How would you feel about working a job for 10 -15 years and a new employee without comparable experience is hired to work the same job at your current salary? Florida’s experienced teachers find themselves in just that predicament.
HB 641, also known as the Teacher Salary Allocation — or TSA — was passed by the Florida Legislature in 2020. The law was purportedly established to recruit and retain newly hired teachers by providing $500 million for local school districts to increase the starting salary of new teachers — some of which were as low as $38,000 — to $47,500. The TSA designated 20% of the funds to be used to provide a raise for experienced teachers, who compose the larger share of instructional staff. But the effort to distribute the funds has generated confusion and frustration from teachers who say the state’s pay plan creates huge inequities, leaving some teachers feeling undervalued.
The Governor has repeated his desire to continue funding the TSA, but at what level?
On this episode we’re joined by educators from three school districts who share the pros and cons of the TSA and what actions they say state legislators need to take to make all teachers whole:
- Michelle Dillon, President, St. Johns Education Association (SJEA)
- Justin Vogel, Teacher, St. Johns Schools and SJEA Bargaining Committee member
- Dave Galloway, President, Jackson County Education Association
- Stuart Klatte, President, Lake County Education Association
- Kathy Smith, Vice President, Lake County Education Association
Base Student Allocation (BSA) — This is the portion of school district funding where school boards have discretion on how to spend the funds. Among other things the BSA is used to fund employee salaries and benefits which are determined through collective bargaining.
When adjusted for inflation, the 2020-21 BSA is $770 less per student than it was in 2007-08.
Categorical — This is the portion of school district funding that is heavily regulated by the state, providing little or no local control for school districts on how these funds are spent. Categoricals include safe schools, transportation, mental health and the newly created teacher salary allocation (TSA).
Over the past decade, the number of categoricals has almost doubled. The result of this is the state has taken greater control over how school districts can spend funds while disinvesting in the base student allocation.
Compression — Also referred to as wage or salary compression, this is when there is little difference in pay between employees regardless of differences in their experience, degree attainment or abilities.
Policies passed by the Florida Legislature have led to significant wage compression over the past decade, and the recently passed Teacher Salary Allocation is making the issue worse. In many areas of the state veteran teachers with over a decade of experience will be earning essentially the same salary as a first-year teacher.
Collective bargaining — This is the process through which the school board and the local union negotiate terms and conditions of employment including working conditions and compensation. The results of these negotiations are voted upon by all members of the bargaining unit, whether or not they are members of their union.
Salary schedule — A listing of annual salary based on years of experience and other considerations such as advanced degrees. The salary schedule is negotiated through collective bargaining.
Step — Movement from one salary on a salary schedule to another.
Prior to the Great Recession, most educators in Florida automatically moved a step each year ensuring they received a cost of living increase as well as to honor their increased experience and value as an educator.
The combination of disinvestment during and after the Great Recession as well as legislative changes to focus salary increases for newer employees and to base raises on student performance on standardized tests led to the loss of automatic steps in most Florida counties. This loss of step movement has been a significant contributing factor to wage compression for Florida’s teachers.
Teacher Salary Allocation (TSA) — A new categorical for the 2020-21 school year which provided districts with $500 million to increase starting salaries of teachers. The TSA mandated an 80/20 split of those monies, with 80% of the funds dedicated to increasing beginning teacher salaries.
The $500 million allocated by the Legislature was woefully insufficient to meet Gov. DeSantis’s stated goal of a statewide starting salary of $47,500. To get to that number, there will need to be a sustained investment over the next few years.
Certified prekindergarten teachers were included in the TSA. This is a big win for them as pre-K teachers have historically been neglected by the state Legislature.
Unfortunately, all other categories of educators other than PreK-12 teachers were left out. This legislation excluded librarians, school counselors, literacy coaches and all other non-teaching positions including all education staff professionals.
School District Funding
Florida’s schools are funded using a calculation known as the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). The FEFP is often touted as a nation-wide model on how to distribute school funding; in fact, Florida consistently earns high grades from Education Week’s “Quality Counts” reports. For the most recent school year, Florida was first in the rankings on equity of funding.
In the same report, Florida earned an F on spending. You see, while Florida does lead the nation in ensuring school districts are funded equitably—they are funded equally poorly. If one hundred people divide a single loaf of bread equitably, everyone gets crumbs. That is the situation Florida’s school districts are in.
The FEFP formula contains well over a dozen categories of spending (called categoricals); each dollar in the categorical bucket can only be used for that specific purpose. Some examples of categoricals include the safe schools allocation, ESE guaranteed allocation, reading program, and student transportation.
This past legislative session, the teacher salary allocation categorical was created and it was funded to the tune of $500 million. As happens all too often with categoricals there were onerous strings attached to the $500 million, including that 80% of it needed to be used to fund raises for new teachers leaving just crumbs for veteran teachers. And anyone who is not a teacher was left out of this categorical altogether despite the essential role they play in student success and well-being.
Any raises for the folk who were left out of the categorical would have to come from the only one category of money where districts have flexibility: the base student allocation (BSA). This is the money that districts can use to pay employee salaries and benefits, student programs, and other operational costs.
Over the past decade and a half, the state has pumped more and more money into categorical funds while the BSA has not even come close to keeping up with inflation. The impact of this has been the state has essentially taken control of local school district spending since the discretionary pot of funds keeps shrinking. When adjusted for inflation, the 2020-21 BSA was $770 less than it was in 2007-08
Sommer Brugal, Treasure Coast Newspapers/tcpalm.com (12/15/2020)
All teachers here will get pay increases of at least 13% over the next three years, thanks to an agreement reached Monday between the school district and teachers union to increase starting teacher pay. The three-year contract for new and veteran teachers, based on state-allocated funds, is “creative and convoluted, but it works,” said teachers union President Jennifer Freeland. … Under the contract, all Indian River County teachers this year will receive at least a 5% pay increase, Freeland said. However, to get starting teachers to the $47,500 base, the district’s lowest-paid teachers will get about 15%, she said.
Next year, most teachers will receive a 2% raise. Teachers who received a 15% raise this year will not be eligible for the second increase, Freeland said.
Joe McLean, WJXT 4 Jacksonville (12/15/2020)
After a month-long impasse, Clay County School District leadership resumed talks with representatives of the Clay County Education Association and reached a tentative agreement on how teacher pay raises will be distributed on Monday. According to the union, the minimum salary for teachers will move to $44,867 and all teachers will get a minimum salary increase of $1,200. Starting pay for Clay County teachers was $38,000 for the 2019-2020 school year.
CD Davidson-Hiers, Tallahassee Democrat (12/09/2020)
Happy holidays, teachers: The first effects of a $9 million local raise will start hitting paychecks next week. … Scott Mazur, president of the Leon teachers union, said the raise next year will be spread out over the full 12 months. … As the state’s allocation finally does go into effect, local teachers’ starting base pay will be $43,304, which is a roughly $5,800 increase. And for others in schools — such as counselors, media specialists and librarians, occupational specialists, psychologists, and social workers — salaries will increase by no less than $3,000 based on a 7.5-hour day, according to district records.
Joe McLean, WJXT 4 Jacksonville (12/07/2020)
The Duval County Public Schools board and Duval Teachers United have reached a tentative, three-year agreement, which includes pay raises for thousands of teachers but falls short of being considered by union leadership as a “fair” deal for veteran employees. … The schedules also consider the employee’s pay difference relative to the recently enacted HB 641, which provided state funding to move the minimum starting salary for teachers to $47,000 or as high as the bill’s $400,000 state-wide allocation allows. In Duval County, it’s $45,891.
Alicia Tarancon, Action News Jax (12/01/2020)
Teachers in St. Johns County are on their way to taking home a bigger paycheck thanks to negotiations between the St. Johns County School District and St. Johns Education Association. On Tuesday morning the school district voted unanimously to approve a plan that would increase a teacher’s salary. … “Before, our salary schedule started at $39,000 and what’s wonderful is now it will go to $45,535, which is a big increase for new teachers,” Cathy Weber, director for budget and chief negotiator for the St. Johns County School Board, said. … Teachers who already make $45,000 and up will only get a 2% increase.
Michelle Dillon, President of the St. Johns Education Association, said some teachers who have worked for years are upset that new hires are making about the same salary as veteran teachers.
Pete Reinwald, Central Florida News 13 (11/17/2020)
The lowest-paid teachers in Orange County Public Schools will see a 16% boost in their salaries under an agreement that the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association reached Tuesday with the Orange County School Board. The minimum teacher salary will climb to $47,500 from $40,900, and all teachers will receive at least a 1.27% increase as part of an agreement on wages and working conditions for the 2020-21 school year, OCPS announced. The Classroom Teachers Association “promised to leave no teacher behind and are excited we could reach an agreement to ensure that every certified teacher will be given a raise,” association president Wendy Doromal said in an OCPS news release.
Cassidy Alexander, Daytona Beach News Journal (11/17/2020)
The Volusia County school district and teachers union can’t agree — once again — on how much money to spend on teachers. The district declared an impasse…
Stephanie Bechara, Tampa Bay News 9 (11/17/2020; appears in 1 additional publication)
Thanks to an agreement between the Osceola County Education Association and Osceola County Schools, teachers in Osceola County will see an overall boost in pay of $9.5 million worth.
The minimum base salary in the county is going from $41,400 to $46,100. And raises for existing teachers will range from $650 to $1,000, depending on the employee’s pay range.
Buster Thompson, Citrus County Chronicle (11/17/2020)
With no discussion, Citrus County School Board members voted 5-0 to approve a swath of salary increases for their teachers, administrators and support staff. … Teacher’s union leaders with the Citrus County Education Association (CCEA) and the Teamsters Local 79 both ratified these salary and health insurance contributions after negotiating with school district officials. … Teachers’ minimum starting pay will be increased to $46,000, up from the lowest starting wage of $38,400. Every current instructor is also going to get a raise of at least $1,500.
Jessica Albert, WOLF – Fox Orlando (11/13/2020; appears in 1 additional publication)
The Marion Education Association (MEA) is fighting for raises for veteran teachers. “I think what it is going to do is it’s going to divide teachers,” Marion Education Association President Mark Avery said. “Teachers who have been working 10, 15, 20, 30 years are feeling left out and not considered.” The MEA’s bid to get a 4 percent raise for veteran teachers was denied by the Marion County School Board. Now, some veteran teaches are upset that new teachers will be making about the same money they do. … New teachers at Marion County Schools will make $44,750 a year. They were making about $38,000 dollars before. The school board did agree to give all other teachers a 2.3 percent raise, but the president of the Marion Education Association, who is also a veteran teacher, said that’s not enough.
Payne Ray, Daily Commercial (10/06/2020)
New teachers in Lake may soon start at a higher salary thanks to additional funds from the state and a deal struck between Lake County Schools and the Lake County Education Association. … The new salary increase means that new teachers, who previously started at around $40,400, will start at $44,750. … The increasing base salary also comes with some small 1% and 2% raises depending on current salaries.
Scott J. Bryan, Gadsden County Times (10/06/2020)
The Gadsden County Classroom Teachers’ Association and the Gadsden County School District have reached a tentative agreement for teacher salaries, but neither side is happy about the final product. …
In the agreement – which has yet to be ratified by the teachers union or approved by the county school board – teachers in their first, second and third year will receive $38,115 per year, a 10 percent increase from the previous starting base salary of $34,650. According to a chart produced by the teachers union, 131 of the county’s 275 teachers (47.6 percent) fall into that category. … And while the first-year teachers and those early in their careers receive significant pay increases, veteran teachers only received a 3 percent pay raise.