Eddie Washington, left, and Stephen Cambridge get help from Michele Antonia, Adult Basic Education, GED and Vocational Preparatory Instruction teacher at Immokalee Technical Center.
OCOEE, Florida -- Governor Rick Scott held a press conference at Ocoee Middle School on Wednesday to reveal some of his budget plans for education.
Among them is a $2,500 pay raise for every full-time public school teacher in Florida.
"I can think of no better investment for our state than investing in those teachers who work on the frontline of Florida's future every day by teaching our children," he said.
Governor Scott said his budget, which will be fully announced in the next few weeks, will include $480 million for teacher salaries and an overall increase in education spending. He attributed the increased spending flexibility to better economic conditions.
Of the deficit in past years, Scott said the state had to make "tough choices to get the budget back on track."
But first impressions make an impact, and the president of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association said the first impression Governor Scott gave Florida educators after taking office was slashing the state's education budget by $1.3 billion and requiring school employees to take three percent of paychecks to pay for pensions.
"How would you like it if your pay was cut, and your benefits were cut, and your pension was cut, and you lost tenure, and you were told exactly how you were going to teach, and the creativity and ability to be a professional is stripped away?" asked CTA president Jean Clements, who's also a former teacher.
She's encouraged by Scott's announcement, which is the first time teacher pay raises have been on the table in several years.
"I think he's finally listening. I hope he's finally listening to the citizens and the people and the voters and the families of Florida," Clements said.
Clements knows, just as Governor Scott admitted during his speech, that the proposal will have to be approved by state lawmakers. She hopes they will stand by the plan, and that enough money will be approved to fully fund teacher pay increases.
"Certainly, the governor will want to make that part of his platform and campaign that he did up the teachers' pay," said USF Political Science Professor Dr. Susan MacManus. "For some, it'll be too late. They'll be cynical. For others, they'll think, 'Oh good, it's about time.' Thankfully, the state's economy is getting better and we can afford to do this."