TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Twelve buses rolled into Tallahassee Monday morning from Miami-Dade County as teachers call for higher wages and increased funding for schools.
Another large group of educators from Broward County also headed to the state capital Monday.
“The median teacher income doesn’t even allow us to continue with our standard of living. You need about $60,000 to survive in Broward County, and teachers don’t make that,” Broward Teachers Union Vice President Terry Lopez Preuss said.
Local 10 News was at Tropical Park Sunday night, where the Miami-Dade County teachers’ journey started.
They said funding is long overdue and they want more school counselors, libraries, nurses, smaller class sizes and less testing.
“There’s been a concerted effort to siphon public tax dollars off of public schools and put it into voucher programs, the privatization of public schools through for-profit charter companies,” United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said.
On a national level, they said Florida remains 48th in funding and 46th in teacher pay.
Because of that, there is a serious teacher shortage.
“There were over 3,000 vacancies at the beginning of this school year. That means over 300,000 students either had a substitute or uncertified teacher in their classroom right now,” Hernandez-Mats said.
Teacher pay is probably Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top priority, but it comes with a large price tag -- $900 million in his proposed budget.
The first part of the governor’s plan would set aside $603 million so the starting salary for all teachers would be $47,500.
There’s been concern from critics that the governor’s plan would be unfair to veteran teachers who make slightly more than $47,500 and would miss out on a raise.
Last week, the governor told Local 10 News reporter Michael Putney that his funding proposal would take Florida teacher minimum salaries number to No. 2 in the country.
“You don’t do teaching just for the money, obviously, but it does help, especially in South Florida where the cost of living is significant,” DeSantis said.
South Florida teachers who couldn’t make it to the rally Monday afternoon in Tallahassee wanted to show their support for higher wages and higher funding, so they held their own rally earlier in the day at the Stephen P. Clark Center in Miami.
They want lawmakers to make public education a priority this legislative session, which starts Tuesday.