Public school teacher salaries is a big issue in Florida this year.
Florida’s the third-largest state in the country, and we rank 40th for annual average teacher salaries when the cost of living is considered, according to EdBuild, a nonprofit that tracks public school funding.
Some local governments are trying to change that. In August, voters in Martin County on Florida’s southeast coast approved a millage increase that would provide funding for a teacher pay raises. This week, the local teacher’s union and the school district announced that they had come to an agreement.
Martin County school employees will now receive a raise of $1,800 to $7,800 annually, with the amount tied to their years of experience.
“The increase in teacher pay will be life-changing for many,” said Karen Resciniti, president of the Martin County Education Association. “Many teachers are working second and third jobs already so this will go a long way.”
Local education advocates went to voters four previous times to raise money for schools and teacher salaries. This August they were finally successful.
More than a dozen counties in Florida placed referendums on either the August or November ballots to raise education spending for teacher pay or for new school construction, and in the case of Martin County, they’re doing both.
In November, Martin County voters will consider a half-percent sales-tax increase that would pay for school construction needs.
The issue of increased pay for school teachers has been embraced by both candidates running for governor in Florida this year.
Republican Ron DeSantis has said that he will work with the Florida Legislature to simplify the teacher merit pay evaluation system so it is based “reasonably” on classroom performance.
Democrat Andrew Gillum has said that he wants to raise the state’s corporate tax rate and use that revenue towards paying teachers a minimum salary of $50,000, as well as raising pay for veteran teachers to the national salary standard.