Though his administration has often clashed with teachers unions, Florida Gov. Rick Scott extended an olive branch of sorts Wednesday: a $2,500 raise for all full-time public school teachers in the state.
The governor's proposed budget would set aside a total of $480 million for teacher salaries to account for the raise, according to remarks Scott delivered at Ocoee Middle School in Orange County.
"I can think of no better investment for our state than investing in those teachers who work on the frontline of Florida’s future every day by teaching our children," Scott said.
According to the Florida Department of Education, the average teacher salary now is $45,273, so Scott's raise would push the average to $47,773. That would still place Florida well below the national average of $56,069, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Scott's relationship with teachers, and their unions, hasn't always been so rosy. As the Florida Times-Union and Miami Herald have reported, the governor's office has fought with unions over pension contributions and teacher evaluations in the last few years.
Reflecting that history, union leaders weren't jubilant at the news of Scott's proposal. Florida Education Association president Andy Ford said in a statement that the state's teachers had faced a 3 percent pay cut earlier in Scott's tenure, so the raise would simply offset those loses. He also noted that teacher salaries are negotiated at the local level, so Scott's proposal won't mandate that school districts offer raises.
"It could be complicated," Ford said. "He can provide the money and he can strongly urge them. But he can't just rule that it will be done."