TALLAHASSEE — While Gov. Ron DeSantis continued to call Tuesday for a new and unprecedented level of taxpayer support for private schools, educators throughout the state rallied Monday in support of Florida’s students and neighborhood public schools.
“Pouring more public tax dollars into vouchers for unaccountable, often religious, private schools is simply misguided,” Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram said Tuesday. “Our students need strong neighborhood public schools. If the governor and Legislature want to do what’s best for this state, they must fund our future. We need to invest in the neighborhood public schools that educate the majority of Florida’s children, invest in the success of our students, and invest in the teachers and staff who work in our schools.”
Thousands of teachers and education staff professionals, most wearing “red for ed,” came out Monday in counties throughout Florida to demand that state leaders support public education. At rallies and marches and on social media, they were united in delivering one message during the March 4th Day of Action: For the sake of our students and our state, fund our future.
For more than a decade, Florida has failed to prioritize our students’ success. We spend less on public education today than before the Great Recession — in inflation-adjusted dollars, more than $1,000 less per student. We have one of the largest economies in the nation, but we are in the bottom 10 states in per-pupil spending.
Anemic funding affects Florida’s students in a myriad of ways, and districts statewide frequently struggle to maintain school facilities and meet safety mandates. Inadequate funding also affects schools’ ability to recruit and retain qualified teachers and staff. Florida’s public schools had more than 4,000 teaching vacancies at the start of this school year and are projected to have more than 10,000 at the start of the next school year. As with per-student spending, we are near the bottom nationally for educator salaries, ranking 45th in teacher pay and 47th in pay for our education staff professionals.
Instead of improving salaries, Gov. DeSantis proposes a revamped bonus program for teachers.
“A one-time bonus is not the same as a fair salary,” Ingram said. “Teachers and education staff need paychecks they can count on. If we want to get and keep more teachers in our classrooms, we need to pay teachers like the professionals they are.”
CONTACT: Joni Branch, (850) 201-3223 or (850) 544-7055
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with more than 140,000 members. FEA represents pre K-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.