PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Public school teachers in Palm Beach County will soon be taking home more money on their paychecks.
School board members on Wednesday approved up to a 3.5% raise for teachers, based on their efficiency rating, as well as a $1,500 bonus, calling it the best offer in the state.
But is it enough?
SPECIAL COVERAGE: Education
“I think they’re all working to do what’s best for teachers,” said Dr Eric Jourgensen, a teacher at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington.
Jourgensen said he appreciates the 3.5% pay hike in place for teachers in Palm Beach County.
“How many other professions can say they shape and shape the future of the world? And you kind of have to focus on that,” Jourgensen said.
But for Lena Settembre, a teacher at Palm Beach Central High School, the increase is not enough.
“I’ve never worked so hard in my life. I’m telling you, it was just a horrible amount of work,” Settembre said. “For me, when I first heard it, I thought, a slap in the face. Again, for all of our hard work and effort.”
September would have liked to see 6% because of the cost of living.
“Some teachers struggle to pay their rent. They move in with their parents because of the cost of living,” Settembre said.
“Some teachers will still say it’s not enough. What do you say to those teachers?” WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind asked Superintendent Mike Burke of the Palm Beach County School District.
“I understand inflation, 7 1/2%. Rents are skyrocketing. Housing is skyrocketing. But our funding is determined by the state and I’m incredibly proud of the deal we were able to offer them,” Burke replied.
Burke said with lower enrollment numbers — which is boosting school funding — the district has stretched as much as it can.
“Florida is a tough place to be a teacher,” Burke said. “We’re 45th in the nation in terms of funding. There’s a lot of accountability. And now there’s legislation that potentially puts teachers at risk of being sued on a personal level. But I will say our school board in Palm Beach County, with our referendum that provides additional compensation, we are doing everything we can. We support our teachers. We want to pay them as much as possible, but we have limits.
So where does Palm Beach County stand?
The average teacher salary is the highest in the region — also the largest district — and above the state average.
“They have nothing to give. So the fact that they gave what they gave is positive,” Jourgensen said.
If the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers’ Association approves the deal, teachers will see the money in June with the $1,500 bonus and the increase retroactive to July 1, 2021.
Nationally, teacher salaries in Florida are near the bottom.
According to the National Education Association, Sunshine State ranks 49th with an average salary of just over $49,000.
However, data from the Florida Department of Education shows that the average salary for teachers in the 2020/21 academic year was $51,166, which ranks 45th in the nation.