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Fla. Legislature may speed up teacher pay raise

Gary Fineout, Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's teachers may get a pay raise sooner than expected.

Top legislative leaders say they did not intend to delay a proposed teacher pay raise until June 2014.

House and Senate budget negotiators agreed Sunday night to spend $480 million on teacher pay raises. However, they included a provision in the new $74.5 billion budget that would have delayed the pay raise until next year.

But House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz said they will pass a separate bill this week that undoes that provision and instead will allow school districts to pass out the money earlier.

"I think the date is a challenge and something we do believe needs to be rectified," Weatherford said.

Added Gaetz: "As far as I'm concerned, teachers who earn their increases in pay ought to be able to get them as soon as school districts develop a plan to do so."

Gov. Rick Scott pushed for a $2,500 across the board pay raise for all teachers as part of his budget recommendations. The final budget — which won't get voted on until Thursday at the earliest — ties the raises to teacher performance.

Teachers ranked as effective will be eligible for a $2,500 pay raise, while those ranked as highly effective would be eligible for $3,500. The raises will also be available to principals, assistant principals, librarians and guidance counselors.

The delay in the raise had drawn criticism since it was unveiled since late Sunday.

House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, called the deal a "slap in the face" to teachers and an "insult."

Gaetz contended that the June 2014 provision came from Scott's office.

"We simply followed the governor's proposal as to the timing of the pay increase based upon I think some information that the governor's office gave us," Gaetz said. "I'm sure that the governor didn't mean to unnecessarily delay the pay increase."

But Scott did not recommend a delay in his initial budget recommendations.

Documents show that Scott's office did suggest some of the performance criteria, but emails obtained the Associated Press show that one top aide to Scott stated that the language came from top advisers to Gaetz and Weatherford.

"In order for us to make sure we fully understand the intent of the language you provided to us I have tried to capture the principles from the language and our conversations from today and yesterday," wrote Chris Finkbeiner last Saturday.


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