teacher salaries

DeSantis Approves Teacher Raises, But Teachers Are Skeptical

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday he would accept a budget line item that provides $800 million for teacher salary increases

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Florida’s public school teachers are getting a raise.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday he would accept a budget line item that provides $800 million for teacher salary increases. Each school district would get a share of that money and then decide how to allocate it.

“We did $800 million for teacher pay initiatives, and this is one thing that will go a long way not only to support strong average minimum salaries across the state but also to support increased salaries for veteran teachers,” DeSantis said.

“It sounds great as a soundbite, but it doesn’t actually affect our bottom lines, it really doesn’t,” said Sean Simpson, who has taught science at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for 18 years. “When we get a 1% raise when inflation is close to 7%, it’s insulting.”

The governor said he hopes emphasizing raising starting salaries will bring more teachers into the profession.

“One of the goals we’ve had is to increase the average minimum salary across the state of Florida, you want to recruit more people to come in, they’ve gotta be able to afford to be able to be teachers,” the governor said.

The teacher shortage is getting worse, according to the Broward Teachers Union.

“Right here in Broward County Public Schools alone, we lost another hundred teachers these past two weeks, so for whatever reasons, they’re leaving, whether the cost of living in Broward is high, the pay is not what they want,” said BTU president Anna Fusco.

It’s not just the salary driving teachers into retirement, Fusco says it’s the lack of respect.

David Buncher has taught science in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 41 years. He told us the state legislature has made teachers into punching bags for politicians, but he also appreciates any talk of raising salaries.

“It’s a good start, and like I said, there’s a lot of things that are coming to teachers down the line, new testing, new bills, and every year there’s new mandates and more and more things added for teachers to do,” Buncher said. “There should be some pay raises for teachers who are veterans to at least stay ahead of the game to reward those teachers for staying in the profession for a long time.”

That sentiment was echoed by Precious Symonette, a teacher at Norland Senior High School who was the Miami-Dade teacher of the year in 2017.

Symonette, a single mom, also teaches night school and she’s an adjunct professor at St. Thomas University, just to make ends meet.

“It’s amazing that the governor is thinking about increasing teacher salaries, but what does that increase look like? Will teachers feel that increase on their checks?” Symonette said.

Symonette told us every teacher she knows works a second job.

The teachers we spoke to think once that $800 million is divided among every school district, the impact on individual teachers will be minimal.

DeSantis said this is a process, and he hopes to do more for teachers next year.

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