Even With DeSantis Boost, Florida Teachers Among Worst Paid in U.S.

Educators in the state of Florida are some of the worst paid in the country, according to a new report.

The National Education Association (NEA) released a report, which looks at all 50 states and Washington, D.C., that shows veteran teachers in Florida are some of the lowest paid in the country. This comes as the state legislature approved $800 million to help raise salaries for teachers as part of the most recent fiscal year budget.

Figures from the NEA show the average salary starting salary for a teacher in the Sunshine State is a little more than $44,000, which is ranked as the 16th highest in the United States.

That ranking is a significant boost for the state, which was listed in the NEA's 2021 report as the 30th lowest with a starting pay of $38,724.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis praised the pay raise in a March 2022 statement, saying that the state legislature has worked for three years to increase teacher pay. "With rising inflation, this could not come at a better time. This will help Florida to recruit and retain great teachers," DeSantis said in the release.

However, Andrew Spar, the president of the Florida Education Association (FEA), told Newsweek in a statement that the state has a "severe" shortage of teachers "due in large part to low pay." The educators union president also said the pay raises approved by the legislature are meant to happen "over a period of years" and that the state government is entirely to blame.

Teacher and students
Photo of students and a teachers in a classroom in New York City on September 27, 2021. A report from the National Education Association has ranked Florida as the 48th best state for average teacher pay. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

"The upshot is that while salaries improve for new teachers, experienced educators are left behind. Improving pay for all career levels would help keep experienced professional teachers in front of our students and attract new people to the field," Spar said.

Florida is close to last in terms of pay for average pay for veteran teachers, according to the NEA report. Ranked at 48 out of 51 positions, veteran educators in the state are paid an average of $51,009 — $1,384 above the minimum living wage needed for one adult and one child as determined by the Economic Policy Institute. The only states with a worse average salary for teachers are West Virginia, South Dakota and Mississippi.

Spending per student in the state, the report also shows, is near the bottom when compared to other U.S. states. Approximately $10,700 is doled out per pupil, placing Florida at 44th in the United States.

"We all want our students to get a high-quality education, and we know it takes qualified teachers and staff to make that happen," Spar said.

When reached by Newsweek, DeSantis' office highlighted that the pay raise for teachers is "a $250 million increase over last year's funding" and "brings Florida's investments in teacher pay to greater than $2 billion since the 2020 Legislative Session."

Higher education faculty in Florida make out fairly well when compared to others in the country, according to the NEA's report. College and university professors earn just short of $98,500 a year.