Florida Legislators Reject Scott’s Teacher Pay Raise Proposal

Florida Governor Rick Scott’s attempt to get legislators on board with his plan to give teachers in the state $2,500 in pay raises didn’t bear fruit, Yahoo News reports. Despite Scott’s insistence that lawmakers “will do the right thing” when it came to the raises, leaders of the state Legislature were equally insistent that they weren’t planning to endorse Scott’s proposals.

Although over the weekend, the House and Senate representatives negotiating over the budget agreed to set aside nearly $480 million specifically for teacher pay raises, that money will be at least in part tied to the outcomes of the teacher assessment system rather than as an across-the-board hike. This also means that the raises are unlikely to be the whole $2,500 Scott has asked for.

Scott had made the across-the-board teacher pay raise one of his top priorities for the 2013 session. But legislators had signaled their reluctance with the proposal from the start. They maintained that it went against the idea of rewarding teachers based on student performance — a key element of the merit pay law passed in 2011 and is scheduled to take effect in 2014. Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton and chairman of the Senate panel that oversees school spending, brushed aside concerns that school districts may not be able to quickly implement a system to parcel out the $480 million by this fall.

According to Galvano, the decision made by lawmakers was consistent with the legislators’ long-expressed intent to move teacher pay to a more merit-based system. He added that the change should not come as a surprise to either the districts or Scott.

Scott, however, isn’t backing down – at least not according to his spokesperson Melissa Sellers. To the press, Sellers said that the governor hoped that this particular budget decision is reconsidered, warning that not doing so could result in a battle between Scott and the Legislature over the budget.

Sellers reiterated that the teacher pay is one of Scott’s top priorities and added that the governor wasn’t prepared to let it go.

Legislators have until May 3 to wrap up work on a new $74 billion state budget that would cover state spending from July 1 until June 30, 2014. This is the first time in several years legislators have had a budget surplus to work with. And over the weekend they made progress on dozens of spending items — including sprinkling aside money all through the budget for projects ranging from $50 million for a new statewide multi-use trail to money to renovate historic lighthouse and courthouses. But several sticking items remain, including whether to raise tuition rates for Florida’s college and university students.