Last week, after years of debating bonuses versus pay raises, Leon County Schools and the Florida Education Association have reached an agreement that both the teachers and the school district can agree on. The tentative plan would provide teachers with a $1,500 boost in base pay in addition to an average $150 bonus for teachers that are going above and beyond.
This plan was a quick response to outrage over Gov. DeSantis’ original proposal to update Florida’s “Best and Brightest” teacher bonus program without raising base pay and it is exactly the sort of legislation that the FEA and its president, Fedrick Ingram have been fighting against for years.
Following DeSantis’ original proposal, Ingram said, “We’re still not happy going into another bonus program … We at the FEA don’t believe in bonus programs, we believe in base pay. We believe in salaries for teachers doing the most important work in the world: teaching our kids.”
He makes a very strong point. Teachers are given the task of educating the next generation of political leaders, engineers, doctors, parents, therapists and educators. However, they are paid roughly $1,300 less monthly than other college-educated workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
This is not only disrespectful to today’s educators, but also to the thousands of individuals who will receive bachelor’s degrees in education this year. But worst of all, this proves that the profession of teaching is grossly under appreciated.
There were eight teacher strikes in 2018 which involved more than 379,000 teachers and school staff in total. If a strike of this magnitude happened among anesthesiologists nationwide, their demands would have been met immediately met because their jobs are necessary and not everyone can do it. And, as a capitalist nation, America proves it values anesthesiologists by making them the highest paid profession, according to US News and World Report.
Unfortunately teachers are not held in the same esteem, which makes their inadequate pay all the more insulting.
Ingram explained that the teacher bonus program adopts a popular business model which incentivizes stellar performance. However, this is based on a premise that workers are already being paid a respectable and livable wage. For teachers this just isn’t the case. In fact, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1 out of 5 teachers work a second job in addition to teaching.
“Teachers don’t want a pat on the head,” said Ingram, “where we do something good and you give us a treat. You should pay people at a respectful level and then incentivize from there.”
What we fail to realize is that teaching is crucial to the nation. Children’s brains are rapidly developing during the years when they attend primary and secondary school. Also during these years, children spend roughly the same amount of waking hours under the guidance of teachers as they do their parents.
The information introduced to children during these years is what spurs them to pursue careers in STEM, politics or the arts. Some may also turn to the consultation of trusted teachers when dealing with non-academic school issues. By this token, teachers are not only responsible for shaping the future workforce, but also helping shape what our society will look like.
While it may have begun as a means to appease teachers, hopefully these proposed raises can start a chain reaction of more motivated teachers and better educated students. And hopefully that result will help society to truly appreciate the impact of teachers on our world.