Florida teachers deserve a raise
It doesn't matter what Gov. Rick Scott's motives are for proposing a raise for the state's teachers. The move is justified and deserves the Legislature's support. The average pay for Florida teachers is $46,000. That's $10,000 below the national average and 46th in the nation. Florida is shortchanging itself as well as its teachers. A reputation for neglecting schools won't attract high-paying jobs or strengthen the economy.Tallahassee's recent obsession with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education ignores the key role of gifted public school teachers in helping students discover their academic passions — be it in STEM or the liberal arts. The teacher unions dismiss Scott's plan as a ploy to boost his poll numbers. It's true that he cut education by $1.3 billion his first year in office. He and lawmakers showed little regard for teachers' concerns while eliminating tenure, adopting merit-pay measures and requiring public employees to contribute 3 percent to their pension. We thought those reforms were largely justified, but they were enacted with a virtual disdain for teachers, particularly in the Legislature, where you could hear first-term lawmakers talk as if they knew more about classroom challenges than lifelong educators. But what's important now is the governor, for the first time not facing a deficit, is including $480 million in his proposed budget to fund a $2,500 annual raise for teachers. The actual raises would be determined by local school boards, even if the Legislature approves Scott's funding request. But at least this would allow the option of a decent raise. Regardless of his motives or record, the governor deserves credit for trying to do the right thing for teachers, students and the economy.