Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Raises For Teachers

Ron DeSantis

Getty Ron DeSantis to Florida - "Don't Monkey This Up"

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a $500 million education-related bill June 24, which is expected to raise the minimum teacher to around $47,500, according to reporting from the Tampa Bay Times.

The raise will apply to public school teachers, whose starting salaries were roughly $10,000 less during the 2017-2018 year at $37,636, the National Educational Association’s Center for Advocacy reported.

According to the 2019 National Education Association report, that would raise Florida from 25th to 6th in the country in terms of teacher pay, TV station Local10 reported.

Bill Raises Pay for New and Veteran Teachers

DeSantis signed HB 641 at Mater Academy Charter School within a week of it landing on his desk, the Tampa Bay Times reported. The bill will set aside $400 million to raise new teachers’ salaries and $100 million to raise the pay of veteran teachers and other “instructional personnel,” such as librarians; the Times, however, said that the raises would not count for counselors or “instructional coaches.”

According to the Tampa Bay Times, the bill encourages school districts and charter schools to aim for the $47,500 number, even though the number itself is not explicitly stated in the bill. Instead, the money will be distributed to different districts based on a number of factors, including enrollment; then teachers’ unions and districts create agreements with one another that they report to the Florida Department of Education.

During a press release, DeSantis thanked the legislature for helping him get the bill passed:

Hopefully, by doing something like this, it’s going to entice some more people who may be young, may be thinking about what they want to do, to go into teaching. Not everyone can. Obviously, you’re not going to get rich doing it, just like police officers’ don’t get rich and everything — you do it because you have a servant’s heart. But it sure makes it easier if you have a good minimum salary.

“It was quite a challenge to make sure that even though we fought for it, we would be able to do it,” he went on to say. “I can report that while we have not made every decision about the budget, this (teacher pay funding) will be there 100 percent. We are going to make tough choices, but this is important.”

The bill goes into effect July 1, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

Florida Uses A VAM System to Rate One-Third of Teachers

Florida rates the performance of one-third of its classroom teachers by a “Value-Added Model” or VAM, which represents how much a teacher “contributed to student learning growth,” according to the Florida Department of Education. The scores are often combined across grades and subjects for a three-year aggregate.

According to the Florida Department of Education:

An Aggregate VAM Score of +0.25 would mean that, on average, the teacher’s contribution to learning among their students resulted in scores that were 25 percent above the state average growth for that grade and subject. Conversely, an Aggregate VAM Score of -.10 would mean that, on average, the teacher’s contribution to learning among their students resulted in scores that were 10 percent below the state average growth for that grade and subject.

The department says it uses VAM scores because they “provide a tool for districts to more accurately evaluate teacher and principal performance.” The VAM scoring models are used in various subjects, including English language arts, Speech I and II, Reading I, II, and III, Prealgebra, 8th and 9th-grade Algebra I and elementary-level English for Speakers of Other Langage (ESOL).

The Florida Education Association has strongly pushed back against the VAM system, calling it a “scam” in one of its article headlines and stating that, “There are many reasons that Florida’s educators have come to loathe the misuse and abuse of Value-Added Model (VAM) scores, but there is perhaps no more egregious misuse of this data than to force an entire school to be disrupted just a few days into the start of a new school year.”

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic further complicated matters.

DeSantis closed schools in mid-March during the coronavirus pandemic and said they would remain closed for the rest of the school year, the Orlando Sentinel reported. As teachers moved to online classes, they were surveyed by the Florida Department of Education; more than half (57%) of teachers said they were “stressed” by the sudden switch from in-person classes, many described themselves as exhausted from the workload and nearly 74% said their biggest worry was their students falling behind.

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