Florida's Teacher's Union is demanding a raise. Teachers say Florida ranks 27th in the nation for teacher pay, and we're losing good teachers to other states at a time when Florida needs more teachers than ever to implement the class size amendment. But the teachers have an uphill battle.
Teacher David Warrell has spent nearly 30 years in the classroom because he loves it. But, he says Florida’s relatively low teacher salaries are driving some teachers away.
“I have a couple of colleagues that were in the profession just a few years in Leon County who have gone across the line to Georgia and are making considerably more right now than experienced teachers in Florida average,” says Warrell.
About $39,000 a year, that's $4,000 less than our neighbors in Georgia, and $5,000 less than the national average.
The Florida Education Association says the state can afford a $2,500 raise for every teacher if the governor scraps plans for $660 million in proposed tax breaks.
The governor's response was sarcastic, but the state has to do something. Florida needs 20,000 new teachers by august to replace retirees and implement the first year of the constitutional amendment requiring smaller classes.
The governor's office estimates it will cost $628 million this year to begin implementing the class size amendment, about the same as it would cost to provide a $2,500 raise for every teacher.
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Teacher Salaries for 2000-2001
Beginning teacher salaries have continued to improve in response to the nationwide teacher shortage, increasing more than four percent in each of the past two years. On the other hand, the pay hike for experienced teachers was less impressive in 2000-01, increasing just 3.4 percent over the prior year.
Improved pay for new teachers helps school districts compete for new college graduates, but these graduates are receiving average offers of $42,712 in fields other than teaching, while the average salary for beginning teachers is just under $29,000.
Teacher salaries vary considerably across the states. Connecticut had the highest average salary at $53,507. The other top five states were California at $52,480, New Jersey at $51,955, New York at $51,020 and Michigan at $50,515. South Dakota had the lowest average salary at $30,265.
A couple of states increased teacher salaries by an unusual amount in 2000-01. California teacher salaries spiked 10.1 percent, improving the state’s rank from seventh to second. Oklahoma raised its rank from 50th to 48th by providing the largest increase of any state—10.2 percent. Other than California and Oklahoma, no other state had an increase exceeding 6 percent. Average salaries in Hawaii declined due to increased hiring of new teachers to replace experienced teachers who retired. Mississippi, New Jersey and New York had salary increases of less than 1 percent.
Teacher Salary in 2000-01 State Rankings
of U.S. Average
|8||District of Columbia||$48,488||112.1%|
Source: www.aft.org (American Federation of Teachers Web site) contributed to this report.