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Gov. DeSantis' Teacher Pay Plan Leaves Educators With More Questions Than Answers

John O'Connor
Daniel Dickey teaches writing at Miami Northwestern Senior High in 2014. Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed increasing starting salaries for teachers to $47,500 statewide.

Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced an ambitious plan to attract and retain teachers in Florida. He wants to increase the starting salary to $47,500. It would make Florida second for highest minimum teacher pay in the country.

Some education union leaders say the plan is a start, but they’re wondering how the governor will address veteran teachers.

WLRN asked listeners to weigh in, asking what the starting salary should be in South Florida:

Eva Cuffy, who lives in Tamarac and was a teacher in California, said new teachers should be paid more along with existing teachers. Raising starting salaries could also help attract teachers to Florida, she added.

“More money means top talent will be more willing to work in the sector,” said Steve Cochran, a teacher at Keys Gate Charter High in Homestead.

“Starting teacher salaries should be $50,000,” said Linda Howe in Boca Raton. “Teachers deserve more money and respect. My son has an AA in Graphic Design and his first job paid more than a new teacher makes. Surely making successful online clothing ads is not more important than making successful children.”

On the South Florida Roundup, host Tom Hudson spoke about the proposal and its potential impact on teachers in the region with Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade.

Here's an excerpt of their conversation:

WLRN: What are your impressions of the governor's proposal?

KARLA HERNANDEZ-MATS: We are glad that the conversation is taking place. But the governor failed to mention how we're going to retain teachers. That's a big part of the conversation. This is something that doesn't have a lot of infrastructure. We want more teachers, especially beginning teachers, to have an opportunity to make a decent living, but it brings a lot of questions. We talk about the district-cost differential of Miami-Dade, the cost of living in Miami-Dade. So really it leaves us with more questions than there are answers. And so we're a little skeptical to be honest with you.

What is the starting pay for a teacher in Miami-Dade County?

In Miami-Dade, it is $41,500. (On Monday, a spokesperson for Hernandez-Mats contacted WLRN to correct the amount: Miami-Dade public school teacher salaries start about $41,000.)

The governor's [plan] would put that at $47,500. That's a substantial increase. More than a 10 percent increase from where it is today. That's something you're skeptical about?

I'm skeptical for multiple reasons. We don't know where this funding structure is going to come from. And so,  you know, is this going to create a funding crisis later on? Is this something that is sustainable?

Also how do we retain the teachers that have given so much of their lives and their careers to public education? We have teachers with more than six years of experience that are going to now be at the same starting point of a brand new teacher. Experience matters and longevity matters. All these things are important in the career of an educator.

How would the governor, if he's successful in any effort regarding teacher pay, how would that reconcile itself with the collective bargaining agreement that United Teachers of Dade has with the school district?

Every district has collective bargaining union. And so for them to say, 'We're going to give all teachers $47,500,' is a little bit of just talking presumptuously, because he doesn't really know how all of that is going to work. We don't know about the funding. We don't know how this is going to impact every single district. And so again this leaves a lot of questions for us.

Alexander Gonzalez produces the afternoon newscasts airing during All Things Considered. He enjoys helping tell the South Florida story through audio and digital platforms. Alex is interested in a little of everything from business to culture to politics.
Tom Hudson is WLRN's Senior Economics Editor and Special Correspondent.
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