Editorial: Teachers’ pay raise is great news – but it’s just the beginning

Editor’s Note: Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan is a member of the Lee County School Board for District 7. The views expressed here and in all editorials are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of scores of Waterman Broadcasting or NBC2

On June 25, Governor Ron DeSantis ‘promised to make 2020 the ‘Year of the Teacher’. He directed $500 million in the state 2020-21 budget to increase teachers’ pay, and signed House Bill 641 – making it a permanent pay rise.

In a year where state revenues will plummet below pre-COVID-19 budgeted amounts, the importance of this investment cannot be underestimated.

It must be acknowledged that overinvestment in public education reduces the quality and quantity of educational talent available to public schools.

Large school districts are an important economic driver, which has a profound influence on factors such as growth, population median wages, and property values.

Research shows that an effective teacher is the most important determinant of educational outcomes in schools, but the supply of teachers is shrinking in Florida and nationally because salaries are not competitive. significantly lower than the salaries of professional colleagues.

Before the 2020 salary increase…

  • Average teacher salary in Florida ranks 46th among states
  • Florida teachers make $12,000 less than the national average
  • Adjusted for inflation, average wages have fallen – teachers earned 1.3% LESS than in the 1999-2000 school year
  • Teachers in Florida earn only 75% of the salary other college graduates receive in the state
  • Adjusted for benefits, teachers earn 11.1% less than comparable workers

The impact of the Governor’s act on average teacher salaries cannot be estimated at this time, but $400 million aims to increase teachers’ starting salaries to $47,500.

This moves Florida up in the rankings, from 26th to 5th nationally for average minimum teacher salaries. The remaining 20% ​​of the fund ($100 million) is earmarked for school districts to adjust salaries for veteran teachers.

Currently, the starting salary of teachers in Lee County is $40,500. The median teacher salary is $44,700 — $2,600 less than the minimum wage Florida wants.

So imagine you are a teacher in your second decade of teaching and the newbies will be earning what you earn today! How do we equitably adjust teacher salaries?

With the Lee County allocation, we’ll have to lift a lot of boats.

How have we fallen so far behind?

Every year, Florida school boards and superintendents fight to compensate employees. Their salaries and benefits are drawn from an operating fund that is determined annually by the Legislature and the governor using metrics that lead to funding per student for each school district.

In 2007-08, Lee County Schools received $7,399 per student. Ten years later, the district received $7,418 per student – a $19 increase over 10 years.

By lowering the property tax rate for public education, the Legislature makes it difficult to increase spending on public education. Non-refundable/reimbursable missions also increase costs.

During that time, the Lee County School District has managed to increase teacher salaries by an average of three percent annually by improving operational efficiency and redirecting revenue from other expenses to wages and benefits.

But we also had to reduce support services for students and teachers. Our ratio of student counselors, psychologists, and social workers to students is well above state and national averages.

Like other Florida School Districts, we are at the ‘tipping point’. Cutting more is not sustainable. State-mandated administrative and operating requirements limit the flexibility with which School Districts can efficiently and effectively allocate resources.

So, I applaud the governor for his determination to commit more state resources to public education at a time when revenue is shrinking.

Playing the long game requires investments in economic growth factors, which promise great returns even in difficult times.

But this is only the first step. Disparities in pay structures also need to be addressed within teaching ranks and between classroom teachers and other educators before public education becomes an attractive, competitive career opportunity. for jobs.

Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan, School Board Member, District 7 Editorial: Teachers’ pay raise is great news – but it’s just the beginning

Tom Vazquez

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