Teachers might not have to wait another year for a raise after all.
Leaders in the Florida Legislature are working on a fix to the education budget that provides $480 million in raises for teachers and other school personnel.
But according to the budget, that money won’t be in paychecks until June 2014.
Lawmakers say a technical fix should get teachers their raises before next year.
“We need to give the school districts a little more flexibility to spend that money sooner, and we can do that in a conforming bill,” House Speaker Will Weatherford said.
Before the Legislature adjourns, lawmakers will craft a set of agreements known as conforming bills that ensure there are no conflicts between the proposed state budget and state law.
No specific reason was given for delaying the raises, except that districts will dole out the money based on measurements they must develop for evaluating teachers.
Teachers rated “effective” would receive $2500, while “highly effective” teachers would get $3500. Teachers and other school personnel would receive at least a $2,000 raise.
Teachers can only be evaluated on the performance of students they teach, which hasn’t been the case so far.
The state and some local districts are being sued by teachers who say their evaluations under the state’s new merit pay system include test scores from students they’ve never taught.
Senate President Don Gaetz said in writing the bill, lawmakers adapted Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed pay increase. Lawmakers didn’t realize Scott’s proposal wouldn’t begin paying the raises until 2014.
“I think as soon as a school district comes up with a plan, collectively bargains the plan if it needs to be collectively bargained, and submits it to the commissioner of education,” Gaetz said, “my hope is we ought to go forward and give Florida teachers the pay increase that they deserve.”
Whether the delay came from Gov. Rick Scott’s office is in question.
Emails obtained by the Associated Press show one of Scott’s aides saying the language actually came from advisers to Gaetz and Weatherford.
Whoever gets the blame, Weatherford said the conforming bill will clarify the timing of the raises, but how soon teachers get the money will depend on how quickly districts develop a plan for dispensing it.
He also stressed that the money will be used for merit pay.
“The Senate president and I are aligned on that. The governor has signed off on that as part of the agreement,” Weatherford said.