Florida teachers rally in Tallahassee for better resources and pay

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Thousands of teachers flooded the Florida State Capitol on Monday, demanding better classroom resources and more reasonable wages.

While the fight for better salaries seems to be the topic making headlines, Sunshine State teachers are also rallying for better funding for their schools. Some of the state’s largest school districts are currently receiving disproportionately low funding.

In the recent past, critics have called the Florida Education Finance Program outdated, and they’re not entirely wrong.

The formula, which is used to distribute the state’s $21.1 billion budget across Florida’s 67 school districts has gone unaltered since 2003.

Last year, a study from the consulting firm Bamoral Group showed that the FEFP developed in 1973 called for a reevaluation of Florida’s Price Level Index.

According to the study, the FPLI assumed “all teachers have the same preferences for the same levels and types of amenities.”

In a proposed budget Gov. Ron DeSantis introduced last year, Hillsborough County schools would receive the third-highest amount of funding, just behind Miami-Dade County and Broward County.

DeSantis’ proposed budget allocation

Here is how much of the proposed $602 million public school budget each of the Tampa Bay Counties would get. Hover over the bar to see the exact number.

Source: Florida Department of Education

The budget also proposes the highest per-student spending: $7,979. That’s up more than $300 from $7,672.

Along with increasing per-student spending, the minimum salary for public school teachers would be $47,500. The plan aims to attract more teachers to the Sunshine State, which currently faces a significant shortage of educators.

Florida currently has around 3,578 teaching vacancies reported in the 2019-2020 school year, according to the Florida Education Association. That’s 700 more than this time last year.

Monday’s rally made national headlines as Polk County teachers received an email last week from the state’s Department of Education stating that, “Per the statute, a concerted failure to report for duty constitutes an illegal strike under Florida law,” and employees may lose their jobs.

More than 1,500 teachers from the county called the perceived bluff of the FDOE. They cited the fact that in such a desperate shortage, the county – that the Lakeland Ledger says already loses more than half of its new teachers within the first five years – couldn’t risk such a large firing.  

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