On the teacher pay front: How about $22 billion over 10 years for FL public schools?

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

The news reports on teacher pay keep rolling in:

In Illinois, the governor signed a law this week to boost minimum pay for public school teachers, raising the minimum teacher salary to $40,000 by the 2023-24 school year.

In Tennessee, teachers who have been protesting in Nashville got a 4.5-percent cost-of-living raise for 2019-20.

In Louisiana, teachers are getting a $1,000 pay raise for the 2019-20 school year.

What’s next in Florida? It’s a big plan coming from the Florida Education Association, the statewide teacher’s union.

The FEA is calling for 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.

“Our children are paying the price for more than two decades of underfunding and poor policy decisions,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement. “We have a severe teacher shortage, and about 300,000 students started school this year without a permanent, qualified teacher. This situation has to change. Lawmakers must fund our future.”

The FEA’s “Decade of Progress” program would start with an investment of more than $2 billion in the 2020 legislative session, representing a 10 percent increase in per-pupil funding.

The unions believes that with continued investments over 10 years, “our schools will climb out of the basement of the national rankings,” according to the FEA news release.

A new education poll from Harvard showed that amid rising concerns about teacher pay across the country, 56 percent of those polled said teacher pay in their states should increase or greatly increase. That’s a big jump compared to two years ago.

It’s not certain how the teacher pay debate will play out in the 2020 legislative session in Florida, with lawmakers last session focused on teacher bonuses rather than across-the-board salaries.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently discussed teacher salaries in a South Florida television interview earlier this summer, saying, ““I do think the starting salary probably needs to go up and the state should help with that,” DeSantis said in the interview.

He said he will be rolling out something on the issue, probably in the fall.

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