The Florida Legislature begins its annual 60-day legislative session on January 14. Myriad issues affecting the daily lives of all Floridians will be proposed, debated, and finally voted on. The Legislature also controls the purse strings that fund all the operations of public agencies in Florida.
One issue that likely will gain the most attention is Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise minimum teacher salaries to $47,500. In his budget recommendation, the cost of that one item amounts to $604 million. According to the National Education Association, Florida ranks 26th in the nation for starting teacher pay at $37,636. With this investment of more than $600 million, raising the minimum salary to $47,500 will rank Florida 2nd in the nation for starting teacher pay. The governor also is pitching a new $300-million bonus program for classroom teachers and principals to replace the controversial “Best and Brightest” bonus program, which the Legislature created in 2015.
A cooling economy has House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami, and Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, delivering cautious comments about the governor’s proposal. The House directed its Education Budget Committee to find about $500 million in potential cuts as part of a broader budget exercise. That exercise also could help determine if a teacher-pay package would be viable. The Senate echoed similar concerns about finding the additional revenue, and leadership has said that everything is on the table. With reference to the future of the “Best and Brightest” program, one of the first bills (SB 486) passed out of the Senate Education Committee during the interim committee meetings would repeal the program.
While the governor’s proposal is a huge step in the right direction, and we can’t thank him enough for making this a priority, we hope that the Legislature can find the funding to increase all teacher salaries. We also support putting all revenue increases into salaries instead of bonuses.
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To view live bill tracking for the 2020 Session, visit the Pasco School Government Relations page here!