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Fla. legislature reaches education budget agreement

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Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, announced Sunday night that an agreement has been reached for education funding in the legislature’s 2013 budget.

Both legislators released statements on the accomplishment.

House Speaker Will Weatherford:

Governor Scott has worked extremely hard to advance two priorities this Legislative Session. I am pleased that we were able to come to agreement on one of those this evening by funding over $1 billion for education and setting aside $480 million for teacher salaries as he requested. This agreement embodies both the strong commitment to fully funding a merit pay plan, while providing local school districts enough money and flexibility to fund local education priorities.  I want to thank Senate President Don Gaetz for his invaluable input and expertise in education.  This is an incredible win for the teachers and students of our state.

I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Scott and President Gaetz as we close out a very productive and successful session.”

Senate President Don Gaetz:

“The budget agreement reached tonight means Florida will live within its means, meet the critical needs of its people, address issues that have been sidelined for years, and do all of that without raising taxes on any business or any family.

Speaker Weatherford has set the tone for these budget negotiations – tough-minded analysis, fair and forthright exchanges of ideas and priorities, conservative fiscal principles and a spirit of cooperation. 

Chair Negron and Chair McKeel and our respective sub-chairs have proven themselves masters of the budget process, tweezering through the thousands of choices and competing interests to arrive at a plan which is balanced and fair.

Governor Scott has proven to be a constructive and strong partner.  The Governor is working closely with us on options to eliminate or reduce taxes on manufacturing machinery in order to make our state even more competitive in attracting businesses that create jobs.  Our Governor has also led the way in lifting up Florida’s schools and teachers, resulting in a $1 billion increase in public education funding including $480 million for pay raises for teachers. 

Neither the House nor the Senate nor the Governor “won” in these budget negotiations.  The winners were Florida’s teachers who will be better compensated, Florida’s students who will be taught by educators recognized and rewarded for their performance, Florida’s public employees who will at long last receive a pay raise which is weighted to give lower-paid employees more pay, and Florida’s taxpayers who will be served by a more effective and responsive government without a single penny of increased taxes.”

Governor Rick Scott and Florida Education Association (FEA) President Andy Ford applauded the House and the Senate’s agreement to implement $480 million in teacher pay raises in the following release.

The language accompanying the funding allows districts the flexibility to develop their own performance plans to award the greatest number of teachers the largest teacher pay raise possible, in coordination with their collective bargaining agreements. The $480 million in funding provides enough to give every teacher a minimum of a $2,000 pay raise, while also giving districts the ability to provide teacher raises of $2,500 or even $3,500 – depending on the plan each of the 67 school districts (plus lab and charter schools) develop.

Governor Rick Scott said, “I want to thank the House and the Senate for ensuring that we build on our work to implement performance pay, while also allowing school districts the flexibility to use the $480 million in new funding to give every Florida teacher a pay raise. Our teachers are some of the best in the nation and they deserve to be rewarded for their great work.”

FEA President Andy Ford said, “FEA thanks Governor Scott for his efforts to provide an immediate across-the-board pay increase to Florida’s classroom teachers in recognition of their demonstrated performance which has brought Florida’s education system to sixth in the nation.  FEA applauds the infusion of additional resources into public education as was proposed by the Governor.

“Through the collective bargaining process, FEA remains committed to working with local school districts to develop fair, valid, reliable and transparent processes to reward the success of Florida’s teaching force. Through bargaining with local elected school boards, the success of such classroom personnel can be financially recognized in a manner which best meets the needs of local school districts.”

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