Since Florida government leaders began talking about giving teacher raises, the most cautious comments about what the state could afford came from the Florida House.
So it might have come as a surprise Wednesday when House PreK-12 Appropriations chairman Chris Latvala unveiled a spending plan that included $150 million more for teacher compensation than what the Senate recommended a day earlier.
Latvala’s proposal, which heads to the full Appropriations Committee on Feb. 5, calls for $650 million in what he called a “salary enhancement supplement.”
Of that amount, $500 million would go toward the goal of increasing the state’s minimum teacher pay. Latvala said the money would help the state reach a base of $47,000 — $500 less than what Gov. Ron DeSantis has requested but still, Latvala added, pushing Florida to second in the nation as the governor wanted.
The House did not mention any plan to address concerns that districts already paying that rate would not benefit from the idea, which was included in the Senate’s approach.
The remaining $150 million would go to local school districts, Latvala said, for them to negotiate into salaries and other enhancements for veteran teachers. He said a conforming bill with more detailed explanation would be released by Friday morning.
The governor’s plan proposed $300 million for bonuses that DeSantis said could help educators who make more than the minimum level. Like the Senate, the House did not include any mention of bonuses in its plan.
Many teachers have criticized the bonus system as unfair and also unhelpful, and asked for permanent pay hikes instead.
DeSantis also suggested districts could use some of a proposed increase to the base student allocation, which generally comes with no restrictions, to improve veteran teacher salaries. The governor proposed a $50 increase to the base student allocation, the same amount that the House recommended and $10 higher than the Senate level.
Overall, the House education budget came in at $22.8 billion, which is $200 million higher than the Senate plan.
It would boost per-student funding by $217.79, including the rising base student allocation.
Like the Senate, it also aims to improve funding in voluntary prekindergarten, though the House has offered more. The House calls for $1.8 million for rising enrollment, and $8.7 million to increase the base student allocation. The Senate proposed $1.7 million more for VPK.
Other highlights include:
• $20 million more for Gardiner Scholarships. (The Senate proposed $42 million.)
• $40 million reduction for Schools of Hope. (Same as the Senate.)
• $25 million more for mental health programs. (Same as the Senate.)
• $1.1 million more for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. (Not included in the Senate plan.)