Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill to raise school teachers’ basic salaries, boosting Florida from 26th up to 5th position in terms of highest average teacher salary in the United States in the process.
DeSantis expressed hope that the bill would encourage more people to pursue teaching as a career in the state of Florida.
The governor made the announcement on June 24 from the Mater Academy charter school in Hialeah Gardens, Miami-Dade County. House Bill 641, said DeSantis, will allocate $500 million from the state budget to raise full-time classroom teachers’ basic salaries across the state.
Of the allocation, $100 million is designated for “veteran teachers and other instructional personnel” who are already earning above the minimum salary, according to the governor’s website.
Moving forward, the starting base salary for newly qualified Florida K-12 teachers will be $47,500 per year, Fox News reported, and school districts will not be allowed to lower salaries beneath the base minimum. According to data from the National Education Association, the average Florida teacher’s salary for the academic year 2017 to 2018 was $37,636.
House Bill 641, which goes into effect on July 1, is believed to be the single most substantial teacher’s compensation package on record in Florida.
DeSantis took to Twitter on the same day as the public announcement to spread the news on social media, referring to the bill as a “historic initiative.”
In a separate statement, the governor commended teachers for their handling of altered conditions owing to the pandemic situation.
“COVID-19 has interrupted our students’ and teachers’ academic year in unprecedented ways,” he said. “Our teachers stepped up and found ways to keep our students learning and engaged these last few months to ensure students continued to receive the best education in the nation.”
DeSantis cited virtual lessons, the delivery of classroom materials to students’ homes, and unfailing commitment to learning continuity as facets of “great” teaching during uncertain times. “Great teachers are what our students need as they re-enter the classroom in the fall,” he said, “and that’s why this remained a major priority in our budget.”
The Florida state budget was approved in mid-March and coincided with state officials enforcing the widespread closure of many services and facilities owing to the pandemic, reports Wink News. Florida state does not collect income tax, relies heavily upon sales tax and the tourism industry, and therefore took a huge financial hit amid the lockdown.
At the Mater Academy press conference on June 24, DeSantis referred to the budget allocation as “a challenge,” adding that the pandemic had painted “a different fiscal picture than what we were dealing with in January, February, and early March.”
DeSantis nonetheless reiterated his hope that the $500 million allocation for teachers may attract fresh talent into the state’s education profession. “By doing something like this,” he added, “it’s going to entice some more people who may be young and thinking about what they want to do to maybe go into teaching.”
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