Governor Rick Scott must be feeling very, very rich after the Florida Supreme Court overruled an earlier judge’s verdict that the state had to pay back the 3% it stole from state workers in order to give corporations a tax break two years ago. That’s $2 billion dollars plus interest that the state of Florida does not have to pay back. Not only that, they get to keep collecting it, they can use it for whatever they choose (it did not go into the retirement fund) and apparently they will have the power to balance the state budget in the future just by increasing the percentage of state worker salaries going to the “pension” fund. After the celebratory champagne bottles were uncorked and Rick Scott and the Florida legislature were done bathing in the bubbly, Rick Scott awakened from his judicial hangover as a man of conscience and metamorphosed into the next great Republican teacher hero by promising to raise teacher salaries across the state by $2500 (his private sector buddies must be green with envy, if only they could find a way to make workers pay for their own raises too).
“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. I am asking the legislature to join with me in supporting my 2013 budget request that will provide every Florida full-time public classroom teacher the ability to receive a $2,500 pay raise.” http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/01/23/3196570_gov-scotts-teacher-pay-raises.html
Maybe he hit his head in the celebratory debauchery last Friday, maybe his former public school teacher daughter finally got through to him, maybe he had a nightmare about 600,000 angry state employees coming after him with pitch forks (or if the NRA has its way, AR-15 assault rifles), or maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with a poll released earlier in the week that had former governor/former Republican and true teacher hero Charlie Christ ahead of him by 30 percentage points. Back when Charlie was the Republican governor of Florida, he vetoed a teacher evaluation and performance pay bill that was very similar to SB 736. Teachers love Charlie Christ and they hate Rick Scott. Some may view Rick Scott’s sudden transformation from the ultimate teacher hater to public school teachers’ number one fan, as a cheap political trick (at a cost of $480 million, maybe not so cheap). But I would like to credit Rick Scott as not being a total moron and capable of realizing teachers will not suddenly abandon their beliefs that Scott is the teacher anti-Christ and vote for him in droves because he gave them two grand. I believe that Rick Scott is up to something more sinister than merely some hardcore pandering for the teacher vote. He will reveal the rest of his education budget in the coming weeks. I anticipate some heavy funding for charter schools for capital improvements while traditional public schools get nothing, among other items that will heavily favor private sector education companies sucking major tax dollars out of the pool of public education funds. When the budget hits the floor of the legislature, the state Democrats will be hard pressed to vote against a budget that includes $480 million for teacher raises. Done deal. Teachers get a raise, charter companies get some megabucks. Everybody happy!
Not so fast. Will teachers actually see a $2500 pay raise? Though Scott claims he would like the funds to be equally distributed (has Karl Marx invaded the governor’s body?) this language was also included in the Governor’s official statement, “It will also need to be collectively bargained at the district level to be implemented.” In the past, whenever funds became available, the district and union blamed rising health insurance premiums for the lack of any step increases or actual raises. In this regard, I hope Obamacare works and millions of new customers buying into the health insurance market drives down costs for everyone. That way I will never have to hear my district or union blame the lack of step increases on rising healthcare costs again. Worst case scenario, healthcare costs still skyrocket and then the government counts the district health insurance plan as an extra $20,000 worth of taxable income (oy vey!). The last time my union was given $30 million to distribute amongst 20,000 teachers they chose to skip the egalitarian socialist values Republicans are always accusing them of and they went straight up Mitt Romney and gave 75% of the money to the top earners while 8,000 of the lowest paid veteran teachers were given 9% of the funds. Unlike some other teachers who are still cursing out Rick Scott in every online medium they can find, I would like to raise my glass of non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider (still pregnant) to Rick Scott in appreciation of his sudden metamorphosis from the teacher grim reaper to the teacher savior almighty. Cheers! Thanks for the raise, I hope you are sincere in your newfound appreciation for educators, but I’m afraid Charlie Christ is still going to beat you at the polls in 2014.