TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been working to increase teacher salaries for Florida educators since he took office in 2019. Working together, DeSantis and the state legislature passed a law to set minimum teacher salary levels at $47,500.
Four years after the fact, not every county has met that requirement, despite billions of dollars poured into making it happen across Florida by the legislature.
Differences in salary levels below the statutory requirement of $47,500 are a spectrum, ranging from about $105 per year to nearly $7,300. The biggest gap in actual median salary to the state requirement is in Calhoun County, where teachers make just $40,335 per year as a median salary.
The state overall median, according to documents from FDOE, is $48,432. A September vacancy report, the most recent check on teacher shortages in Florida, put the number of open teaching positions at 4,442 on Sept. 1, 2022. That same month, FDOE told WFLA.com that there were 185,000 teachers in the state, with only 2.4% of positions not filled.
Florida’s cost of living remains high, complicating the process of being able to live where you work, or where you teach.
The governor’s budget items for education total a record $26 billion for the state. $1 billion of that is for salary increases, both for new teachers and veteran teachers, as well as other eligible instructional personnel.
It’s been a priority budget item for years, but there are still 39 counties that have not reached the state minimum salary for all teachers. Still, of the counties that are below the state minimum, not all gaps are equal. In 2022, state officials said Florida already allocated $2 billion over two years for salary increases.
With the 2023 budget, should it pass, that amount would grow to $3 billion, but years of effort show it’s not a guarantee to get those dollars to the teachers they’re intended for.
While Florida has stepped up recruiting measures to address shortages, including bonuses to teachers for the past two years in addition to working to increase salaries and open up pathways to teacher certification for military veterans and retired officers and first responders, the impact of those initiatives has not yet been shown in hard data.
In December, a spokesman for FDOE said, “The notion of a large teacher shortage in Florida is a myth,” saying teachers unions and media activists had essentially overstated the problem. He said, “Florida has roughly 185,000 teachers and the state’s vacancies on September 1st represented approximately 2.4% of teaching positions,” but the report for Florida’s educator salaries in September showed 173,773 teachers work in the state.
The Florida Education Association, a teachers union representing multiple local chapters, said in January that their estimates put the shortage higher, at north of 5,000 open positions for just educators, not including support staff and other personnel.
In an attempt at saving educators more of their paychecks, DeSantis has proposed introducing legislation to stop teachers unions from collecting dues before paychecks hit bank accounts. Even more politically complicated, some school superintendents, according to reporting by WUSF, have laid some of the blame for delays at unions’ feet.
“The 2022-23 salary data will be available in a few months. It will be posted to the website when it is available,” according to a spokeswoman for FDOE. WFLA.com is awaiting further details on the lag in teacher salary increases and state requirements from the education department.