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Florida ranks 48th in teacher pay, not 9th

September 16, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: When the Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took office, Florida ranked 26th in the nation for teacher pay. Today the state ranks 9th in teacher pay.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Florida most recently ranked 48th in the nation in average public school teacher pay, according to the National Education Association, which compiles the data annually. It was ranked 47th when DeSantis took office. The state estimates it will rank 9th in the nation for starting salaries in the 2022-2023 school year, according to the Florida Department of Education.

THE FACTS: The Florida Republican Party misled social media users this month, with posts on its verified Twitter and Facebook accounts falsely claiming the state is among the best in the nation for teacher pay.

“When Governor DeSantis took office Florida ranked 26th in the nation for teacher pay, today we are 9th,” the party wrote on Sept. 7. “Every year he fights to ensure Florida teachers get the support and funding they need.”

However, national salary data contradicts those numbers. The National Center for Education Statistics and several other online sources for such data get their salary information from the NEA, the nation’s largest teacher’s union, which gets most of its data from state education departments.

NEA data shows that in the 2018-2019 school year, when DeSantis entered office, Florida ranked 47th in the nation for average public school teacher pay, giving teachers an average annual salary of $48,314. It ranked 48th in the 2020-2021 school year, giving teachers an average of $51,009. The state is estimated to continue to rank 48th for the 2021-2022 school year, according to Staci Maiers, an NEA spokesperson.

By contrast, the state that ranked 9th in the nation for average teacher pay in the 2020-2021 school year was Maryland, paying teachers an average of $74,006 per year.

The governor’s press office in a news release in March touted the 9th-in-the-nation ranking, but referred to starting salary, rather than average teacher salary. The release announced $800 million in new funding to “raise minimum teacher pay and increase veteran teacher salaries in Florida.”

“In 2020, the average starting salary for a teacher in Florida was $40,000 (26th in the nation), and with today’s funding, it will now be at least $47,000 (9th in the nation),” the release said.

Those numbers also aren’t an exact match for the NEA’s data, which show that in the 2019-2020 school year, Florida ranked 29th in the nation for average public school teacher starting salary, according to Maiers. Estimates for the 2020-2021 school year show Florida ranking 16th in the nation on this benchmark. And based on the data from that school year, which is the most recent data available, a $47,000 starting salary would place Florida at 11th in the nation, not 9th.

Cassandra Palelis, press secretary for the Florida Department of Education, explained that the press release from March featured previous data from the NEA, which was later updated. She said Florida’s estimated starting salary for the 2022-2023 school year is more than $48,000 per year, which would rank 9th in the nation according to NEA data.

The Florida Republican Party didn’t respond to emailed requests for comment.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.