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Senate's proposed education budget includes $480M for teacher pay raises

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, gave the Senate Education Appropriations Committee its first peek at his proposed education budget Wednesday, and it includes $480 million for teacher raises.

Galvano's working plan increases K-12 funding by $1.1 million -- not quite as much as Gov. Rick Scott has suggested in his own proposed budget.

But the Senate seems to be following Scott's lead on salary increases for teachers.

There is one notable difference: Scott wants all teachers to receive a $2,500 across-the-board salary increase. The Senate Education Appropriations Committee is recommending a merit-based distribution.

"We are giving discretion to the districts to award these funds," Galvano said. "We are having the districts base the award on student achievement."

Additionally, the Senate's proposed budget gives teachers $14 million to purchase classroom supplies, and beefs up school-security spending by more than $12 million.

On the higher-education front, Galvano's proposal restores the $300 million funding cut universities took last year. It also includes $58 million in new performance-based funding.

Galvano stressed that this was not the final version of the Senate's proposed education budget. He intends to make a final recommendation to Senate Budget Chairman Joe Negron by March 27, he said.

"It's good to have significant increases in our education budget and be able to restore funds where in the past, we've had to take funds," he said.

Sen. Maria Lorts Sachs, a Delray Beach Democrat, called the pitch "a good starting point."

"I've always been a great believer in home rule for our school districts," Sachs said. "I think we're beginning to get back to a common-sense approach to education."