Governor DeSantis Approves Pay Increase for Teachers in Florida

Image by emmaws4s from Pixabay 

Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, June 24 signed a bill making teacher pay increases official. The bill has been a long time coming as teachers in Florida have fought for legislation to increase the minimum wage for themselves. Despite the budget vetoes DeSantis is faced up against because of the coronavirus, it is a relief for teachers and their supporters that there will now finally be legislation to help increase teacher’s pay.

The bill puts a plan into motion for spending $500 million to try to boost the minimum salaries of classroom teachers to at least $47,500 and to give raises to veteran teachers. DeSantis signed the bill (HB 641) into law alongside lawmakers including Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, who lauded the governor for keeping his promise of making 2020 the “year of the teacher.” The initiative was one of DeSantis’ top priorities during this year’s legislative session, which ended in March.

Governor Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, formally signed legislation that will allocate $500 million to increase the minimum salaries for teachers in Florida. Photo and Caption:

The budget, which DeSantis is expected to sign in the coming days, will then set aside $400 million for school districts and charter schools to increase minimum salaries of full-time teachers and certified pre-kindergarten teachers and $100 million to raise the pay of veteran teachers and other employees such as librarians and school counselors.

Governor DeSantis. At the start of this year’s legislative session, DeSantis asked lawmakers to approve $900 million in teacher pay initiatives, which included boosting the minimum starting salary to $47,500 and creating a new $300 million bonus program for teachers and principals.

Under Florida law, each school district is charged with salary negotiations. During the session, Republican lawmakers expressed concerns that money set aside for teacher pay may shrink after negotiations are finalized at the local level. So, the bill states that once school districts negotiate salaries, they must submit a report to the Florida Department of Education that details exactly how the funds for teacher salary increases were spent. 

Who Benefits from HB 641:

  • Step 1: Full-time classroom teachers (s. 1012.01(2)(a), F.S.) plus certified pre-K teachers funded in the FEFP (not including substitute teachers)
  • Step 2: Group from Step 1 who did not receive an increase or increase was less than 2%, and other full-time instructional personnel (not including substitute teachers) (s. 1012.01(2)(b)-(d), F.S.)

How funds are distributed:

  • These funds must be used solely to increase teacher salaries and no collective bargaining agreement can alter this requirement.
  • Step 1: Requires school districts and charters to use $400 million to increase the salaries of all full-time school instructional classroom teachers to at least $47,500 or the maximum amount achievable based on the district’s allocation.
  • Step 2: Requires school districts and charters to use $100 million to provide salary increases of the group from Step 1 who did not receive an increase or received an increase of less than 2%, and other full-time instructional personnel.

In addition to helping boost teacher pay, the measure eliminates the embattled “Best and Brightest” program. The program, which offered bonuses to public school teachers and principals, was beset by controversy since its creation in 2015. The program was eliminated a year after DeSantis asked lawmakers to restructure it and remove educators’ SAT and ACT college-entrance scores as a factor in determining bonuses. 

The use of the SAT and ACT scores was at the core of a class-action lawsuit that alleged the scores had a “disparate impact” on black, Hispanic and older teachers. In March, a federal judge approved a $15.5 million settlement in the lawsuit. The push to boost increased teacher pay comes as teachers have worked to keep classes running online during the pandemic. After months of distance learning, DeSantis and state education leaders have put forth guidelines to reopen public schools at full capacity in August.