Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rick Scott proposes giving each teacher in Florida a $2,500 raise

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 4:05 PM

Rick Scott
  • Rick Scott
I would bet that if you ask Florida teachers if they are a fan of Rick Scott, a majority of them would say no (except for those who get featured in his promotional ads). Reason number one for that disdain might be Scott's signature on one of the more divisive pieces of legislation (in recent years) to come down the pike in state education — a bill (SB 736) that tied teacher pay raises to test scores, and cut some teacher's pay.

That was in 2011. Now we're in 2013, a year-and-a-half from the primary elections in Florida, and Scott's poll numbers have steadily remained amongst the lowest in the nation. But he has been trying to convert himself into a friend of education, asking for $1 billion more dollars in education spending in 2012 (after cutting $1.3 billion in 2011).

Now the governor may really be on to something with his announcement today that he intends to ask the Legislature to increase the pay of every public school teacher in the state by $2,500.

"Today, I am excited to announce that as we continue to move our state forward and create more jobs, we are doubling down on our investment in education. I can think of no better investment for our state than investing in those teachers who work on the frontline of Florida's future every day by teaching our children. I am asking the legislature to join with me in supporting my 2013 budget request that will provide every Florida full-time public classroom teacher the ability to receive a $2,500 pay raise.

My proposed budget will include $480 million in funding to support a $2,500 pay raise for full-time public classroom teachers in our state. This funding will support districts' ability to provide a $2,500 teacher pay raise, plus the cost of related benefits. This teacher pay raise is in addition to an overall increase in education funding that will be included in our full budget proposal."

Andy Ford, the head of the Florida Education Association — the state's biggest teachers' union — said it's a step in the right direction. But he didn't sound too warm about it. In a press release from the association, Ford said:

"A $2,500 increase in pay would certainly be welcome, but it's important to put it in its proper context. Teachers and other school workers lost 3 percent of their salary in 2011 and saw another 2 percent disappear when Social Security and Medicare tax breaks expired earlier this month. But this is a step in the right direction because investing in public schools and the people who work in them is the way to create the workforce of the future."

At around $46,000 a year, teacher pay in Florida stands at $10,000 below the national average, and Ford said that's not competitive pay for a state that seeks to be a leader in economic development. He added that the association would continue to push for a more stable source of funding for Florida public schools.

"We're concerned that the state is returning to an old failed model for budgeting that relies on growth and sales taxes," Ford said. "This model led to a more severe economic downturn starting in 2008 and will lead to trouble at some point in time in the future when the economy suffers a downturn."

Meanwhile, House Speaker Will Weatherford also sounded skeptical. He only wants teachers who deserve the money to get a raise, not everybody, which is what SB 736 was all about in the first place.

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