Florida Phoenix | By Danielle J. Brown | February 1, 2023
Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted a plan to earmark $1 billion towards raising public school teacher pay, calling it a “big win” for Florida’s teachers. But a statewide teacher union was skeptical about the amount of the pay hike — $200-million across school districts — which may not help the lives of struggling teachers.
The other $800 million would focus on funds for previous pay raises, primarily for teacher starting pay.
Even so, Florida continues to have one of the lowest average teacher salaries in the nation.
DeSantis quickly discussed the teacher proposal during a Wednesday press conference in the Capitol in Tallahassee, where the governor was discussing a proposal for a state budget in 2023-24.
The governor’s budget is a starting point on the proposals. Lawmakers are the ones who will craft the 2023-24 state budget during the spring legislative session. The governor approves the budget and can veto items in that budget.
The governor’s proposed budget adds an additional $200 million to last year’s efforts. According to the governor’s proposed budget: “one hundred percent of the $200,000,00 in additional funding…for the teacher salary increase allocation shall be used by school districts to increase the salary eligible classroom teachers and other instructional personnel.”
Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association said in a written statement following the press conference, is skeptical about how effective those funds will be.
“While the governor touts $1 billion for teacher pay and blames teachers for their own low salaries, the actual increase in his budget is $200 million, which would work out to be less than $20 per week for each teacher in our public schools,” Spar said in the written statement. “That’s not going to do much to move the needle, given that Florida ranks 48th in the nation for average teacher pay. Pay in the third-largest state can and should rank in the top 10 nationally.”
Spar added that the increase is going to do little to address the financial needs of Florida’s teachers, including rent, homeowners insurance and healthcare costs.
At the Wednesday press conference, DeSantis was asked by reporters whether his efforts to abolish diversity, equity and inclusion offices would be reflected in his proposed budget. DeSantis said that it would be dealt with within legislation.
“There’ll be a statute that the legislature will pass, that will basically abolish, you know, those offices,” he responded.
“We don’t dictate whatever university spend on certain things like, I don’t agree with with with everything, but we don’t micromanage every little thing. But there are certain things where you can say ‘Okay, here’s a red line. you’re not allowed to go there’ and that’s something they’ll have to respect,” DeSantis added.
He also had few details on how his proposed budget would incorporate a massive expansion on who can apply for a so-called “voucher” for students to attend private schools on public dollars. A bill filed for the 2023 legislative session would open the door for any student, regardless of income, could apply, but there are little details on how that would work out in the state budget.
DeSantis didn’t provide much clarity to reporters either: “We didn’t necessarily factor the entire thing, I think we factored in some increases … but I’m supportive of school choice.”
“The money should follow the student. I think that that is a good approach,” he added.