By: Jimmy Mendez
K-12 teachers in the United States are tackling a long-term battle with low salary growth rates. According to the data from the Employment Policy Institute, teachers are paid lower relative to similarly situated professional workers. While the average worker’s salary in Florida has steadily increased over the last decade, the average pay for K-12 teachers in Florida increased at a significantly slower rate. Stagnated wages decrease the number of qualified teachers and may negatively impact the future of the state labor force. However, recent laws suggest strides toward better teacher compensation.
In 2018, Florida dropped one spot to 45th on the National Education Association’s annual list of average teacher salaries. While teacher pay in Florida is increasing in absolute terms, the pay has not kept up with inflation. Approximately 40 percent of newly hired teachers leave their current classrooms within five years of beginning their teaching careers in Florida. This is due to factors such as stressful working environments. The increase in stress may be attributable to higher performance standards with little to no incentives. As schools strive for smaller classroom sizes and individualized learning, teachers have to meet ever-increasing demands. This transition produces a shortage of qualified teachers in schools, placing the institutions at a sizable disadvantage in education. On average, school teachers in Florida’s public school classrooms earn $39,942: about half the amount earned by district administrators such as superintendents, school principals, and program coordinators.
At the current rate, the low teacher wage could cause more vacancies. The number of students in Florida without a full-time, certified teacher is 300,000. This could have significant economic implications for the future, such as a less educated workforce, and slower college enrollment rate growth. However, the Florida legislature passed a bill in 2019 to ensure that all instructional personnel are paid a minimum of 50,000 a year: a wage that will be adjusted for inflation each year. In 2020, the state allocated $500 million of the state budget to fund this increase in teacher pay. K-12 employee benefits increased as well; health, insurance, and pension benefits are common in benefit packages for teachers.
While teacher pay has increased at a lower rate than the average Floridian’s, worker unions have pushed for higher pay. The state has recently provided a first step towards closing the wage gap with other professional occupations. These small steps toward better pay are the key to keeping high quality K-12 instructors in the Florida school systems. In the coming years, Florida can climb from the 45th spot in average teacher salaries by keeping K-12 salaries competitive relative to other states.
Average salaries by job, title, school, and school district can be found on a public education tableau profile available here.