LIVE OAK — Looking to attract more — and potentially better — teachers, Gov. Ron DeSantis has proposed a budget that includes a boost to the starting pay rate for teachers throughout the state.
Chuck Brannan, the Republican state representative for District 10 that includes Suwannee and Hamilton counties, supports that desire.
“I’m for it,” Brannan said. “I am for raising the starting teacher pay, I just don’t know where that figure will be.”
In addition to DeSantis’ proposed budget, when the state legislative session begins Tuesday in Tallahassee, Brannan and the other state representatives will consider several bills that include increases to teacher pay.
The legislature will also probably look into the Best and Brightest incentive program that has been used to pay bonuses to teachers. The program has been tweaked but still has its detractors, including those who would prefer pay raises across the board rather than bonuses.
Brannan is among the detractors of the incentive program.
“I was also supportive of doing away with Best and Brightest. Like Sen. (Rob) Bradley said, he was there when they started it, but he thinks it’s just a failed policy,” Brannan said, referencing a comment Bradley made in the Suwannee County legislative delegation hearing held in September.
“I do too. I don’t think it’s the right way to go.”
But while Brannan does think boosting the starting teacher salary is the right way to go, he admits there will be issues that need to be addressed with it too.
In addition to what level that raise reaches — DeSantis requested $47,500 — Brannan said there also needs to be consideration given to more experienced teachers that will suddenly be making not much more than their new counterparts.
“Now what you get with that and we did it last year with assistant state attorneys’ starting pay,” he said. “I think they raised that to $50,000. What happens is you have a person that’s been there 10 years making $55,000.
“There’s that compression factor and the same thing will happen with teachers. If you get that starting pay up there, I think that will help like 40-60 percent of teachers will get a raise just by bumping the starting pay. But then you’ll have the older teachers not making much more than that.
“It’s not all black and white.”
Teachers aren’t the only workers that Brannan wants to provide additional funding for, though. He has co-sponsored a bill that would provide a cost-of-living adjustment for “special risk” workers in the Florida Retirement System, such as correctional officers, police officers and firefighters.
Brannan said prior to a tweak in 2011, those workers received a 3% COLA annually in their pensions. Now that COLA continues to decrease and will eventually be non-existent.
“We’re trying to rectify that,” he said.
Other bills Brannan sponsored include insurance coverage for hearing aids for children, an ethics reform bill for legislators as well as agency bills for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He also sponsored a bill that will name portions of highways after fallen Department of Ag officers, including the stretch of Interstate 10 between the Madison County line and mile marker 275 in Suwannee County as the “Wesley L. Silas Memorial Highway.”
Brannan has also filed appropriations bill that includes requests for $800,000 for Suwannee County to construct a new fire station north of I-10, $325,000 for the Department of Health - Hamilton County for security and ADA compliant improvements and $150,000 for the Town of White Springs to upgrade the public water system, including additional fire hydrants along the water service main.
“We’re not going to get all those appropriations, but we’re going to try to get as many of them as we can,” he said.