revamped teacher bonus program this year — which lawmakers approved — but the Florida Education Association and other educators wanted higher salaries, not just bonuses.

And the governor acknowledged in the South Florida interview that programs to help shave off student loan debt for teachers wouldn’t be enough.

“I do think the starting salary probably needs to go up and the state should help with that,” DeSantis told Milberg in the interview. He said he will be rolling out something on the issue, probably in the fall.

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.

Gillum’s proposal for teacher salaries also included boosts for veteran teachers, not just new teachers.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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