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Florida House begins conversation on teacher raise proposal

Details are still scant, but the House’s tone was one of being fiscally cautious as they evaluate DeSantis’ pitch to raise base teacher pay.
Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
Pinellas County teachers and their allies rallied at major intersections in 2012 to protest legislative proposals. [Jim Damaske, Times]
Published Oct. 17, 2019
Updated Oct. 17, 2019

TALLAHASSEE — It’s early in the process, but members of the Florida House’s committee on preK-12 education budgeting began their public discussion on Thursday of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise the base salaries of all Florida teachers to $47,500.

Unsurprisingly, the initial tone from the committee chair, Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater, was cautious, as he said he supports the idea of raising teacher pay but has his eye on the costs of the plan and is working to determine how it would be funded. DeSantis has said the total price tag for his plan would be $603 million, annually.

“We have a (teacher) shortage. Anything we can do to keep rewarding teachers ... is a good thing," Latvala told reporters after the meeting. “(But) we have to keep our budgets balanced. We’re not going to raise taxes, so we have to make sure the money is there and we’re going to do everything we can to find it.”

RELATED: Ron DeSantis unveils plan to raise starting pay for Florida teachers

During the meeting, he mentioned that the billions in requests from state agencies, the lingering costs of Hurricane Michael and the specter of a potential future economic downturn are elements lawmakers should all keep in consideration.

The House has historically been the most conservative about new spending proposals, and already the House Speaker, Rep. José Oliva, has voiced skepticism about all the initiatives the governor and agencies would like to fund.

According to 2017-2018 data collected by the National Education Association, the average starting teacher salary in Florida is $37,636. But following DeSantis’ announcement last week, many teachers raised the point that a change only to the minimum base salary could mean that suddenly, new hires would make nearly as much as many underpaid veteran teachers, which could cause friction within districts.

Latvala mentioned that concern on Thursday, saying it’s something lawmakers should consider.

Another potential point of conflict could be the controversial teacher bonus program, called Best and Brightest. A powerful Republican in the Senate, Sen. Rob Bradley of Fleming Island, has already filed a bill to repeal the program, saying it is not working and acknowledging the teacher complaints that have mounted over the years.

DeSantis seems to agree with that assessment, as he recently told reporters that the restructuring of the bonus program that lawmakers worked to pass earlier this year was too “complicated.”

There has been speculation that the hundreds of millions currently in that program could be redirected toward salary raises.

But Latvala said he would be hesitant to do that. The House led the creation of the bonus program and has been the loudest voice pushing for its survival.

“I’m a strong supporter of Best and Brightest,” he said.

DeSantis has hinted that he may soon unveil a plan for a new teacher bonus program.

In the meantime, the members of the House committee were tasked with looking at the current education budget to come up with $520 million in cuts that could go toward a teacher pay raise.

Still, lawmakers on the committee, especially Democrats, seemed giddy at the idea that something could finally be done in 2020 to mandate teacher pay raises, rather than bonuses. It’s an idea Democrats have proposed repeatedly each year, but often never got a hearing.

“Would the bonus program stay in place when we — when we — raise all of our teacher salaries?” asked Rep. Tracie Davis, D-Jacksonville.

Latvala responded that it is far too early to tell, considering the legislative session doesn’t officially begin until January. Lawmakers have been meeting this fall in Tallahassee during their regular “committee weeks” to begin policy discussions, but there are no bills being passed until then.

“I’m speaking it into existence,” Davis said.


  1. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis delivers remarks during Clay County Day at the Capitol, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon) [STEVE CANNON  |  AP]
  2. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., speaks during a news conference about the "Emmett Till Antilynching Act" which would designate lynching as a hate crime under federal law, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday. Emmett Till, pictured at right, was a 14-year-old African-American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family's grocery store. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
  3. Eric Welch, a Florida inmate, died on Feb 12 after an accident at his work program [Florida Department of Corrections]
  4. The Times is tracking who Florida elected Democrats are endorsing for president in 2020. [TARA MCCARTY  |  Tara McCarty]
  5. Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, San Petersburg.
  6. A signature analysis of two documents signed by Melody Keeth, former board chair of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, show signatures from separate documents signed on the same day were nearly exact, as demonstrated in the combined signatures on the third line. Legislators are disputing the authenticity of one of the documents, noting that it includes information that didn’t exist until a year after it was purportedly signed by Keeth. [Florida House of Representatives]
  7. The question before the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee is whether Florida is following its constitutional duty to provide a high-quality education to public school students.
  8. Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, pauses as he speaks in North Charleston, S.C., on Wednesday. [GERALD HERBERT  |  AP]
  9. From left, Democratic presidential candidates former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Charleston, S.C., co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
  10. State Attorney Bernie McCabe, right, has been working from home after suffering an "adverse health event." [Times (2018)]
  11. From left, Democratic presidential candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate at the Gaillard Center, Tuesday in Charleston, S.C., co-hosted by CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute. [PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP]
  12. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks with members of the media after a Democratic presidential primary debate, Tuesday, in Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) [MATT ROURKE  |  AP]