Displaying another sign of his re-election bid, Florida Gov. Rick Scott told the media on January 23 that he wants to include a $2,500 raise for public school teachers in his budget request to the state Legislature.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the proposed raises which would total $480 million would be included in an increase in overall education funding. The governor, who championed massive cuts to education in 2011, spoke to the media at a news conference at Ocoee Middle School in suburban Orlando. He told the Orlando Sentinel about his proposal:
I'm very confident it's the right thing to do. Florida teachers are at the heart of our success. (The teachers) serve on the front line of Florida's future.
Teachers at Ocoee Middle School greeted the raises with a warm welcome. Maurio Medley, who is a eighth grade math teacher at the school, told the Sentinel:
Obviously, we're excited. In the world of education, sometimes you feel undervalued.
The Florida Education Association, who has been at odds with the governor, supported the governor's plan for teacher pay raises, calling the move in a press release:
A step in the right direction that would begin to repair the damage done by steep budget cuts.
According to the Sentinel, the average salary for a teacher in the Sunshine State is $45,723, which is well below the national average of $56,069. This puts Florida in 37th place among teacher pay in the country. Aubery Jewitt, who is a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, is praising the governor's change of heart in education. He told the Sentinel:
I would say, hopefully, the governor has actually had a little change of heart and is trying to do more to support public education, traditional public education.
But Jewitt also states that the proposal may also be politically motivated, giving his poor approval ratings. He added:
The governor is unpopular among the public and public school teachers, and recommending a pay raise for teachers could begin to get that popularity back.
But K.T. Caldwell, the president of the Seminole Education Association in Seminole County, thinks that Scott has saw the error of his ways in dealing with public education. She told the Sentinel:
He has learned the importance of education in Florida. He's learned the importance of educators in Florida. He is saying they're worth more and wants to pay them what they're worth.
The pay raises must be approved by the state Legislature and then by local school districts after bargaining with their respective local unions.