The Florida Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday tentatively approved a $22.6 billion fiscal 2021 state education budget that would increase overall spending by $762.8 million over this year’s plan, but falls about $300 million shy of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ education budget request.
The subcommittee’s plan would increase per-student funding by $181, or 2.37 percent, and includes a $40 increase in the base student allocation (BSA) districts can use for varied needs, including teacher salaries.
Under DeSantis' plan, school spending per pupil would increase by $302, and the BSA by $50 for each of Florida’s 2.8 million K-12 students, rising to $7,979 per capita.
Among other key distinctions between the subcommittee’s proposal and DeSantis’ is spending for teachers' salaries. The subcommittee's $22.9 billion plan earmarks $825 million for teacher pay increases and bonuses. DeSantis wants $900 million to raise base annual salaries to $47,500 for about 100,000 teachers statewide, beginning July 1.
The Senate plan, spearheaded by subcommittee chair Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, would create a $500 million “teacher salary increase allocation” for teacher compensation and allow districts to also use $325 million from other programs for salary increases.
The “teacher salary increase allocation” would require “districts to use 80 percent of their total allocation to increase the minimum classroom teacher salary toward the governor’s stated goal of $47,500, with the intent that this goal would be met statewide over the next several years," Stargel said.
Under the proposal, districts must meet the 80 percent benchmark and use the money to install salary increases of at least 5 percent for all teachers before being authorized to tap into the remaining 20 percent to finance pay raises for more experienced educators, who do not benefit from DeSantis’ proposal, especially if they work in districts where salaries exceed $47,500, such as Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.
Under Stargel’s plan, districts would have several years to meet DeSantis’ base salary goals, which is similar to a three-year plan proposed by House Democrats in House Bill 1223 that would raise all school employees’ salaries, not only teachers.
With the Senate joining DeSantis in presenting the framework for crafting FY21’s state education budget, the House is expected to propose its own version soon. Among likely components in the House plan is a House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee bill that recommends $462.6 million for teacher pay raises.
Other parts of the Senate’s plan to be debated through the session’s remaining four weeks:
- A $40 million funding cut for the Schools of Hope fund for charter schools that serve “underperforming populations.”
- A $40 million increase for Gardiner Scholarships for special needs students and $42 million for grants to harden schools to increase safety.
- A $1.7 million increase for the growing number of students participating in Voluntary Pre-K programs and $2.8 million in additional funds for Community School Grants.
- A $25 million increase for preK-12 mental health services.
- Elimination of the $284.5 million Best and Brightest teacher bonus program, also proposed by DeSantis and House leaders.
- $30 million for Florida College System’s tier-based funding and $30 million in performance-based incentive funding.
- $80 million for state universities and private colleges for Effective Access to Student Education (EASE) and Access to Better Learning and Education (ABLE) grants for first-time undergraduate students.