Florida educators want better pay for new and veteran teachers

Posted at 9:07 PM, Jan 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-25 21:07:59-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Marianne Novelli has worked in education for 28 years, first as a teacher and then as a school librarian, but now with online learning, she is also the tech specialist. She said with the added stress of the pandemic, understaffing, online learning and now the cost of rent skyrocketing, educators are hitting a breaking point.

"My salary doesn’t go up, everything else has gone up. When I talk to some teacher friends they’re talking about getting jobs at Amazon or going into real estate because it's just not a livable wage," said Novelli.

The population of Florida is growing at a rate faster than any state, while the cost of living is surging.

The state ranks third in the nation for most students enrolled in public schools. But it's one of the lowest-paying states for teachers.

According to the National Education Association, during the 2019-2020 school year the national average pay for a public school teacher was $64,133. However, Florida ranked as the third-lowest pay for teachers ($49,102) before South Dakota ($48, 984) and Mississippi($46,843).

Florida has been underfunding education for the longest time," said Nancy Velardi, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

Last year, state legislators passed a law that will pay new teachers more, allowing them to eventually get paid more than experienced veteran teachers.

"Our veteran teachers would be receiving 25% less than newer teachers in salary increases," said Velardi. "I believe their intent is to have experienced teachers leave the system."

Velardi said new teachers should get paid well, but it's also critical to invest in the experienced teachers who deserve raises.

"Most of our new teachers don’t even last seven years. They leave in years one through five. We’re losing the experienced (teachers) because not only are they hurting financially, but it's a lack of respect and no acknowledgment to their dedication and loyalty," said Velardi.

The PCTA is now supporting SB 298 and HB 587 currently in the legislature that returns local control of decisions about fair salary schedules to teachers' unions.