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Budget is a good step toward making this the ‘Decade of Progress’

TALLAHASSEE — The Legislature’s nearly $1.7 billion proposed budget increase for education is a great investment in our students. The Florida Education Association (FEA) began calling in 2019 for a “Decade of Progress” for our public schools, and the proposed education budget represents a real step forward. Now it’s time to take the next steps to ensure that Florida has strong public schools for all children, regardless of their race, background, ZIP code or ability.

“We continue to be laser-focused on the fact that our schools need more teachers and support staff to provide students with the high-quality education they deserve and need,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “The state Department of Education estimates that we may soon have 9,000 teacher vacancies, and at last count there were more than 5,000 vacancies for support staff such as bus drivers and paraprofessionals. Retaining and recruiting teachers and staff must be a top goal.”

The Legislature’s proposed increase to the education budget is one of the largest ever planned and includes a base student allocation increase of $214.49 per student. The proposal also funds increases to educator pay, but does not fully address the salary issues contributing to the staffing crisis.

“We continue to be laser-focused on the fact that our schools need more teachers and support staff to provide students with the high-quality education they deserve and need.”

– FEA President Andrew Spar

Every school employee deserves fair, competitive pay. Legislators’ decision to fund a $15 minimum wage for school support staff, some of whom currently earn poverty wages, is appreciated. By raising up woefully underpaid employees, the move should help districts retain and recruit the support staff essential to meeting students’ needs.

The Legislature’s decision to allocate $250 million for teacher salary increases is also appreciated, and lawmakers are to be commended for allowing districts greater flexibility in how raises will be distributed. The $250 million is to be split 50/50 between boosting new teacher pay and funding raises for experienced educators, which is a great improvement over the 80/20 split of the past two years and should help keep more veteran teachers in our classrooms.

However, prior Legislatures have added over time a total of more than 20 rules and laws regarding how teachers are paid, including many that hold down the pay of experienced teachers and drive educators out of the profession. When veteran teachers leave our schools, both students and early-career educators suffer from the loss of their knowledge and ability.

Lastly, regarding one particularly contentious issue in this session’s budgeting process: The Florida Education Association thanks the Senate for standing firm in its refusal to penalize students in the 12 school districts that listened to their communities and held fast to mask requirements in local schools.

 

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CONTACT: Joni Branch, joni.branch@floridaea.org, (850) 201-3223


The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.

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