Florida tops education rankings but lags in teacher pay

According to U.S. News & World Report, Florida was ranked number one in education for the second year in a row this year. However, according to the National Education Association, teacher pay is shy of dead last.

Robinson High School student Reina Atkins says that’s why her math teacher unexpectedly left midway through the school year. 

"He came in on a Friday, and he said that he could not afford to teach at our school anymore," Atkins recalled.

During a news conference on Monday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that the Sunshine State will soon have the highest starting pay in the Southeast. Gov. DeSantis says next year’s budget for teacher pay will hit $1.25 billion – a $200 million increase from the year before. Over the past five years, DeSantis says Florida has had the most significant increase in teacher pay the state has ever seen. 

"Florida’s education system is number one in the nation, and we want to make sure good educators are attracted to Florida with attractive compensation," said Gov. DeSantis. 

According to the Florida Department of Education, Florida’s average starting teacher pay is over $48,000, and the average teacher salary exceeds $54,000. That brings Florida up from the bottom of the list, but it still doesn’t put us near the top.

"It's really our responsibility to put the best highly qualified teachers in the classroom," said Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz. "Our biggest investment by far is the children that we serve in various communities across this great state."


DeSantis, Diaz, and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez all talked quite a bit on Monday about unions, saying unions are playing politics and working against the interests of teachers and students. The head of the Florida Education Association (FEA), Andrew Spar, says DeSantis has refused to meet with his union. 

"Ask any educator – they have solutions. It starts by being honest instead of trying to push a false narrative. It starts by working with us instead of trying to blame us, and it starts by being student-focused instead of constantly bashing those who care so much about kids."

DeSantis’ team and the union agreed that teacher pay isn’t the only issue driving educators out of classrooms. The FEA says Florida has some of the worst teacher vacancy statistics nationwide. 

"We've done a lot to be able to help teachers, even apart from salary," said Gov. DeSantis. "We've extended the length of temporary teaching certificates from three to five years. We've also eliminated unnecessary bureaucratic requirements for certification."

DeSantis says the bonus is, the way this was written, the money set aside for teacher pay cannot be used for anything else – that’s all money going back into educators’ pockets. He came under fire last year when money meant for school choice vouchers was spent instead on things like Disney tickets and televisions.