When Valerie Chuchman moved to Florida from Wisconsin eight years ago, her new principal joked that while she was taking a significant salary cut, she would be repaid in sunshine.
Unfortunately, the Riverview High School chemistry teacher said, sunshine doesn't pay the bills. And if she's still living paycheck to paycheck after 21 years, she can only imagine how tough it is for newer educators.
"You still need to attract and retain teachers," she said.
So Chuchman sees value in a proposal by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum to increase teachers' starting salaries to $50,000 a year. But does she see it ever happening?
"That would be fantastic," said Chuchman, a stalwart Democrat and union activist. "However, I don't see that realistically happening right away."
The $50,000 mark, which Gillum has called Florida's "right base salary," has long been an aspirational target here and in other states. It would also affect the rest of the salary scale, propelling the state's average teacher pay from near the bottom of the barrel to the top of the heap.
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