Board considers raising starting teachers’ salaries to $47,500; others get 3.5% boost

Unions

The Palm Beach Post | by Sonja Isguer | January 12, 2021

Just over 5,000 Palm Beach County teachers will see their salaries move to Florida’s new starting salary of $47,500 and some 8,000 others who are making close to that or more will see a 3.5% raise under a proposed contract up for school board approval Wednesday. 

The boost is in large part due to a $500 million shift in the state’s budget intended to move Florida from 26th to fifth in the nation when it comes to starting pay. It also comes despite widespread concern that the pandemic will deliver a punishing blow to the state’s coffers. 

The legislation was approved by Gov. Ron DeSantis in June and also carried $100 million for veteran teachers.  

Florida’s overall average salary for public school teachers is $48,168, ranking it 46th among the states and the District of Columbia, according to the National Education Association. The national average was $60,477 in 2019.

The state would give the district its share in a lump sum to be used strictly for the hike. 

But with roughly 13,000 teachers and a current starting salary of $41,000, the district’s portion, about $31.8 million, won’t cover the estimated $44.5 million bill. 

Instead, district leaders will have to tap other reserves to meet the 3.5% proposed for veterans.

Palm Beach County School District's Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke anticipates spending millions on computers and internet connections for students who otherwise can't access online lessons. [File photo/palmbeachpost.com

Palm Beach County School District’s Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke anticipates spending millions on computers and internet connections for students who otherwise can’t access online lessons. PALM BEACH POST FILE PHOTO

“Without the additional local funds, veteran teachers would have received only 1.7%,” said Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke. 

Still, veteran teachers continue to suffer from a decade of anemic salary growth in the wake of the Great Recession, said Classroom Teachers Association President Justin Katz, who is looking to state lawmakers for a remedy.

For years, the pay for beginning teachers has gained ground on those who’ve been in the classroom for years.  

In 2018, the typical 20-year teacher in Palm Beach County earned $3,000 less than a teacher with 20 years’ experience did in 2008, according to an analysis by The Palm Beach Post. That number is in actual dollars, not adjusted for inflation.  

Veterans take a hit to their annual income, but the damage is compounded by losses to their pension and retirement savings. 

Justin Katz, president of the classroom teachers association speaks at school district headquarters in West Palm Beach, September 16, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/palmbeachpost.com]

Justin Katz, president of the Classroom Teachers Association speaks at the school district headquarters in West Palm Beach, September 16, 2020. Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post

“The governor increased the starting pay, but did not meaningfully do the same for any veteran. Now, basically a new teacher will get paid almost the same amount as a teacher who’s been here eight or nine years,” Katz said.

“We certainly hope the legislature revisits the idea of increasing veteran pay. It doesn’t mean much if you hire new teachers and they leave in three or four years. If you want to retain teachers, which is the ultimate goal,” they must have better pay, Katz said. 

Featured image: A 4th grade classroom set up for social distancing at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School, September 3, 2020. Only one student will be allowed per desk. ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post