Senate budget plan comes up more than $100 million short of Gov. DeSantis’ teacher-pay proposal

School teachers protest for higher wages at a Miami-Dade School Board meeting. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Florida Senate on Tuesday unveiled a teacher-pay plan that is more than $100 million lower than Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal for the coming school year.

The Senate plan, endorsed by the Senate Education Appropriations subcommittee, earmarks $500 million for teacher pay in the proposed 2020-21 budget year, which begins July 1. DeSantis asked for $603 million to boost starting teacher salaries to a minimum of $47,500 statewide.

Here is a Florida Phoenix story on the governor’s teacher-pay plan.

Sen. Kelli Stargel, the Lakeland Republican who leads the education spending subcommittee, said 80 percent of the Senate’s pay package must be used to move toward the governor’s goal of higher pay for starting teachers. The intention is that the governor’s goal of a $47,500 starting salary “will be met statewide over the next several years.”

The remaining 20 percent of the pay package would be used for veteran teachers, Stargel said.

If the school districts have already reached a $47,500 starting salary, they can use the money for other purposes, as long as their minimum starting pay for teachers increases by 5 percent, Stargel said.

The Senate proposal would increase per-student funding by 2.37 percent during the coming year, up to $7,837 per student statewide. DeSantis had asked for $7,979 in per-student spending, or a 3.94 percent increase.

DeSantis also called for an additional $300 million for a revamped bonus program for educators and principals in the new budget. The Senate does not have a bonus plan and its K-12 spending is contingent on the elimination of the existing $284.5 million “Best and Brightest” bonus program.

The House Pre-K Appropriations subcommittee is expected to review its education spending plan on Wednesday. A preliminary proposal from the House had $463 million slated for teachers’ salaries, also well short of the governor’s ambitious spending plan. Here is a Florida Phoenix story on that proposal.