Union: Veteran teachers won’t benefi t from education bill

  • Osceola County School District
    Osceola County School District

The starting salary for teachers is going up to $47,500 – or as close to that as possible, according to state officials.

Gov. Ron DeSantis last week signed a bill that allocates $400 million in state funds to boost the minimum salary for Florida’s newer classroom teachers.

State officials say the bill increases starting pay from 23rd to 5th in the nation.

The state is infusing Florida 67 school districts with another $100 million to increase salaries of veteran teachers and other school employees who are already earning above that minimum, according to officials.

“It was quite a challenge to make sure that even though we fought for it, we would be able to do it,” DeSantis said at a press conference last week in South Florida. “This will be there, 100 percent,” he said. “We’re going to have to make tough choices, but this is important.”

In Osceola County, it means about a $6,000 raise for new teachers, whose starting salary is now $41,400. The state average is $37,636.

While the Florida Education Association praised the bill as a positive step, it’s not sitting well with the local teacher’s union.

“The veteran teachers are not going to benefit from this money, and that’s where the problem is,” said Apryl Jackson, the outgoing president of the Osceola County Education Association.

Not all of the district’s 3,850 teachers will be getting a raise.

“New teachers will be making the same amount as someone with 10, 11,12 years experience,” she said.

Anyone already making at least 47,500 is not likely to get more than about a $900 raise next school year, she said.

What’s more, the raises only benefit “classroom teachers” and exclude media specialists, guidance counselors, deans and others, she said.

“It’s always a great photo op to say we’re bringing everyone up to this (salary). But that’s not what they did,” she said.

Because the new state funds must also cover taxes and retirement funds, there will be a shortfall in Osceola and most other school districts, Jackson said.

“The district doesn’t have that money this year. Think about the sales tax we lost this year. There’s no way to make it up,” she said.

The governor’s announcement came just days before he vetoed $1 billion from the $93.2 billion state budget on Monday. The budget was drafted by his fellow Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature in March before the coronavirus pandemic began wreaking havoc on the state’s economy.

The now $92.2 billion budget was set to take effect Wednesday.

Raising teacher pay was a top priority for the governor this year, despite hard financial decisions to come.

“We were able to make the numbers work,” DeSantis said Monday. “A lot of people have worked very hard over these last three or four months. I know many of our key agencies have been working around the clock, so I thought it was merited and I wouldn’t have done it if we couldn’t’ make the numbers work, but I think we made them work.”