Florida teachers watching budget process with wary eyes

President Ingram at the Take on Tallahassee rally at the states capitol.
photo courtesy of Fredrick Ingram’s Facebook.

On Jan. 13, the eve of Florida’s 2020 legislative session, more than 15,000 citizens – many of them teachers – joined the Florida Education Association at “Take on Tallahassee,” a rally for public education. Led by new President Fedrick C. Ingram, the goal of the rally was to demand improved funding for students and schools, fair pay for all education employees, and to put an end to the misguided policies regarding testing of students. 

Now, the FEA is providing updates on how it is taking action to bring more attention to teacher salaries.

“Teachers are starting to say that they are fed up. We love our kids, we love our classroom and our profession, but lawmakers must treat us with better treatment than what we have been getting,” said Ingram.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently proposed an increase in the minimum salary for Florida teachers to $47,500 along with a bonus plan, which has been getting negative feedback from the Legislature, teachers and other education advocates. The FEA president has said the governor that “the plan just won’t work.”

“We want salaries, things that go toward their retirement. We want things that our teachers and educational support professionals can count on year over year,” he said. “A bonus, you get one year, and you don’t get it another year,” Ingram said.

Outside of the Florida Education Association, with signs for the campaign for the advancement of public schools.
Photo by Sierra Sirju

Carole Gauronskas spent 18 years in the classroom as an ESE staff paraprofessional and now works with the FEA as secretary-treasurer. She believes that teachers in Florida are not being paid what they are worth. She said she is saddened that at least 50 percent of education professionals are paid at a poverty wage.

“The FEA did a great job this year about raising the bar in what we are asking,” she said. “It is 20 years of bad policy and what we are asking for now is an investment.” 

Trinise Evans, a first-grade teacher at Hartsfield Elementary School, says that she loves to educate the youth, but her salary limits her daily capabilities. 

“Teacher pay affects me as a new teacher by affecting my living circumstances and the way I go about doing day- to-day things. As a new teacher, I feel as though I’m constantly on a budget and living paycheck to paycheck,” said Evans.

To some teachers, a pay raise would motivate them to provide a better quality of education. However, to others, joining the profession was never concerning the pay.

“A pay raise would not motivate me to work harder to educate the youth because my passion for education overrides my concerns with teacher pay,” said Evans.