Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant attacked Gov. Rick Scott as a feckless chief executive who let the Florida Legislature steamroll his session priorities.
“He boasted that his No. 1 priority for the 2013 session was a $2,500 across-the-board raise for classroom teachers,” Tant wrote in an April 30 column for Florida Voices. “Seven weeks later his abject failure to defend his top issue has allowed Republican legislators to cut that raise by 60 percent with a multitude of strings attached.”
We were intrigued by Tant’s claim that legislators cut Scott’s requested pay raise by 60 percent. (Tant’s column ran a few days before the Legislature lifted some of the more controversial strings on the raises, including the requirement that they be paid no sooner than June 2014.)
Before the session, Scott asked for a pot of $480 million from which to dole out a $2,500 raise to every teacher. The Legislature set aside the amount he wanted, on top of adding $1 billion to education spending. But lawmakers did not exactly follow his request. The raises will not go just to teachers. Principals, vice principals, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists and librarians are also eligible for raises.
Scott said every teacher will get a raise. While a raise is likely for most, it is not guaranteed. School districts in negotiations with unions will ultimately decide who gets raises and how much. Lawmakers outlined a merit-pay system but gave districts the choice to implement their own merit plans.
Adding thousands of noninstructional personnel into the pool for raises is another point of consideration, as superintendents may have to shuffle the amount of raises for teachers or the number of people who get them to make everyone fit.
Bottom line: The specifics are to be determined.
We asked the Democrats to support the 60 percent figure. Did Tant crunch the numbers and find that teachers will get raises of just $1,000, or 60 percent less than what Scott wanted?
The Democrats: The line was a mistake.
Tant’s column conflated money for teacher pay raises with money that was set aside for raises for state workers. “It was an error,” said party spokesman Max Steele.
State and university workers will receive a $1,000 or $1,400 raise depending on income (some may earn an extra $600 for performance) for the first time in seven years starting in October. Law enforcement officers will get even higher raises.
What the Democrats did is divide the $200 million pot for state and university workers by the $480 million Scott asked for. Using that (flawed) math, Scott got about 40 percent of his request — or, viewed another way, a 60 percent cut of what he asked for.
We give the Democrats props for coming clean. But we rate Tant’s statement False.