- A pair of lawmakers filed legislation in the Senate and House, respectively, that would increase starting teacher pay to $65,000.
- Currently, Florida’s starting salary is $48,000.
- The bills were filed as a means to combat the worsening teacher shortage, which has seen a 21 percent increase from a year ago.
- Questions arise about how the sweeping salary increase would be funded, however.
In accompanying statements, the lawmakers claim that the filing seeks to bring Florida teacher salaries more in line with the national average of $65,090, citing the National Education Association.
For the 2022-23 academic school year, Florida’s starting salary is $48,000.
The motions are brought forth amid a worsening teacher shortage across the state. Following a review of each Florida school district’s website, the Florida Education Association reported that there are 5,294 teacher vacancies and 4,631 support staff openings posted as of January 12.
“We believe that if we increase the starting salary for teachers in Florida, we will be able to attract and retain more qualified and experienced teachers,” said Edmonds.
According to studies inquiring why educators are exiting the profession, factors contributing to the shortage consist of low pay, high levels of testing, and the lack of support for new teachers.
The shortage is particularly acute in certain subject areas like science, math, special education, and English as a second language, which has led to ballooning class sizes and a minimized pool of qualified teachers.
The state has taken several steps to address the shortage, like offering signing bonuses and tuition reimbursement, but a deficit remains.
Earlier this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a ‘Teacher’s Bill of Rights,’ that would allocate $1 billion to increase pay for teachers across the state. If adopted, the proposition increases funding for teacher salaries by $200 million dollar compared to the year prior.
DeSantis also laid out provisions to grant school districts the autonomy to choose how to prioritize or allocate the extra funding, including minimum teacher pay standards or teacher recruitment efforts.
“We want to make sure we’re focused on what’s important,” said DeSantis. “If teachers are doing what they need to do to be the best they can be, we want to reward that.”
While the pieces of legislation may be appealing to those in the field, an immediate question jumps out: where is the funding for a nearly $20,000 starting salary increase coming from?
In recent years, residents of several counties statewide including Palm Beach and Orange counties voted to implement an increased property tax to subsidize school costs.
In Palm Beach County, where 74 percent of voters chose to renew the tax in November, raised funds will primarily be used to increase teacher salaries, but will also partially subsidize student mental health resources, public safety officers, and school art and music programs.
School District officials expect to raise more than $200 million by 2026.
In Orange County, property tax revenue comprises 49 percent of its operational budget, according to officials.
Though property tax revenue would raise immediate funds in order to subsidize the cost of salary increases, it would need to be adopted statewide by voters and implemented in a system that is able to equitable disperse funds through the state, which seems unlikely.
Another option for funding is through the state budget.
Rounding the number of vacancies reported by the FEA to 10,000 and operating under the assumption that new starting pay would increase by $17,000, it would require $170 million dollars to raise the starting pay for all openings to $65,000.
This perfunctory math problem underscores the level of financial commitment necessary to unilaterally raise teacher salaries, as it doesn’t even factor in the currently-serving teachers who make less than $65,000 that would presumptuously need to receive raises as well.
The Capitolist attempted to reach Sen. Berman, Rep. Edmonds, and the Office of the Governor seeking further details about the financials of the bills but did not receive an immediate response.