Outtakes: The Year of the Teacher
Malcolm Thomas’ replacement may have a fully-loaded treasure chest to rebuild the Escambia County School District into one that is competitive with the other districts in Florida, thanks to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The Republican Governor has laid out the largest budget in state history—$91.4 billion—for state lawmakers to consider during the 2020 legislative session, which begins Jan. 14. The proposal includes a $1 billion shot in the arm for public schools and teachers.
The foundation of his 2020 education budget recommendation is increasing the minimum salary for teachers to $47,500. According to the National Education Association, Florida ranks 26th in the nation for starting teacher pay at $37,636. DeSantis’ proposal will bump Florida’s ranking for starting teacher pay to second in the country.
“We are experiencing a teacher shortage in Florida,” said Governor DeSantis. “My proposal to increase the minimum salary for teachers to $47,500 will help alleviate this shortage and elevate the teaching profession to the level of appreciation it deserves. This is long overdue, and I look forward to working with the legislature to make this a reality.”
The pay boost is excellent news for Escambia County, which has had trouble hiring qualified teachers in math and sciences during the last term of Thomas’ tenure as school superintendent. While the state has lower grading standards so that very few schools “earn” below a C grade, true improvement in our schools can’t happen without qualified, motivated teachers and principals.
The Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran agrees. He has repeatedly said, “Getting a great teacher in front of every child is the number one proven way to get great outcomes for students.”
Education has been a top priority of Governor DeSantis’ administration. During the 2019 Legislative Session, the Governor worked with the Florida Legislature to secure $10 million in funding dedicated to career and technical education for the newly created Florida Pathways to Career Opportunities Grand Program. He also got lawmakers to appropriate another $10 million to fund teacher professional development in computer science and reward those teachers for earning credentials to teach high-quality computer science courses.
Unfortunately, Superintendent Thomas rejected a $2.3 million Triumph Gulf Coast grant for vocational training that would have dove-tailed well into the state’s emphasis on career and technical education. He didn’t like that the district would have actually been measured on its performance.
An appointment superintendent won’t be fussy about metrics since the contract will call for annual job evaluations. Since vocational training and career certifications will most likely be part of his evaluation, Thomas’ replacement should revisit the issue with Triumph Gulf Coast.
With the Governor’s “Year of the Teacher” budget, the appointed superintendent should be poised to lift the district out its mediocrity.