Palm Beach County school leaders, legislative delegation meet to discuss priorities for next session

Teacher pay remains priority for school board, lawmakers
Posted at 8:56 PM, Nov 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-10 21:00:26-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Palm Beach County School Board members and the Palm Beach County Legislative Delegation met Wednesday afternoon to discuss their priorities moving into next year's legislative session.

"They're historically very supportive of Palm Beach County schools," Superintendent Mike Burke told WPTV.

From student graduate requirements and mental health services to having the ability to reinstate the use of remote learning at the school district's discretion, school leaders said these are some of their priorities that remain critical to ensure their success moving forward.

Most important, however, was the push to provide a living wage for faculty and staff.

"Particularly this year, we're concerned about the pay level for some of our lower-paid employees -- custodians, bus drivers, substitute teachers and teachers," Burke said. "We are really kind of seeking more resources so we can improve our pay schedule and help, hopefully, fill a lot of vacancies that are going unmet right now."

Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke wants to help increase salaries of lower-paid employees, November 2021
Palm Beach County Superintendent Mike Burke says he'd like to help increase the salaries of lower-paid employees within the district.

School board member Alexandria Ayala said the salaries are not in line with where they ought to be.

The School District of Palm Beach County ranks 45th in the country in terms of how much it pays educators.

"While the governor's proposal to increase initial teacher pay is a positive one that I support, we would like to make sure that our teachers who have been with us five, 10, 15, 20 years even, also see a boost in their pay that matches their experience," Ayala said.

Alexandria Ayala wants to increase pay for Palm Beach County school teachers, November 2021
Palm Beach County School Board member Alexandria Ayala says she hopes "that our teachers who have been with us five, 10, 15, 20 years even, also see a boost in their pay that matches their experience."

State Rep. Matt Willhite, D-Wellington, said Palm Beach County is losing about 30% of its teachers within the first five years of employment.

"So how do we keep that continuity, that consistency in keeping good, quality educators in there?" Willhite said. "Well, we keep them in the classrooms, and by doing that we give them the right tools, and one of those tools is the books, the pencils, a safe classroom, but it's also pay."

That is what Palm Beach County's delegation will be pushing for when they head to Tallahassee in January.