A new study from WalletHub ranked Florida 48th in the country for average teacher pay.
Florida’s teachers are among the lowest paid in the country, according to a new study released by the financial survey site WalletHub.
The Sunshine State ranks 48th in the nation for teacher pay, outpacing just Maine, Arizona and Hawaii.
The basement ranking comes as no surprise to Manatee Education Association President Pat Barber, who said it has been “dismal” to see Florida fall below states such as Georgia and Alabama when it comes to paying teachers.
“We have to bring up our standards in Florida, and we can’t do that without legislative funding,” Barber said. “Everyone else has been moving ahead a lot faster than we were.”
How we stack up
WalletHub’s report comes as teacher’s union officials in both Sarasota and Manatee are gearing up for contract negotiations. Both counties pay higher than the state average, largely because of local optional property taxes approved by voters.
Sarasota ranked third among districts statewide for teacher pay, at an average of $54,719, and Manatee 15th with an average of $48,472, according to Florida Department of Education salary data for 2018-19.
Union officials in both counties declined to share details of their salary proposals, but Barber is far more optimistic than Barry Dubin, executive director of the Sarasota Classified/Teachers Association.
Barber said this year Manatee should be able to steer more money toward pay raises this year, largely due to an increase in the state’s base student allocation, which had essentially remained flat in 2018-19 but increased by about $75 per student for 2019-20.
“Our expectation is they will be in a better financial situation this year,” Barber said.
Bargaining is scheduled to begin in Manatee on Oct. 3. This year, each side will identify two sections of contract language they would like to reopen, in addition to haggling over pay raises. Raises in Manatee have typically come in the form of $300 pay-step increases, with highly effective teachers usually receiving one more step increase than effective teachers. Last year highly effective instructors received a three-step pay increase worth roughly $900, and effective teachers got a two-step increase worth about $600.
Manatee opened three new schools this year, which could impact the amount of money available for salary increases, Barber said, but with the bump in state funding and the second year of the optional one-mill property tax increase, she is optimistic. Manatee's operational staff negotiates separately as a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In Sarasota the SC/TA runs negotiations for both the teaching and operational staff, but the two groups must each ratify its own contract.
Negotiations in Sarasota are off to a rocky start, with Superintendent Todd Bowden’s desire to “clean up” contract language coming as a non-starter with union leaders. Bowden said current language in the contract is outdated based on new state laws that prevent contracts from making it harder to non-renew teachers' employment.
In an email to district staff on Monday, Dubin said Bowden’s proposals to give principals greater autonomy over hiring and firing amounted to a “war on teachers” and that Bowden was trying to blame the state for policies that could weaken teachers' job protections.
“God forbid, he would acknowledge responsibility for one of his mean-spirited proposals,” Dubin wrote.
Despite the tense rhetoric, the last time the SC/TA and Bowden struck a deal, Bowden’s ultimate offer to teachers was more generous than anticipated. In 2018 teachers in Sarasota received a two-year deal, retroactive to July 1, 2017, with guaranteed raises of 4.25% for highly effective teachers and 3.25% for effective teachers. This year, Bowden said money for raises would be tight, as the district is budgeted to pull more than $5 million from reserves to cover operating costs. The amount of deficit spending the district is projecting has fluctuated greatly over recent months, and Dubin said the district's numbers cannot be trusted.
The SC/TA and district officials will resume negotiations in October.
In both Manatee and Sarasota, the goal has typically been for a deal to be in place by Christmas so that employees get a paycheck with all the money they should have received as a pay raise since July 1 just before the holidays. That hasn't always worked out in recent years. Last year the SC/TA and administration did not finalize a deal until February, and in 2017, Manatee's negotiations went to impasse, and the Manatee School Board ultimately ruled on a deal that included no retropay.
Charlotte County ranked 31st for teacher pay in the state, with an average of $46,359, and DeSoto 47th, with an average of $44,619.
This story originally published to heraldtribune.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.