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Fla. legislators approve plan for teacher raises

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TALLAHASSEE, FL -

Florida's teachers are going to get a pay raise, but it won't be coming until next year. House and Senate budget negotiators finished their work late Sunday night. One of the last items agreed to was a pay raise package for the state's teachers.

But the raise won't take effect until June 2014. And it won't be an across-the-board, $2,500 raise like Gov. Rick Scott initially recommended.

Instead, teachers ranked as effective will be eligible for a $2,500 pay raise, while those ranked as highly effective would be eligible for $3,500. Teacher performance would be linked to student achievement, but the final plan would be developed and approved by each school board across the state.

Scott issued a statement applauding the final deal reached by legislators, saying it should still lead to most teachers getting a raise.

"Our teachers are some of the best in the nation and they deserve to be rewarded for their great work," Scott said.

Florida Education Association President Andy Ford also praised the deal because it means that additional money will be going to the state's schools.

But House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, said the deal was a "slap in the face" to teachers because they will have to wait more than a year before they get the raise.

"That is really an insult that they have to wait until 2014," said Thurston.

Lawmakers have set aside a total of $480 million for the raises, which would also be available to principals, assistant principals, librarians and guidance counselors. It's part of an overall $1 billion increase for education that legislators set aside in the proposed $74 billion budget.

"This is an incredible win for the teachers and students of our state," said House Speaker Will Weatherford in a statement.

Legislators worked through the entire weekend to finish up work on the budget. Some of the decisions that they reached - including a 3 percent tuition hike for college and university students - have been opposed by Scott.

Top Republicans, however, insisted that Scott should still be pleased with many of the spending items included in the final budget.

Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, contended that Scott had been a "constructive and strong partner."

"Neither the House nor the Senate nor the governor won in these budget negotiations," Gaetz said in a statement.

Legislators had to reach a final deal on the budget in order to end the session by May 3. State law requires that the budget be placed on the desk of lawmakers 72 hours before a final vote.

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart and the Senate budget chief, said it's possible that lawmakers could now vote on the budget a day earlier than expected.

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