Florida teachers union seeks massive increase in school funding

Union wants additional $22 billion over 10 years

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Education Association (FEA) is on the road this month trying to drum up support for a big pay hike for teachers, better classroom maintenance and more music and art classes.

They are asking parents and teachers to come make their case to state lawmakers.

The FEA, a statewide federation of teacher and education workers' labor unions, is pinning its hope on rallying teachers and parents across the state to push lawmakers to pump more than $2 billion more into education next year. FEA President Fedrick Ingram said it's vital to keep teachers from pursuing other careers.

"Give us what we need to take care of these kids" he said. "Give us what we need so that we can stay in this profession."

And its not just a one-year ask, but $22 billion more over the next 10 years.

In addition to touring the state, the teachers are calling for a massive rally at the Florida State Capitol on January 13, the day before the legislative session begins.

It won't be the first time.

In 2009, thousands of teachers brought more than two million pennies as they pushed for a sales tax increase for schools. In the following years thousands more teachers marched for better schools. Each time lawmakers did little.

News4Jax asked what would be different this time.

"We're fighting for kids every day, and that's what's different," Ingram said. "And the pressure they are going to see is going to be bigger, broader and more comprehensive than we've seen in the modern history of the state of Florida."

Teachers are quitting at record rates, often after just a year or two. Missy Rudd retired in June. She said many can't make ends meet.

"It's frustrating when we have to get a second or third job, or when you get an email from a team teacher that says, 'Hey, I got this side business, can you come and support me?'" Rudd said.

Governor Ron Desantis has proposed increasing starting teachers salaries to $47,500, but the teachers union said they need $1 billion more to give every teacher a raise.

Education Week has ranked Florida near the bottom when to per-pupil-funding. According to the National Education Association, average teacher pay in Florida currently ranks 47th in the nation.