State Politics

Miami-Dade sought study to address disparities in teachers’ cost of living expenses. Gov. Scott killed it.

Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho
Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho Miami Herald file photo

Miami-Dade’s cost of living is so high that public school teachers struggle to afford to live here.

That’s why the county school district — with help from the Miami-Dade legislative delegation — fought hard this spring to secure in the annual budget a $100,000 study by the Florida Department of Education that would have explored cost-of-living disparities across the state’s 67 counties. The plan was for those differences to then be more fairly factored in to a funding formula that determines how much districts get from the state to pay for teachers’ salaries and school operations.

Although lawmakers approved the cost-of-living study as part of the 2017-18 budget, it’s not going to happen. That line-item was among a plethora of vetoes Gov. Rick Scott handed down Friday evening.

MORE: “Living in Miami on a teacher’s salary? Good luck finding a place you can afford”

In doing so, Scott rejected a statewide analysis that Miami-Dade County Public Schools and other urban school districts had hoped would eventually let them have extra money to pay teachers more, simply so those educators could better afford costly housing and other living expenses.

In explaining the veto, Scott said the entity that produces the Florida Price Level Index — which is used in the formula for funding K-12 public schools, the Florida Finance Education Program (FEFP) — already “periodically reviews the data ... to ensure it is equitable statewide.”

scott veto explanation
Gov. Scott’s explanation for vetoing a study that would have addressed school districts’ cost-of-living disparities

Earlier Friday, hours before the veto list was published by Scott’s office, Miami-Dade schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho had expressed hope that Scott would leave the study alone.

“Obviously this is a question of the integrity of the equity expected in the FEFP that would guarantee a recognition of regional cost differences, which deeply impact our ability to attract, incentivize and retain teachers,” Carvalho told the Herald/Times. “It is good public policy; it is honest public policy.”

A report in April from Apartment List, an online apartment marketplace, found that Miami ranked 47 out of 50 in a comparison of median rent prices on its site with teacher salaries in select cities across the country.

A first-year Miami teacher sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate might spend 36 percent of his or her salary on housing, Apartment List found, which is already above the 30 percent benchmark experts recommend as a maximum for rent.

A teacher with ten years of experience, who might have children and therefore need more space, renting his or her own two-bedroom apartment could eat up as much as two-thirds of their paycheck, the website found.

Miami Herald staff writer Kyra Gurney contributed.

Kristen M. Clark: 850-222-3095, kclark@miamiherald.com, @ByKristenMClark

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