Florida among worst in the nation for average teacher salary

Education advocates asking state legislature for pay increases for veteran teachers

WPTV | By Stephanie Susskind | April 26, 2023

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Florida continues to get a failing grade when it comes to average teacher pay.

New numbers from the National Education Association show Florida ranks 48th in the country for average teacher salary at a little more than $51,000. Leaders said that’s because those more experienced teachers aren’t getting paid what they say they’re worth.

If you ask a longtime teacher like Palm Beach Central High School’s Scott Houchins, he doesn’t do it for the money.

“Those of us who have been sticking around for quite some time, we do it because it’s not only the stability in the income, but there’s intrinsic value to it,” Houchins said. “There’s an intrinsic reward in seeing kids succeed.”

But higher pay sure would be nice.

“Those that are on the higher end of the scale tend to be forgotten or they are not increased as much,” Houchins said.

It’s an ongoing problem in Florida. While the Sunshine State moved up to 15th in the country for starting teacher pay, longtime teachers said they’re being left behind.

“Why is it so hard in Florida to pay those experienced teachers what they deserve?” WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association.

“There are over 20 different laws in Florida that govern teacher pay. What does that mean? It means it’s very complicated,” Spar answered. “Districts are really handcuffed in their ability to make sure they are addressing the needs of teachers in their district.”

Spar said the issue goes hand-in-hand with the massive teacher shortage in the state, sitting at more than 5,200 vacancies. He added that education advocates called on the Florida Legislature to take up the issue.

“We have not seen legislation to address the staff and teacher shortage, or very little that may help,” Spar said. “But what we have seen is a lot of legislation that will arguably make it worse. When you vilify teachers and staff, when you limit their ability to do what they know is best for students, they’re not going to stay.”

Spar wants to see stakeholders come together, release the restrictions that govern pay, getting teachers like Houchins potentially more pay.

“We really have to look at the veteran teacher, the existing teacher, those who have been teaching 10 years or more, to increase that,” Houchins said.

Before the shortages get worse.

“We’re not investing appropriately in the pay of our teachers and staff at our public schools, and we certainly don’t have fair policy around pay of teachers and staff,” Spar said. “It is why we’re seeing a mass exodus of teachers who otherwise would be career teachers leaving our state, leaving the profession all together.”

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