Florida would boast the second-highest starting salaries for teachers in the country under a new plan from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis wants to spend $600 million on increasing teacher pay throughout the state, bringing the minimum salary to $47,500, he announced Monday during an event at a Fort Lauderdale elementary school. DeSantis said more than half of Florida’s public school teachers would get a raise.
Starting teachers in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties currently earn about $41,000. The starting pay for teachers in the Florida Keys is closer to $48,000, but Monroe County is one of the most expensive places to live in the state.
“To start out in the low 40s in places that have higher costs of living, that makes it more difficult,” DeSantis said.
Education commissioner Richard Corcoran, who is the former Republican speaker of the Florida House, joined DeSantis to tout the proposal. He argued it would help Florida attract teachers from around the country.
“You graduate, and you’re a great teacher from Georgia, you’re a great teacher from Tennessee, Kansas, anywhere in the country — and you’re like, ‘Where would I rather go? Where do I want to teach?’” Corcoran said.
“‘I want to teach where I’m going to get paid the most, where they’re going to celebrate my profession,’” Corcoran continued. “‘And I want to be in a state that’s got beaches and sand and wonderful sun.’ It’s easy.”
DeSantis said this proposal is one of several he has planned to improve pay for educators. He said to “stay tuned” for others that would help veteran teachers and principals get paid more, as well.
The Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers’ union, argued schools would continue to face challenges retaining experienced teachers and other employees without higher salaries across the board.
“We thank the governor for opening a dialogue on salaries and for acknowledging that our teachers are woefully underpaid,” FEA President Fedrick Ingram said in a statement. Ingram is the former president of Miami-Dade County’s teachers’ union, United Teachers of Dade.
“Raising minimum starting pay is a beginning,” Ingram said. “We still hope to hear about what Gov. DeSantis plans to do to retain experienced teachers who have devoted years to their students, and about how his administration will provide fair, competitive pay for all the people essential to our schools — bus drivers, paraprofessionals, food-service workers, office staff, custodial personnel and others.”
Voters in South Florida school districts recently approved property-tax increases to raise teacher pay.
DeSantis’ opponent in last year’s elections, Democrat Andrew Gillum, made a $50,000 starting pay for teachers a centerpiece of his unsuccessful campaign.