TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday proposed a $2,500 across-the-board pay raise for all full-time Florida teachers next year, a proposal that he says would cost nearly half a billion dollars.
The pay raises would consume at least part, or potentially all of a tentative projected budget surplus of $437 million.
"I can think of no better investment for our state," Scott said in prepared remarks released by his office.
Scott said his plan, which includes "related benefits," would cost $480 million statewide. He outlined the details for the first time at Ocoee Middle School near Orlando and emphasized that he also will propose an overall increase in education funding when he releases his detailed budget recommendations next week.
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"I've traveled the state and I've talked to teachers," Scott told reporters before he flew to Orlando. "They're working tirelessly to make sure our students have achievement. I'm very appreciative of what our teachers do."
Scott said he remains supportive of a merit pay plan tied to student progress on standardized test scores. Merit pay became law two years ago but the state has provided no money for it and teachers are challenging it in court.
The governor's call for an across-the-board pay increase for teachers will be a recommendation to the state Legislature, which writes the annual state budget.
There, he might find resistance.
House leaders, led by Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, prefer the raises to be distributed in a method that recognizes performance.
"We applaud the governor's efforts to increase money in education funding," Weatherford said. "That being said, the method of the increase is just as important. We are supportive of merit pay."
Legislators passed a merit pay bill in 2011 that was the first piece of legislation Scott signed as governor.
The bill, SB 736, eliminated teacher tenure while creating a system that evaluated teachers based on student test scores. It tied pay to performance for new teachers.
The Florida Education Association has sued, claiming the bill eliminates the right for teachers to collectively bargain.
Although Scott seems to have backed away from that law with his insistence that all teachers get an across-the-board increase, Weatherford is holding firm, saying the compensation system in SB 736 is a good one and should be followed.
"Where the debate in the how will be how do we do it, how do we increase teacher pay," Weatherford said. "Part of it should be performance."