WELLINGTON, Fla. (WFLA) — Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday he approved funds to be allocated in this year’s state budget to help raise teacher salaries.

DeSantis said $800 million would be set aside for teacher pay initiatives to support increased salaries.

The funds would help raise minimum salaries for teachers as well as salaries for veteran teachers.

“You need to be able to make ends meet,” DeSantis said.

According to the governor, 12% of teachers in the United States make above $40,000 as starting salaries. In Florida, 92% of teachers make above that threshold, DeSantis said.

The governor said the state has invested over $2 billion to increase teacher pay in different initiatives since the 2020 legislative session.

A 2021 report from the National Education Association shows the average teacher salary overall in Florida is 48th in the nation at $49,102 — more than 30% below the national average of $64,102.

The head of Florida’s teachers’ union says this policy is not helping veteran teachers enough — and it’s not addressing the bigger problem.

“Think about that — if average teacher pay is Top 10 in the nation, and average pay overall is near dead last in the nation, then what you’re saying is, you can come in pretty high, but your pay goes down significantly from the minute you walk in the door,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association. “It’s like buying a new car. You drive off the lot, you lose value. That’s how teachers in Florida are being treated.”

Spar said you can see the strategy is not working because there are even more openings now than when the teacher increases started — about 5,000 for teacher positions at the start of this school year out of about 180,000 teachers in the state. Spar said that’s about double the openings that there have been in recent years.

“We’re not getting people coming into the profession,” said Spar. “We’ve had two years of this policy; it hasn’t worked. We have more vacancies today than we did two years ago. Let’s address the real challenge we have.”

“I’m not looking to fight with the governor, I’m not looking to argue with the governor,” said Spar. “I’m asking the governor to step up and keep a commitment he made: to take care of the educators in Florida. All of them — not just some hand-selected ones.”