STATEWIDE — Education leaders are praising a teacher pay raise signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

What You Need To Know

  • HB 641 signed into law by Gov. DeSantis to raise teacher pay

  • Raise should bump avg. teacher salary in Florida up to $46,500

  • Veteran teachers were not allotted the same amount of funds

But some teachers say this leaves out those who have many years of experience.

The bill, HB 641, provides $500 million for teacher pay raises, and it can’t be used for anything else by school districts — $400 million of that will go to raise starting teacher salaries across the state.

Lawmakers told Spectrum News that should raise the average teacher salary in Florida to $46,500, a big bump for most starting teachers.

But there’s only $100 million for the tens of thousands of veteran teachers who won’t already get their salaries raised, which teachers feel like won’t go far enough.

Seminole County Virtual School teacher JoAnna Marino teaches several subjects.  She’s expecting an influx of kids over parental concerns about coronavirus in schools.

`She says after having to quickly pivot to complete distance learning, there’s never been a more deserving time for teachers to get raises.

Orange County State rep. Rene Plasencia, a former teacher himself, helped work on the bill.

“So that’s half a billion dollars all going to teacher pay increases during what could be the worst economic recession we’ve had in a 100 years,” Plasencia said.

Marino says this will be a great tool for recruiting new teachers, but she’s been teaching for 6 years now and only makes $43,000 a year with Seminole County Public Schools.

While she’s grateful her pay will ultimately go up, she says it still seems unfair to her and other teachers with even more experience.

“So now someone with six years makes the same as someone with zero years experience? That seems a little surreal that that would be the case,” Marino said.

Plasencia says it may not be everything teachers wanted, but it’s a good start.

“This is a great signal by the legislature that public education funding is a priority to us,” Plasencia said.

But if pre-coronavirus demonstrations by teachers are any sign, Marino says veteran teachers may not wait much longer for fair compensation, and there could a mass exodus of them.

“But if we don’t take care of the veteran teachers, who is going to mentor the new teachers?” Marino said.

Plasecia says that $100 million is not the only funds for veteran teachers — he says they’ve put millions more of flexible education spending into the budget.

But it will be up to unions and school districts to bargain to determine how much of that will go to veteran teachers.