Thousands of teachers, school staff members, parents, and students rallied at Florida’s Capitol Monday on the day before the start of the 2020 legislative session.
The 'Take on Tallahassee' rally aimed to bring more attention to what teachers say is a serious need for more school funding and more money for teacher and employee pay.
Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed a near $1 billion budget, which includes $600 million for an increase in starting teacher pay.
Fedrick Ingram, President of the Florida Education Association, said he wants lawmakers to consider more than doubling that budget to $2.4 billion.
Nearly 30 teachers, staff, and parents from St. Lucie County made the trip to the Capitol. They were also joined by Dr. Donna Mills with the St. Lucie County School Board.
“Once we see how they’re voting, we will know if we made a difference,” said Lucy Bravo with the Education Association of St. Lucie. She said she is concerned that her daughter has had multiple teachers in one school year.
In addition to pay, some of the key issues St. Lucie County teachers hope lawmakers will address include retention and recruitment, classroom sizes, and over-testing.
The Florida Education Association says by mid- January, there were still more than 2,400 teaching jobs that needed to be filled statewide.
“I’m here because I care about public education,” said former St. Lucie County teacher Karen Rutkowski. “If you want to attract good people and you’re asking them to go into debt at the university, you’ve got to pay them.”
Reverend Al Sharpton was among the speakers to address the flood of education supporters outside the Capitol. “How can you have a heart for the children if you won’t pay the teachers?” Sharpton asked.
Ingram gave some credit to Governor DeSantis for making an education plan but wants the plan to go further.
“Thank you for at least putting forth a plan. We appreciate that. We certainly do, but that plan needs some help. We have a bunch of teachers out here who can help you with a lesson plan,” Ingram said.
“We want this to be fresh in their minds when the session begins and let them know we should be respected and paid accordingly,” Bravo said.