Holly Bullard
October 8, 2019

DeSantis Announces Commitment to Teacher Raises — But Questions Remain About Veteran Teacher Pay

This post was last updated on September 29, 2021. As new policies are announced, FPI will update this page.

As Florida’s response to COVID-19 takes front and center, concern grows for low-income families who struggle to take precautions against the spread of the virus. Although Congress has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address, at least in part,  the public health crisis and economic fallout from COVID-19, many barriers continue to keep struggling families from accessing the assistance they need during the pandemic. As Florida initiates policies implementing the Act and addressing other barriers to the safety net, FPI will update this form. When available, hyperlinks are provided to agency documents or statements that provide greater detail  about the new policy.

On March 22, 2020, FPI and 44 other organizations sent a letter to Governor DeSantis, leadership in the Legislature and agency heads to urge action on 47 specific policy changes to reduce unnecessary barriers for Florida’s safety net programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. See the letter here.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced on Monday that his budget proposal for the 2020-2021 fiscal year will include $603 million to raise the starting teacher salary across the state to $47,500. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley joined DeSantis at the press conference and lauded the proposal. Sen. Bradley announced that he had filed a bill to repeal the Best and Brightest teacher bonus program, which would free up funds — $284.5 million in 2019-2020 — to partially pay for the raises.

The impact of raising the floor for starting teacher salaries by nearly $10,000 would be widely felt. In 2017-2018, Florida ranked 26th in average starting teacher pay, according to the National Education Association. DeSantis highlights the fact that raising the starting average salary to $47,500 would vault the state to 2nd in the nation for starting teacher pay, after only New Jersey. The $603 million investment in Florida’s teachers would indeed be unprecedented, and it would help restore cuts made to teacher pay in the decade following the Great Recession, which were deeper in Florida than in any other state. (See Figure 1.) However, Florida is ranked 46th when it comes to overall average teacher salary, which indicates that veteran teachers have low salaries compared to other states.

By lifting the salary floor and not the overall average pay for all teachers, Florida risks exacerbating current teacher “pay compression,” which is when pay does not rise in tandem with experience, causing depressed morale and higher turnover for veteran teachers. Research suggests that the “push” of teacher salary pay compression is a primary driver of veteran teacher turnover, rather than the “pull” of other occupations.

The new salary floor proposed by DeSantis is higher than the median teacher salary in Florida, and 101,000 teachers out of about 180,000 total would receive pay raises. There are only 12 school districts (including the Florida Virtual School) with median teacher salaries above the new floor. (See FPI's map below.)

DeSantis said Monday that this is just one of many proposals regarding teacher pay that his administration will announce — perhaps another proposal will address the very real issue of teacher pay compression. Regardless, the announcement represents a welcome, bold step in the right direction.

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