MIDDLEBURG – Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday his tentative 2020 budget includes a raise in starting pay for teachers.
The governor unveiled the proposal at Middleburg High. He was flanked by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), state Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, Clay County School District Superintendent Addison Davis and Middleburg High faculty.
The $603 million budget recommendation would increase starting salaries to $47,500. The average pay for teachers statewide is $37,636, which is 26th in the country. DeSantis’ proposal would put Florida in second, he said.
The recommendation would give raises to more than 100,000 teachers, he said.
“This is something that I think will make a big difference and be significant. I think it’s easily doable,” DeSantis said. “We’re not having any problems doing this in the budget. It’s all about setting priorities. This is going to be a priority for us.”
The state has a widely reported teacher shortage. Clay County’s starting teacher salaries are just under $39,000, DeSantis said. The plan should get bipartisan support, he said.
“Under this proposal, 2,000 Clay County teachers will receive a pay increase and throughout the greater Jacksonville area, 11,000 teachers will receive a pay increase under this proposal,” DeSantis said.
Bradley, the senate appropriations chairman, said teachers were center to the Clay County School District’s consecutive “A” grades.
“It all starts with a great teacher,” Bradley said. “All through life, if you look at the crossroads of life, it’s a teacher that has impacted somebody along the way and turned them around in the right direction.”
Davis called the plan bold. Attracting and retaining teachers would become easier with the initiative, he said.
“Today with this announcement, it's truly action from the governor’s office and that's exactly what we need in education,” Davis said. “(Teachers are) working for the hearts of children and this is going to allow them to do great things.”
Morgan Launikitis is a second-year teacher at Middleburg High. She said it was the responsibility of teachers to inspire and influence students regardless of income.
“Every student is one adult away from being a success story and if it wasn’t for teachers who believed in me at Middleburg High School, there’s no way I’d be standing in front of you today speaking or giving the enthusiasm I give to my students every day,” Launikitis said.
Career and technical education teacher, Billy Mathis, said he saw the need for skilled labor during his 20 years in construction. Mathis has been at Middleburg High almost two years.
“Being able to come here and teach the youth is just great,” Mathis said. “I wouldn't trade it for anything else.”