Lizette Guidi and Jocelyn Nerey, sisters and Miami-Dade teachers, have bittersweet feelings about the new law to raise teacher salaries. They’re happy that teachers are being recognized and receiving higher salaries, but believe that veteran teachers are yet again left without enough acknowledgment.
On June 24, Gov. DeSantis signed the HB 641 bill into law. It allocates $400 million for school districts to raise the minimum teacher pay in Florida and $100 million to raise veteran teachers’ and other educational staff salaries.
Both Guidi and Nerey teach at Coral Park Elementary in Miami. Guidi has been teaching for 27 years and currently works with third graders. Nerey has been teaching for 16 years and is currently involved with pre-K students. She has a master’s degree, but her base salary is only $200 more than a starting teacher’s new salary.
“I told her, you might as well quit and start again,” Guidi said of her sister.
The law doesn’t require school districts to raise the minimum salary to $47,500 but encourages them to get as close to that number as possible. The amount that each district receives depends on student enrollment, and each district negotiates with teacher unions on how they will distribute the money. After reaching an agreement on minimum pay, the districts can use leftover funds for other purposes as long as they follow restrictions imposed by the law.
The average starting teacher salary in Florida was $37,636 in the 2017-2018 school year, according to the National Education Association. The new law bumps the state’s average from the 48th in the nation to the fifth.
Teachers React to the Bill
While unions begin to make contracts with the school districts, teachers around South Florida are reacting to the bill passing with different opinions.
Click each video to hear from three South Florida teachers.
Anmaree Del Valle, secondary mathematics teacher, six years in the Miami-Dade County Public School System.
Julieth Hernandez, recent college graduate and starting teacher at Villa Prep, fifth grade.
Jason Aiken, high school economics teacher, 15 years in the Broward County Public Schools System.
While Gov. DeSantis has pushed for higher teacher salaries since 2019, the new law arrived amid the coronavirus pandemic, after teachers had spent four months adapting to remote learning and while they wait for their districts to decide whether schools will reopen and how.
Nerey and Guidi said this context added to teachers’ frustration about salaries. Many spent the spring adjusting to teaching online, and some plan to buy their own cleaning and protective supplies if schools open in August.
“We started virtual school with no training,” said Lizette. “There were no books, they didn’t really tell us what to do. Again, teachers stepped it up really quick, they did what they had to do.”
Florida vs Other States in the 2018-2019 School Year
Florida was ranked #47 in the 2018-2019 school year based on the national average for teacher salaries.
The law leaves 20% of the allocated money for districts to negotiate salary increases for veteran teachers, said Fusco. Yet, in order to help those teachers more, elected officials would need to allocate more money to the public school budget so districts can focus on raising those teachers’ salaries.
“I think the bill is good for the new teacher,” said Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union. “But it is not good for a veteran teacher because it doesn’t give us much money allocated for moving teacher salaries for people who have a decade or more of experience.”