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Florida superintendents, state education officials begin work on teacher raise plan

Details are still hard to come by, but leaders say they’re ‘cautiously optimistic.’

Florida education commissioner Richard Corcoran announced in July that improved teacher compensation would be a “huge component” of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ agenda for the 2020 legislative session.

Two months later, top officials in his department and several key school district superintendents have begun conversations to turn the sentiment into a real proposal.

K-12 chancellor Jacob Oliva, a former Flagler County superintendent, invited district leaders from Pasco, Hillsborough, Bay, Palm Beach, Monroe and St. Johns counties to gather in Jacksonville on Friday after the State Board of Education meeting there. The primary topic was teacher pay.

From the department, key leaders including Oliva, chief of staff Alex Kelly, general counsel Matthew Mears, chancellor for innovation Eric Hall and colleges chancellor Kathy Hebda were participants.

The group got a copy of former Gov. Rick Scott’s 2013-14 raise proposal, as well as an NCTQ publication on teacher evaluation models that have proven successful. And they started talking about what the state might afford, how it might model a pay plan and other issues.

No specifics were settled on. But the state superintendents association followed up early Monday with a survey on teacher pay to all its members.

The online questionnaire asked details about recent raises given, how Best and Brightest bonuses were used, and other information.

Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who heads the superintendents association, said he was hopeful whatever recommendation comes out will focus on salaries rather than bonuses, the Legislature’s pay increase of choice in recent years.

He said he was more positive that something good will happen for public school teachers than he has been since becoming a lawmaker.

“I feel really cautiously optimistic that this will be the year we’ll recognize the importance of teachers through a salary increase,” Montford said. “The governor and commissioner have committed to making a substantial stand for teacher salaries this year. I commend them for that. It’s long overdue.”

Other organizations including the Council of 100 also have called for teacher pay raises as a way to recruit and retain top educators in the state.

The administration is expected to put forth a proposal of some type this fall, leading up to the January legislative session.

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