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.