Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference Wednesday at the Mater Academy Charter School in Hialeah Gardens to sign a bill that would provide funding to school districts and allow them to raise the average minimum salary for teachers.
The governor said the bill, known as HB 641 Funds for the Operation of Schools, would provide funds to schools by July 1 to become the largest compensation package in the history of Florida and would bring the base salaries of K-12 classroom teachers to $47,500.
“So what we have today, what we’ll be signing, is a bill that will provide $500 million directly to teachers, all public school teachers in school districts or charter, and it will take Florida from No. 26 in the nation to No. 5 in the nation for average minimum salary,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said that the funding would be distributed so that schools would be able to modify salaries as early as this summer.
“It was quite a challenge to make sure even though we fought for it, that we’d be able to actually do it in the budget because what we’re looking at now in terms of the budget, that will be enacted by July 1, it’s just a different fiscal picture than what we were dealing with in January, February and early March, but I can report that we have not made every decision about the budget. I can report, this will be there, 100%,” DeSantis said.
The governor thanked teachers for their ingenuity and flexibility in transitioning to teaching students via distance learning as the COVID-19 pandemic overtook Florida.
“Hopefully, by doing something like this, 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, and not everyone needs to get rich doing it... you do it because you have a servant’s heart but it sure makes it easier if you have a good minimum salary and are able to make ends meet,” DeSantis said.
Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the funding would put Florida on a path to make teachers in the state some of the highest-paid in the country.
“What we say all the time is we’re the ‘education state', and we have the ‘education governor,' and you saw this piece of legislation. Not only does it move us to the top five, it is this the single largest teacher compensation package in the history of the state,” Corcoran said.
DeSantis announced his plan to reopen schools come fall earlier this month, and rolled out a plan that would use CARES Act federal funding to bolster learning and close the achievement gap among students.
Cayenne Dansby is an Orange County Public school teacher who is a veteran and said she is happy about the announcement but said, unfortunately, she won’t benefit.
“With this new announcement it’s going to make it so much better for these new teachers,” Dansby said. “When I started teaching 19 or 20 years ago I was making $26,000 a year and I was doing the exact same thing I’m doing now,” Dansby said.
She said there are veteran teachers who are not really impacted by the announcement.
“It’s really kind of a slap in the face to those veteran teachers,” Dansby said.