PolitiFact Florida: Florida Democratic Party chair misfires on Scott's teacher pay raise priority

Published May 13, 2013

Florida Democratic Party chairwoman Allison Tant attacked Gov. Rick Scott as a feckless chief executive who let the Legislature steamroll his session priorities.

"He boasted that his No. 1 priority for the 2013 session was a $2,500 across-the-board raise for classroom teachers," Tant wrote in a column on April 30. "Seven weeks later his abject failure to defend his top issue has allowed Republican legislators to cut that raise by 60 percent with a multitude of strings attached."

We were intrigued by Tant's claim that legislators cut Scott's requested pay raise by 60 percent. (Tant's column ran a few days before the Legislature lifted some of the more controversial strings on the raises, including the requirement that they be paid no sooner than June 2014.)

Before the session, Scott asked for a pot of $480 million from which to dole out a $2,500 raise to every teacher. The Legislature set aside the amount he wanted, on top of adding $1 billion to education spending. But lawmakers did not exactly follow his request. The raises will not go just to teachers. Principals, vice principals, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists and librarians are also eligible for raises.

While a raise is likely for most, it is not guaranteed. School districts in negotiations with unions will ultimately decide who gets raises and how much. Lawmakers outlined a merit-pay system but empowered districts to come up with their own merit plans.

Adding thousands of noninstructional personnel into the pool for raises is another point of consideration, as superintendents may have to shuffle the amount of raises for teachers or the number of people who get them to make everyone fit.

The bottom line is specifics are yet to be determined.

We asked the Democrats to support the 60 percent figure. Did Tant crunch the numbers and find that teachers will get raises of just $1,000, or 60 percent less than what Scott wanted?

The Democrats: The line was a mistake.

Tant's column mixed up money for teacher pay raises with money that was set aside for raises for state workers.

"It was an error," said party spokesman Max Steele.

State and university workers will receive a $1,000 or $1,400 raise depending on income (some may earn an extra $600 for performance) for the first time in seven years starting in October. Law enforcement officers will get even higher raises.

What the Democrats did is divide the $200 million pot for state and university workers by the $480 million Scott asked for. Using that (flawed) math, Scott got about 40 percent of his request — or, viewed another way, a 60 percent cut of what he asked for.

Our ruling

Tant said Scott only got 60 percent of the teacher pay raise he wanted.

The final state budget compromise adds thousands of noninstructors into the pay raise mix, which could affect the number of teachers who get raises or at least how much those raises are. We don't know what that will mean on a statewide level, because teacher pay is worked out by districts and unions.

Still, this isn't even what Tant was trying to analyze. She just used a mismatched number.

We give the Democrats props for coming clean with their mistake. But we rate Tant's statement False.

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