DeSantis signs bill to raise pay for starting teachers


New teachers will make more this fall, making Florida the fifth-highest paying state in the nation for starting pay, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday.

Despite financial challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis signed a bill authorizing $500 million to boost starting teacher pay.

The bill sets a minimum starting pay of $47,500. Teachers in Broward and Palm Beach counties now start at about $41,000. The impact would be less dramatic in Miami-Dade County, which used money from a voter referendum passed last year to start teachers off at $46,125. Officials say the bill increases starting pay from 23rd to fifth in the nation.

The state average is $37,636

Raising teacher pay was a top priority of the governor this year, and he said Florida will still make that happen, despite hard financial decisions to come.

DeSantis said the Legislature also approved $100 million for boosts to existing teachers who already make above the minimum. The exact amount of their raises would have to be negotiated with teachers unions.

“You’re not going to be rich, but it sure makes it easier when you have a good minimum salary and are able to make ends meet,” DeSantis said at a news conference in Hialeah Gardens.

The new law requires school districts and charter schools — public schools run by private groups — to spend their share of the $400 million so that all teachers earn at least a salary of $47,500, or as close to that as possible with the funding they receive. They are to spend their share of the $100 million boosting pay for teachers not covered in the first step, those whose raise was less than 2% and some other employees, such as school counselors and psychologists.

School districts and charters are to submit their new salary plans to the state by Oct. 1.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran called it “the single largest teacher compensation package in the state of Florida.”

The move received praise from some education leaders in South Florida.

“Bumping the average base salary of Florida’s K-12 classroom teachers to $47,500 and allocating more money for veteran teachers is certainly a step in the right direction and I praise the governor for signing this bill,” Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Donald Fennoy said.

Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in a statement that “the Governor fully delivered on his promise to increase the average teacher salary. This necessary funding for the State’s teaching workforce will support efforts to attract and retain high-quality educators locally.”

In Broward, the office of Chief Communications Officer Kathy Koch acknowledged a request for comment but didn’t provide one.

Bobby Holt, a 23-year-veteran who teachers at Bayview Elementary in Fort Lauderdale, said he’s happy for younger teachers but is unsure how much money will be left for more experienced ones.

“I totally get why you have to do this, to get more people into the profession,” he said. “But I know that I cannot trust the school board to give us extra pay. They’ve fought tooth and nail against it in the past.”

Orlando Sentinel staff reporter Leslie Postal contributed to this report.

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