A press aide for Gov. Rick Scott tells the News Service of Florida that the governor finds it “disappointing that not every teacher has gotten their pay raise. We expect districts to do everything they can to get pay raises done as soon as possible.”
The governor sent a letter to all school superintendents urging them to shake a leg, and he asked Education Commissioner Pam Stewart to see what she could do to hurry things along. This kind of blame-shifting is bound to happen when a governor makes promises that he knows — or should know — that he can’t deliver in a nice package tied up with a bow.
At the beginning of this year, Gov. Scott promised teachers an across-the-board $2,500 raise. He made it one of his two priorities. After cutting education by more than even the Legislature wanted, he was trying to make nice, because he wants to get reelected. The Legislature obliged this year by setting aside $480 million. But legislators also threw the first wrench into the gears by expanding the pool of raise recipients — they added principals, assistant principals and others — without adding the money to cover the bigger pool.
Then there’s the simple fact that the state doesn’t pay teachers directly. The state gives school districts money, and districts negotiate salaries with teachers. Less than a quarter of the 67 districts have settled on pay scales.
Palm Beach County teachers and the district remain far apart. Teachers basically are seeking a return to “step raises” the district abandoned years ago. District budget officials have said the $30 million allocated from Gov. Scott’s raise pool would provide raises that average in the $2,000 range. The union plan, the district says, would cost a prohibitive $54 million. At Wednesday night’s school board meeting, teachers protested what they said was the district contributing just $48 from its budget toward the raises.
Negotiations between districts and teachers can be testy at the best of times. But relations in recent years have been particularly soured by — guess who?
Gov. Scott, of course. He came into office in 2011 pushing policies that assumed teachers were incompetent layabouts collecting fat salaries and pensions they did not deserve. At his urging, the Legislature approved evaluation schemes that have no reliable track record. His first year, when he announced his budget and signed the final product at a tea party stronghold, he cut education spending by more than $1 billion.
In addition, the governor effectively cut each teacher’s salary by 3 percent by mandating new pension contributions that the Legislature had dropped in 1974, during a severe recession. His choice of two dud education commissioners and muddled support for the Common Core State Standards only has created more uncertainty.
Now the governor wants districts to hurry up? One thing’s for sure: After all Gov. Scott has put them through, teachers deserve a raise.
Jac Wilder VerSteeg
for The Post Editorial Board