TAMPA, Fla. — Last school year was known as the year of the “great resignation” for teachers across the state of Florida.
In Hillsborough County, the turnover rate for the year was 8.6%. Yes, teachers say the pandemic was a major factor, but not the only factor. They say pay had a lot to do with it.
“Pay is absolutely the driving factor,” said Andrew Spar.
Spar is the president of the Florida Education Association.
“People will say all the time teachers don’t go into it for money, and while that may be true, they also don’t go into it to live in poverty,” he said.
The fact is, Florida is one of the states with the lowest average salary overall for teacher pay. The state ranks 48 for teacher pay.
The state devoted $2 million to raise teacher pay, and last month Gov. Ron Desantis announced $800 million from the budget would go towards teacher raises. That is supposed to bring the starting salary for new teachers to $47,500.
“That actually does put us in a much better position for starting teacher pay,” Spar said. “Starting teacher pay in Florida has gone up significantly, but it’s done so at the expense of everyone else.”
Spar is talking about some of the laws that have been put in place over the years, which he and teachers say make it difficult for experienced teachers to get raises.
“We have cases throughout the state where teachers with 20, 25 years of experience are making less today than they would have with the exact same experience 10 years ago,” said Spar. “Teachers are leaving because of this.”
According to the Florida Department of Education, about 9,000 teachers will leave the profession at the end of the year. Spar believes most of those teachers will be veterans leaving because of the low pay. He said when you add in the paraprofessionals, secretaries, and bus drivers leaving, “it’s not going to be good.”
We talked to a Hillsborough County teacher, Jared Smith, who has six years of experience. He said he started making less than $39,000. Now he’s up to more than $48,000, but it’s barely enough to live off of in Tampa.
“I’m spending probably 60% of my income just on base expenses,” he said. “If my rent had gone up because I was renting at a regular apartment building, or regular house, I would probably already have been priced out of Tampa.”
We reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but have not heard back yet.
We will continue to follow this story, and provide updates as we get them.