The putative justification for setting a minimum wage for government school teachers does not seem to apply in Jacksonville.
Gov. Ron DeSantis is proposing the policy, at a cost of $600 million. Whether he is serious or whether the Florida Legislature will go there is in doubt. It makes little sense.
The matter of teacher pay is a local issue. In some liberal counties, school boards are fairly lavish with the taxpayers’ money and teacher pay is high.
In Duval it is about average.
Last year, the average pay for local teachers was $47,424, a little below the Florida average, which ranged from $38,825 in Gadsden County to $57,285 in Monroe.
In 2009-10, it was $47,087.
The number of teachers also is down about 1,000 from four years ago, which means the district is spending about $35 million less on teacher salaries.
But the reason the state needs a higher minimum wage, proponents say, is that there is a shortage of teachers, and too many teaching out of field.
The school administration told Eye on Jacksonville that there have been from 35 to 268 vacancies in the teaching ranks over the past 10 years. Even though the number is growing, it does not seem high for a district with more than 7,000 teachers.
The critical figure would be how many people applied for those positions. Unfortunately, the district claims that it does not know. Assuming that applications are submitted for the jobs, it is unclear why they would not have that information.
In the past, administrators claimed that there were hundreds of applicants for every vacant position. That indicates a high level of interest in the job, not a lack of interest.
If people were not interested in accepting teaching positions at the current level of pay, you would expect just the opposite. In that case, the local board might be justified in offering higher pay for beginning teachers.
As for teaching out of field, the local schools seem no worse off than other districts. Some local schools have 100 percent of the faculty teaching in their field, while others have none.
There is a simple solution to that problem and it is exactly what the private sector would do: offer higher pay for teachers with the education and experience in the fields where there are shortages.
Legislators should look closely at the proposal to get the state in the business of setting salaries.