On Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) proposed raising the starting pay for teachers in Florida nearly $10,000 in his proposed 2020 budget.
The proposal would bring the base salary for incoming teachers from $37,636 to $47,500, which would affect over 100,000 Floridian teachers.
If this proposal is enacted, it would help ensure that Florida retains high-quality public school teachers, who historically have not been valued by the Florida Legislature. The big question is: How is DeSantis going to get this done?
The state is suffering from a severe teacher shortage, with 3,500 vacancies being reported by the Orlando Sentinel this August. The National Education Association released its annual report of teacher pay and found that Florida was ranked No. 46 among all states. The crisis is unlikely to go away until the state raises the standards for teachers starting out in Florida.
DeSantis would be wise to learn about the failed attempts by his predecessor to enact a similar measure. Former Gov. Rick Scott proposed a $2,500 increase in overall teacher pay back in 2014 but realized the state government had little ability to enforce the pay raise.
By the time the legislature was done amending the 2014 proposal that tied salary increases to performance, which only benefited teachers whose students performed better on standardized tests, a method that has proven to be ineffective at improving student success and did little to stop the teacher shortage.
In the end, the proposal only ended up increasing the wages of teachers in 16 out of Florida’s 67 school districts and even those who were awarded salary increases didn’t always see the $2,500 increase in pay that was promised.
How can DeSantis be successful in implementing this plan when Scott was not?
To start out, he should use the political pressure of the governor’s office to attempt to remove laws that hinder teachers’ unions from having any real negotiating power.
According to Florida statutes, all forms of strikes are prohibited for public employees, which includes public school teachers. The penalty for striking can include termination for the teacher and disbarring for the teacher’s union.
Removing this statute would give teachers all around the state a real voice in their negotiations and allow them to fight for a fair wage without fear of termination.
Next, the governor should take the advice of the Florida Education Association and move to reallocate the money for teacher bonuses that are tied to performance (that have proven to be ineffective) and put that money toward an overall salary for teachers throughout the state.
In order to follow through on his promise, the governor will have to fight an uphill battle among many established rules in the Florida Legislature. If DeSantis is serious about ending the teacher shortage and investing in Florida’s future, he will have to be up for the challenge.
Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.