Bill aims to improve teacher salaries

Yennifer Castillo, FAMU alumna and Leon County School teacher. Photo courtesy: Castillo

Florida state Sen. Lauren Book, D-Miami, is making another effort to increase the pay for public school teachers in the Sunshine State.

She has Senate Bill 298, also known as “teacher salaries.”  It would require each school district that has not yet reached a specified minimum base salary to use its share of the teacher salary increase allocation in a specified manner.

SB 298 was initially filed on Sept. 22.

The bill also allows funds for personal instruction rather than solely for classroom teachers in teacher salary allocation funds.  The bill would require school boards to implement a salary schedule for specific personnel and continue to use a schedule for instructional purposes.

Typically, teachers use their personal funds to create a creative learning environment for students.

Yennifer Castillo, a FAMU alumna and a Leon County Schools teacher, said constantly paying out of pocket for classroom necessities is wrong.

“I have come out of pocket for almost everything in my classroom aside from the textbooks and workbooks that come with the school,” Castillo said.

Castillo is known to go viral on social media for her creative classrooms and activities with her students.

“Any other resources to make learning more engaging such as household products for experiments, classroom decorations, tangible items such as microscopes, beakers, petri dishes and even dissection kits, I have to outsource using wish lists, donations or out of pocket,” Castillo added.

Castillo also said that teachers at her school are receiving a salary increase this fall.

According to the National Education Association, during the 2019-2020 school year the national average pay for a public-school teacher was $64,133. However, Florida ranked as the third-lowest pay for teachers at $49,102.

“Florida has been underfunding education for the longest time,” Nancy Velardi, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, told Tampa news station WFTS.

According to the state Legislature, “School districts shall use at least 50 percent of their share of the allocation to raise the minimum base salary. The term ‘minimum base salary’ means the lowest annual base salary reported on the salary schedule for a full-time classroom teacher. No full-time classroom teacher shall receive a salary less than the minimum base salary as adjusted by this subparagraph.”

SB 298 was introduced Jan. 11 and has been Referred to Education; Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; Appropriations.