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Teacher Pay Increase Plans Don’t Include Bonus Programs

Amy Beth Bennett
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Governor Ron DeSantis speaks about his plan to increase entry level teacher base pay during a news conference at Bayview Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale on Monday, Oct. 7, 2019.

House and Senate education budget writers have released competing proposals for teacher salary increases, a top priority of Gov. Ron DeSantis that is expected to be a key issue during negotiations on the upcoming state budget.

House PreK-12 Appropriations Chairman Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, said Wednesday the House wants to provide $650 million for teacher pay increases and no funding for bonus programs for teachers and principals.

A proposal released Tuesday by Senate Education Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, agrees with the House on eliminating funding for bonus programs but is offering $500 million for raising teacher salaries.

DeSantis has asked the Legislature for $602 million to set a minimum salary for all public school teachers at $47,500, which he says would boost pay for over 100,000 current teachers.

He also wants $300 million for a new bonus program that would focus on teachers and principals who work at schools in low-income areas.

The Senate proposal would give school districts $400 million to work toward the goal of meeting the $47,500 minimum salary and $100 million to use at their discretion for pay raises for veteran teachers.

The House wants to spend $500 million to try to get to the governor’s proposed minimum salary and $150 million to compensate veteran teachers.

While DeSantis wants to spend $300 million on a new bonus program, he and the House and Senate agree on eliminating the Best and Brightest bonus program, which has been beset by controversy since its creation in 2015. The Best and Brightest program was funded at $284.5 million this year.