Florida legislators to discuss governor's proposal to raise starting teacher pay

Posted at 4:33 PM, Jan 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-06 18:57:43-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A plan to raise the starting salaries for teachers across Florida will take center stage in the upcoming legislative session, but not all educators are happy with it.

Last October, Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed increasing the starting salary for teachers across the state to $47,500.

In Palm Beach County, the Classroom Teachers Association President said that’s what teachers with 12 years experience make right now, and they are not going to benefit from the proposal.

"If you’ve been teaching in Palm Beach County for 12 years, a brand new teacher is going to get paid the same amount as you," said Justin Katz, President of the CTA.

Music teacher Scott Houchins still remembers what his starting salary was as a newly hired teacher 21 years ago.

"I started at $29,500, I think it was," said Houchins.

That was two decades ago when the cost of living was lower. But fast forward to now and Houchins' base salary is around $50,000. That does not include supplements he earns as the Choral Director, but it’s also not too far from the base salary a new hire would make if the state Legislature backs the governor’s proposal.

"In this current form, it wouldn’t affect me in any way," said Houchins.

Katz said raising the minimum salary helps new hires, but it devalues the experience of veteran teachers.

"Imagine at whatever place you work, if your employer, your boss, came in and said, you know, we’re going to give the new hires the same amount of money that everyone who's worked here for 15 years gets," said Katz.

Gov. DeSantis hopes to alleviate the shortage of teachers across the state, which right now ranks among the 10 states with the lowest teacher pay. Katz said that may work, but it could also make veterans leave.

"If you’ve got 40 other states that could potentially move and immediately get a significant increase to your pay," said Katz.

The governor’s proposal asks for an additional $600 million for the increase in minimum salary and $300 million in bonuses.

The Florida Education Association has raised concerns about where the additional money will come from. That will be discussed in the upcoming legislative session, which begins on Jan. 14.