Rep. Janet Cruz, D- Tampa, listens to House Speaker Richard Corcoran's speech in the Florida House, Tuesday, on the first day of the 2017 session. (Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times) Rep. Janet Cruz, D- Tampa, listens to House Speaker Richard Corcoran's speech in the Florida House, Tuesday, on the first day of the 2017 session. (Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times)

Rep. Janet Cruz, D- Tampa, listens to House Speaker Richard Corcoran's speech in the Florida House, Tuesday, on the first day of the 2017 session. (Scott Keeler, Tampa Bay Times)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman March 7, 2017

Florida teacher pay lags national average, just not quite by $10,000

If Republican leaders want to attract good-paying jobs to Florida, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz says that they should start with well-funded public schools.

Cruz said Florida should invest in public school teachers in her response to Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s annual speech opening the Legislature’s two-month session.

"The right thing is to just give teachers a raise," said Cruz, who represents Tampa. "It is embarrassing and I am ashamed that Florida pays our teachers $10,000 a year less than the national average. We are one of the largest states in the country. If we continue to recruit and retain the most talented people to educate our children, it starts with paying them a wage that they can live on without working a second job."

Cruz certainly has a point. On the specifics, teacher pay in Florida lags behind the national average by about $9,000.

Teacher pay

A spokesman for Cruz said she rounded up a figure from the U.S. News and World Report Best Jobs of 2017 rankings. The report showed the median salary for a U.S. high school teacher was $57,200 in 2015. Florida Department of Education data show the average salary for a teacher in Florida was $48,179 as of April 2016.

That difference: about $9,021.

We went in search of other rankings comparing public school teacher pay nationwide.

The National Educational Association, a labor union, collects data from state education departments showing average classroom teacher pay in each state. The most recent numbers from fall 2016 show Florida teacher salary at $49,199 and the national average at $58,353 -- or a difference of about $9,154. (An analysis by the NEA earlier in the year showed a slightly different national average but the NEA allows states to provide updated data later in the year.)

Florida has paid teachers less than the national average for many years pre-dating Scott’s tenure. A chart from the federal National Center for Education Statistics based on NEA data shows a similar pay gap between Florida and the national average in 2009-10 when Charlie Crist was governor. The most recent year that shows Florida teacher pay was anywhere close to the national average was in 1969-70.

From previous fact-checks, we’ve learned comparing teacher pay nationwide is no simple task.

Within a state, the pay and cost of living can vary among school districts depending on if they are small rural towns, urban centers or wealthy beachfront communities. Discrepancies in benefits, such as health insurance, can make a difference in take-home pay.

Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said that each school district negotiates salaries of their instructional and classroom staff locally. Additionally, Florida has no state income tax, she said (although income tax is only one piece of what people pay in taxes).

Our ruling

Cruz said, "Florida pays our teachers $10,000 a year less than the national average."

The real difference between the average national and Florida pay for teachers is technically closer to $9,000 than $10,000.

We rate this claim Mostly True.

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"Florida pays our teachers $10,000 a year less than the national average."
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Our Sources

Florida Channel, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz remarks, March 7, 2017

U.S. News and World Report, "High School Teacher: Salary Details," 2017

National Center for Education Statistics, "Estimated average annual salary of teachers in public elementary and secondary schools, by state," Selected years 1969-2016

National Education Association, "Rankings and Estimates, 2015 and 2016"

Palm Beach Post, "Bills: Pay Florida teachers $10,000 more a year," Jan. 28, 2013

Miami Herald Naked Politics blog, "Florida teachers union leaders: We want better pay for all, not a new legislative 'gimmick,'" Feb. 17, 2017

PolitiFact Florida, "Gelber says Florida teacher salaries $5,000 lower than national average," April 19, 2010

PolitiFact Florida, "State Rep. Marty Kiar says teachers in Georgia earn $6,000 more than Florida," Dec. 21, 2010

PolitiFact Florida, "Rick Scott: Average Floridian pays $1,800 in state taxes, lowest in country," March 3, 2015

PolitiFact North Carolina, "North Carolina teacher pay: $50,000 or not?" Feb. 3, 2017

Interview Mark Pudlow, Florida Education Association spokesman, March 7, 2017

Interview, Anders Croy, Democratic Office Florida House of Representatives spokesman, March 7, 2017

Interview, Tim Tang, National Education Association researcher, March 7, 2017

Interview, Celeste Fernandez Busser, National Education Association spokesman, March 7, 2017

Interview, David Bills, University of Iowa education professor, March 7, 2017

Interview, Cheryl Etters, Florida Department of Education spokeswoman, March 7, 2017

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Florida teacher pay lags national average, just not quite by $10,000

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