Straightforward plan would boost salary competitiveness without onerous bonus gimmicks
Senate Democrats on Monday unveiled a sweeping plan to not only raise the pay of all public school teachers in Florida, but boost the salaries of all those in the state’s public education support staff network.
The cost of the comprehensive proposal is approximately $900,000,000, the same amount proposed by the governor for his restrictive teacher pay plan.
“The governor’s call to increase the starting pay of teachers in Florida is long overdue,” said Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville), who crafted the innovative legislation. “But his proposal not only ignores our veteran teachers, but the many individuals who play a critical role in educating Florida’s students. Our legislation corrects his mistakes.”
“We have an obligation to teachers and school employees that goes beyond election-year gimmickry,” said Senator José Javier Rodríguez (D-Miami), who will be filing the bill. “Our educators have been ignored for far too long, and it is imperative that we make a real, lasting, long-term commitment to public school teachers and school employees for their hard work and compassion. I am calling on all of my colleagues in the legislature to join us in bipartisan support to pay educators and education support professionals what they deserve.”
In his latest budget plan, Governor DeSantis proposed exclusively boosting the starting salaries of teachers, leaving almost 100,000 veteran teachers without any similar increase. He also failed to include any pay increases for support personnel, unleashing a barrage of criticism that his spending scheme is not only unfair, but would ultimately lead to the ongoing exodus of educators struggling under Florida’s dismal pay structure.
“The fatal flaw in the governor’s plan is its shortsightedness,” said Leader Gibson. “No successful business would ignore rewarding loyal, veteran employees while almost exclusively raising the salaries of new ones. It’s demoralizing and counterproductive.”
Under the Democrats’ legislation (SB 1854), all education employees would see an average pay increase next year of 7.5%, moving Florida’s average teacher pay up from the dismal ranking of 46th in the nation to 35th, while improving the salaries of everyone from librarians to guidance counselors, custodians and bus drivers.
The straightforward proposal is divided into two parts. The first establishes an annual “Cost of Living Increase” or “COLA,” currently at three percent. The second calls for a pay increase averaging 4.5% which would be meted out by individual school districts as part of the constitutionally-mandated collective bargaining process.
Based on personnel numbers provided by the governor’s office, the total package would cost approximately $900,000,000, the same amount currently proposed by the governor for teacher starting salaries, and possible one-time bonuses for certain teachers and principals.
“If the goal is to attract and retain quality teachers, and the many support personnel involved in delivering a quality education, our legislation is the smart way to go,” said Leader Gibson. “It’s equitable, it’s inclusive, and it works.”