Florida lawmaker pushes for teacher pay raise, wants $65K starting salary, but educators are skeptical

A Florida lawmaker wants to raise teacher pay to a minimum salary of $65,000.

Rep. Tae Edmonds of West Palm Beach (D) is proposing the “Save Our Teachers Act” to raise teacher pay in Florida closer to the national average.

“This is just a minor step in the right direction to help our teachers,” Edmonds said. “This year is a perfect year, we just found an extra $2 billion in our budget that we can really, really utilize to actually help fund teachers right now.”

Florida ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to average teacher pay. The most recent report from the National Education Association shows the average teacher in the Sunshine State is making about $51,000 a year.

Edmonds is proposing the Florida Education Finance Program foot the bill for the higher minimum base salaries. He said the state’s general revenue can also support the pay increases.

A previous education funding boost in 2022 increased the base pay for teachers to a minimum of $47,500, but Edmonds thinks it’s still not enough.

Longtime educator and Nassau Teachers’ Association President Chris Pagel agrees teachers desperately need a pay increase but he doesn’t believe the bill has a chance of passing.

“Love it! But it’s just not realistic,” Pagel said. “If we could somehow get teacher pay to $65,000 and everyone else moves up accordingly, then by all means.”

The bill said veteran teachers would still retain their bonuses and increases. Pagel said it’s still not fair to experienced educators to raise base salaries so high.

“I’ve been teaching for 33 years…I barely make $65,000. So, I don’t see how they can get all beginning teachers to 65 and just leave everyone else where they are,” Pagel said.

This is Edmond’s second year proposing the bill and he is optimistic about getting bipartisan support.

If the bill is approved by legislators, it would go into effect next July.

The 2024 legislative session starts in January.

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