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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 8, 2019

Florida Gov. DeSantis proposes starting teacher pay increase

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a proposal to lift starting teacher salaries to $47,500, roughly a $10,000 increase.

If the Legislature agrees to that $600 million investment, it would place Florida among the highest-paying states for starting teacher salaries.

DeSantis said the higher salary would help the state's teacher shortage "and elevate the teaching profession to the level of appreciation it deserves."

Average starting teacher pay in Florida was $37,636 for the 2017-18 school year, according to the National Education Association. (The amount can vary by district.) That salary places Florida below the national average of $39,249 and in the middle of the pack of states.

Florida has long lagged behind the national average on teacher salaries, which contribute to vacancies. There were about 2,600 teacher vacancies at the start of the 2019-20 school year. 

Under DeSantis's proposal, about 101,000 teachers who earn less than $47,500 would be eligible for an increase. That's about 57% of classroom teachers in Florida.

Previous efforts to increase teacher pay have been focused on the Best and Brightest bonus program. DeSantis supported changes in 2019 to expand those bonuses. However, DeSantis has since knocked the program as "very complicated," and Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, filed a bill to repeal it.

We asked a DeSantis spokeswoman if he plans to support repeal in order to pay for the increase. She said he is looking at all options.

While the Florida Education Association embraces raising teacher pay for early career teachers, it raised concerns that this proposal leaves out raising pay for more experienced teachers.

"If a brand new teacher earns $47,500 and somebody who has been here 18 years is making $48,000, does their 17 extra years or more not count for something?" asked Sharon Nesvig, FEA spokeswoman.

The teacher pay proposal by DeSantis awaits action by the Legislature, which convenes in January. For now we keep this promise In The Works. 

Our Sources

National Education Association, 2017-2018 Average Starting Teacher Salaries by State and Florida

Tampa Bay Times, Ron DeSantis unveils plan to raise starting pay for Florida teachers, Oct. 7, 2019

Tampa Bay Times, Bill filed to repeal Florida's teacher bonus program as DeSantis hints at new approach, Oct. 7, 2019

PolitiFact, Florida teacher pay lags national average, just not quite by $10,000, March 17, 2017

Email interview, Helen Ferre, Gov. Ron DeSantis spokeswoman, Oct. 7, 2019

Email, Sharon Nesvig, Florida Education Association spokeswoman, Oct. 7, 2019

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman April 11, 2019

DeSantis proposes expansion of bonuses for teachers

Gov. Ron DeSantis promised on the campaign trail that he would provide incentives to lure top educators to teach in Florida, including in more demanding or specialized positions.

The state Department of Education expects there will be about 10,000 teacher vacancies by the end of the 2018-19 school year. The challenge for Florida is how to attract teachers to a state that lags behind the national average on teacher pay, and how to retain the teachers already working here.

His pledge to make Florida more attractive for teachers is one of 15 campaign promises by the Republican governor we are tracking on our DeSant-O-Meter.

DeSantis took his first step toward this promise in February when he announced a proposal to increase funding for the Best and Brightest Teachers Program.

DeSantis called for $422 million in bonuses for teachers who receive a highly effective rating — that's up from $234 million this year.

The increase would mean that nearly 45,000 teachers would be eligible for $9,000 bonuses, up from the current $6,000. Also, principals would be eligible for $6,500 in bonuses.

Critics of the Best and Brightest program launched in 2015 say it doesn't address the most pressing needs in Florida. An Orlando Sentinel analysis in 2016 found it largely went to teachers who worked in affluent areas.

DeSantis said that his revision, which includes no longer factoring in the SAT/ACT scores of teachers, should lead to a higher proportion of African-Americans getting the bonuses.

His plan also includes $10 million per year for the next five years to launch a loan and tuition forgiveness program for as many as 1,700 new teachers per year who commit to working as a teacher in Florida for five years.

Some educators praised the idea.

"You put $9,000 on the table for a teacher? That's very significant," said Hillsborough school superintendent Jeff Eakins, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

However, the Florida Education Association, the teachers' union, said it would rather secure across-the-board raises. For decades, Florida has lagged behind the national average on teacher pay.

Florida's average teacher pay in 2017 was $47,267, in 45th place, according to the National Education Association.

A growing number of studies find a connection between incentive payments and teacher retention, said Matthew G. Springer, an education professor at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill Springer. But there hasn't been much research on recruitment incentives.

"Retention bonuses have been found to retain educators, particularly in hard to staff subjects and schools," he said.

The Learning Policy Institute, an education policy research entity, found that research on loan forgiveness has found these programs are effective at attracting individuals into the teaching profession and particularly into high-need schools.

For now, the fate of DeSantis' plan is up to the Legislature, which is in charge of the state's wallet and may gave him some or none of what he wants. We'll keep watching to see what happens.

With DeSantis taking an initial step toward his promise, we move this to In The Works.

Our Sources

Learning Policy Institute, How Effective Are Loan Forgiveness and Service Scholarships for Recruiting Teachers? April 2016

National Educational Association, Ranking of the states in 2017, April 2018

PolitiFact, Florida teacher pay lags national average, just not quite by $10,000  March 7, 2019

Tampa Bay Times, Ron DeSantis announces $422 million increase in teacher bonuses under new program, Feb. 7, 2019

Orlando Sentinel, DeSantis has eyes on Fla. teacher retention, Feb. 8, 2019

Orlando Sentinel, Most top teachers at rich schools, April 17, 2016

Interview, Sharon Nesvig, Florida Education Association spokeswoman, Feb. 28, 2019

Interview, Meredith Beatrice, Gov. Ron DeSantis spokeswoman, March 7, 2019

Interview, Cheryl Etters, Florida Department of Education spokeswoman, March 13, 2019

Interview Matthew G. Springer, education professor at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, March 11, 2019

Interview, Tim Sass, Professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University, March 8, 2019


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