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What’s going on with Florida’s teacher pay raise proposals?

Since adopting their separate budgets, the House and Senate have remained mum on details for who might get more money, and how much.
Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, introduces a bill in January to refocus the $900 million proposed for teacher pay into salaries for all public school employees. It's just one of many ideas still floating around Tallahassee relating to educator raises. [The Florida Channel]
Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, introduces a bill in January to refocus the $900 million proposed for teacher pay into salaries for all public school employees. It's just one of many ideas still floating around Tallahassee relating to educator raises. [The Florida Channel]

Florida government leaders have promised to improve teacher pay in this “Year of the Teacher” ever since Gov. Ron DeSantis first suggested boosting the state’s minimum teacher salary back in October.

Several proposals emerged in the aftermath. The House and Senate adopted their budgets — which differ by $150 million — almost two weeks ago.

Since then, the well known crickets. And there are just three weeks remaining before the 2020 legislative session ends.

Do we need to ask again, Will it happen?

Rep. Chris Latvala, who chairs PreK-12 Appropriations in the House, on Monday cautioned against taking the silence as a signal that raises are off the radar.

“There will be a teacher salary increase,” Latvala said. “it’s just a matter of the end number and who’s going to be covered.”

No small matters, those.

The House has more money in its budget for teacher salary increases. According to the chamber’s working papers, its plan would allow six districts to reach a $50,000 minimum salary, and overall would provide some added money to nearly 168,000 teachers.

But it would cover only “classroom teachers” as defined by law.

The Senate version would allow for raises to a wider cross section of education employees, including counselors and prekindergarten instructors. But with less money in its budget, it would provide lower raises than the House.

Here’s how the differences are projected to play out in Pasco County.

There will need to be some give and take, Latvala acknowledged. But “I don’t think they’re make-or-break issues that would grind session to a halt,” he quickly added, noting that teacher raises remain a priority for everyone.

The quiet should break soon, he suggested, as the chamber presiding officers and appropriations chairmen set the allocation levels to be debated.

“We’ll hear some news about that this week,” Latvala said. “Then we’ll go into conference to hash out the differences.”

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