Fla. governor proposes raise for teachers to help end state shortage

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed raising teachers’ salaries in an effort to end statewide teacher shortages.

The governor announced he’d allotted more than $600 million of his proposed 2020 budget to boost starting teacher salaries from $37,636 to $47,500.

If the budget is approved, Florida’s teacher pay will be one of the highest in the US, the governor’s office said.

“With a strong economy and plenty of jobs available in other fields, unfortunately too many college graduates are unwilling to enter the teaching profession,” DeSantis said in a statement.

Florida is ranked 46th in the US for public school teacher salaries, with an average salary of $48,169, the National Education Association reported. Top-ranked New York, by comparison, pays teachers an average salary of $84,227.

That pay gap has translated to a severe teaching shortage. In 2018, the Florida Department of Education reported thousands of courses are taught by teachers who aren’t certified in that field–including more than 14% of Florida’s Exceptional Student Education courses, designed for students with learning disabilities.

According to the Florida Education Association, pay began to decrease 13 years ago, when the state introduced performance-based bonus programs. Since 2006, the state has allotted more than $1.36 billion toward those programs.

Then in 2011, former Gov. Rick Scott passed the “Student Success Act,” a controversial merit-pay law that tied at least half of public school teachers’ pay to their students’ standardized test scores.

The programs, coupled with budget cuts in the wake of the Great Recession, “placed significant restrictions on how salary increases can be negotiated,” the association said.

Nationwide teaching shortages

Florida’s problem is far from unique. The US is estimated to be more than 112,000 teachers short, according to the Learning Policy Institute.

Teachers feel it, too. A 2019 report from educator organization Phi Delta Kappa found that half of US instructors have considered leaving the profession, and more than 60% believe they’re underpaid.

To combat the shortage, many states, like Florida, have filled positions with instructors who aren’t certified to teach that subject. Other districts in Arizona have hired international teachers with proper qualifications, whose salaries in the US are as much as eight times higher than in their home countries.