Florida teachers praise record spending increases for public schools

Florida Politics | By Jacob Ogles | March 10, 2022

The base student allocation jumped by $214.4 per pupil.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) praised the final negotiated budget as a “real step forward” in funding schools.

FEA President Andrew Spar said the final appropriations mark a positive start on a “Decade of Progress” pursued by the teachers union.

“We continue to be laser-focused on the fact that our schools need more teachers and support staff to provide students with the high-quality education they deserve and need,” Spar said.

The positive comments from an organization often at odds with the Republican Legislature came as lawmakers published the largest state budget ever. That includes increasing the base student allocation by $214.49 per pupil.

Schools are feeling a great need for funding faculty, Spar noted.

“The state Department of Education estimates that we may soon have 9,000 teacher vacancies, and at last count there were more than 5,000 vacancies for support staff such as bus drivers and paraprofessionals,” Spar said. “Retaining and recruiting teachers and staff must be a top goal.”

There, the union noted that while the budget funds increases to teacher pay, it does not fully address issues contributing to staffing woes.

The Legislature did set a new minimum wage of $15 an hour for all state employees. That means increases for many staff positions at Florida school districts filled by workers paid lower rates.

There’s also $250 million budgeted for teacher salary increases. It’s left to districts, however, to decide the way that gets distributed. The Legislature did direct districts to use half of their share of the money to raise pay for new teachers, and the other half for veteran teachers, a move the FEA supports.

The union called it an improvement from the past two years when the Legislature budgeted salary increases but designated 80% of new funding for starting teachers.

But besides the dollars, the FEA expressed frustration at a host of new rules impacting teachers in the classroom. That’s contributing to many teachers leaving the classroom, the FEA argued.

The statement came out the same day the Legislature moved forward on a bill allowing parents to sue if parents deem that teachers made children feel guilty for their ethnic background.

But the union also praised the Senate for holding firm against a plan backed by the House and Gov. Ron DeSantis to financially punish districts who imposed mask mandates on students for any portion of the current school year.

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