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Florida ranks 48th in teacher pay, not 9th

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference Thursday in Miami. On Friday, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly claiming that Florida ranks 9th in the U.S. for teacher pay.

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.

THE FACTS: Florida most recently ranked 48th in the nation in average public school teacher pay and was ranked 47th when DeSantis took office, according to the National Education Association, which compiles the data annually. The Florida Republican Party misled social media users this month when it posted on its verified Twitter and Facebook accounts that the state was 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. "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 compiles most of its data from state education departments.

NEA data shows that in the 2018-19 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 2020-21 school year, giving teachers an average of $51,009. The state is estimated to continue to rank 48th for the 2021-22 school year, according to Staci Maiers, an NEA spokesperson.

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.

"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 2019-20 school year, Florida ranked 29th in the nation for average public school teacher starting salary, according to Maiers.

Estimates for the 2020-21 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 2022-23 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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