Florida Sen. Kevin Rader is hopeful that 2019 will be the year his "Florida Teacher Fair Pay Act" passes.
The Boca Raton Democrat said he plans to file the bill to increase teachers' minimum salaries to $50,000 for the fourth consecutive time. And he sees momentum with the gubernatorial campaign of Andrew Gillum that could carry the measure across the finish line — never mind that the Republican-led Legislature never has given the idea the time of day.
"If Gillum wins, this bill passes," Rader said.
Rader noted that the Legislature has been quick to find funding when it wants to — he pointed specifically to $400 million for school security after the Parkland school shooting — and said it's time to start paying what top teachers deserve.
"Listen, you put money into things you value," he said. "They put a lot of money into charter schools. But we don't value our public school teachers?"
Republicans have called the idea unrealistic, suggesting the corporate tax rate increase Gillum has tied to it would be a nonstarter. They have said any added money for teacher pay would come from reduced administrative costs, and likely be performance-based bonuses rather than added salary.
Rader argued that the time has come to reconsider spending priorities and methods of funding. The state has become too dependent on sales tax revenue and documentary stamp fees, he said, and services have starved as a result.
That includes education, he said.
"When it comes to teacher salaries, we are typically in the bottom 10 states. We have been for many years," Rader said. Teachers "would be better off going across the state line and teaching in Georgia. That is a sad sentence to say."