TALLAHASSEE — Most Floridians agree that we want our schools to be the strongest in the nation. A key element in reaching that goal is keeping experienced educators in our students’ classrooms. Legislation moved forward today by the Florida House will instead drive more teachers out of our public schools. House Bill 1203 will pile on to the more than 20 rules and laws that already regulate educator pay, making it harder for districts to pay competitive wages to experienced teachers.
“We have been encouraging lawmakers to focus on solving our huge shortages of teachers and staff, on keeping experienced educators and attracting new, professionally trained people,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar. “Florida voters get it. In a recent poll, 92 percent of likely voters agreed that we need to pay teachers more so Florida can have stronger schools, and 88 percent agreed that we should raise the salaries of experienced educators and not just brand-new ones. Students lose out when experienced teachers leave our schools.”
Floridians know it takes professionally trained teachers and staff to provide every child with the education they deserve, regardless of race, background, ZIP code or ability. Recently the Florida Board of Education said they anticipate 9,000 teacher vacancies will exist at the end of this school year, and currently there are over 5,300 support staff vacancies statewide. The recent FEA poll indicated that voters want lawmakers to take swift action to increase pay and enact other measures to keep teachers and staff in our schools rather than having them seek employment elsewhere.
Florida ranks 50th in the nation for average teacher pay, according to the National Education Association’s “Rankings of the States 2020 and Estimates of School Statistics 2021.
Our inability to retain and recruit enough educators for our students is the result not only of underfunding, but of misguided policies that often penalize experienced educators. HB 1203 would add to the over 20 different rules and laws that work to keep experienced teacher pay low. Many teachers with 15, 20, 25 or even 30-plus years in the profession are making less today than they would have 10 to 15 years ago with the same experience.
HB 1203 also threatens our schools’ ability to retain and recruit teachers by removing educators’ voice from the evaluation process.
Professionally trained educators want to continually learn and grow so they can be the best possible teacher for each student they serve. When done correctly, evaluations are a tool to help teachers develop their craft.
By removing educators’ voice from the evaluation process, HB 1203 changes the process from one of continual development to one that is merely punitive. Rather than strengthening Florida’s schools, the bill will push more people out of our classrooms.
CONTACT: Joni Branch, firstname.lastname@example.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.