Orlando lawmaker introduces bill to increase teacher pay

- Florida State Senator Darren Soto on Wednesday filed a bill to increase teacher's pay.  Sen. Soto, D-Orlando, said teachers deserve to be paid more.  He knows firsthand, because his wife is one.  "I'm proud today to file the Florida Fair teacher pay act, which would raise salaries at a minimum to $50,000 a year statewide," Soto said. "I believe our teachers are overworked and underpaid particularly compared to other states," he added, noting that Orange County teachers start at $39,000 a year.  

Boone High School teacher Kevin Strang said it's difficult for new teachers. "The challenge is you come out of college, riddled in student debt, and be able to make a $500 or $600 student payment every month and start that salary, is very tough for new teachers."  He said Senator Soto's bill is encouraging. "I'm so glad, something positive finally coming from Tallahassee."

According to Sen. Soto, there's extra money available, because the economy is improving. "We're dealing with a $625 million dollar surplus."  Even if he can't get the starting salary of $50,000, he hopes to see some kind of increase.  He said it's not fair to pump more money into high stakes testing. "It's really an insult to have these bonus programs now, when they're really not sufficiently paid to begin with. We have a lot of veteran teachers leaving. People only working 6 to 8 years, when those veteran teachers are so critical to education and our kids."

Strang said good teachers are the key to the success of a student's future. That's why he hopes the bill becomes law. "We also have to do things to help keep them in the profession because more than half will quit before they ever hit their third year."

If the bill becomes law, it will go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.

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