Florida voters may be asked to raise the salary of a rookie teacher by $10,000 starting two years from now. If they approve, the pay increase would be part of a constitutional amendment that ties Florida teacher pay scales at all career levels to national averages.
The average Florida teacher salary now is $46,000, about $10,000 less than the national average.
To get the amendment on the ballot, the Florida Legislature will have to pass bills filed by State Sen. Joe Abruzzo and State Rep. Kevin Rader, both Democrats from Palm Beach County. They filed their identical bills, SB 0198 and HB 0139, Jan.8, but got little news coverage until the Palm Beach Post covered an appearance by Abruzzo and Rader before a group of teachers Monday in Wellington:
The lawmakers’ announcement came less than a week after Gov. Rick Scott, not previously thought of as a fan of teachers, introduced his own plan calling for $480 million in state money to give every teacher a $2,500 raise. Abruzzo’s teacher raise bill actually was filed on Jan. 8, long before Scott’s announcement; and Rader said when the two lawmakers came up with the bills they had no idea of the governor’s proposal.
Longtime teachers Don Persson and Dana Drummond said they felt like the bills were finally giving them hope after years with little or no raises, with increases in health insurance, pension payments and the cost of living taking more out of their paychecks.
“When you’re shackled with debt and shackled with fear, it is hard,” Persson said. “Hearing some of these bills kind of takes the shackles off.”
The Post describes both lawmakers as vague on how the teacher raises would be funded and at what cost. They said the two-year delay to start the new salaries would be the state's window to identify a funding source.
Gov. Scott has said his $2,5000 across-the-board raise would cost about $480 million a year.