Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Monday that he's raising the average minimum salary of the state's teachers to at least $47,500.
Speaking at Renaissance Charter School in Wellington, Florida, the Republican governor said he's earmarking $800 million from the state's new budget to fund the pay increases, which includes higher pay for experienced teachers.
WPTV reports DeSantis said it's crucial to reward educators for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's just something that I think is really, really important," DeSantis reportedly said. "We do appreciate the folks who are working with these kids, particularly during difficult circumstances."
Florida has spent $2 billion on increased teacher compensation over the past three years, DeSantis said, including $1,000 bonuses last year for public and charter school teachers and principals.
"People have really had to step up across the board in the school system, but particularly our classroom teachers," DeSantis said, per WPTV. "We just want to say that we appreciate it, and we hope that this will make a meaningful difference."
Renaissance third-grade teacher Loren Temes told WPTV, "It's nice that teachers are being appreciated."
"I don't think people understand how much we actually work," Temes said.
The Tampa Bay Times reports state legislators released a record $112.1 billion budget on Thursday for the upcoming fiscal year.
Lawmakers' proposal for school spending is one of the largest ever, the Times reports, with $24.3 billion being allocated for K-12 education, including $250 million to boost teachers' pay.
"We've had teachers who haven't had [raises] in many years because of the downturn that we had, so we put the money in hoping we can retain quality teachers," state Senate Appropriations Chair Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, told the Times. "I think that is going to help our state as a whole."
A February poll commissioned by the state's largest teacher's union, the Florida Education Association found that 92% of respondents believe teachers are not paid enough, and 88% believe pay needs to be raised for experienced educators.
The poll was conducted by Clearview Research and surveyed 750 registered voters from Feb.7-13, with a margin of error of +/- 5.64 points.
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