University of North Florida students studying to become teachers are pursuing the profession because they are passionate about children. But they also hope they can make a living wage in their chosen career.
Oklahoma teachers, who early an average pay of $45,245, were in the second day of walkout Tuesday, demanding higher wages. In Kentucky, 21 school districts canceled class Monday after the majority of teachers called in sick to attend a rally at the state capitol to protest changes to their pension plan. West Virginia teachers, who were earning an average salary of $45,701, just ended a nine-day walkout.
"I would be protesting too if I was getting paid that little," UNF sophomore Amanda Thompson said. "I think its definitely a problem and I'm happy people are finally sticking up for what they believe in."
"I think its pretty good they're standing up for themselves, pretty much, because teachers deserve more," freshman Erica Vogel said.
Average teacher pay in Northeast Florida counties
Source: 2016-17 data from the Florida Department of Education
News4Jax looked at teacher salaries from area counties, the state and the nation to see how we stack up.
According to the Florida Department of Education, the average teacher in the state earns $47,858. That's nowhere near Alaska, which pays teachers an average of nearly $78,000 -- the highest in the nation -- but it is well ahead of Mississippi, where the lowest-paid teachers in the nation make an average of $43,043.
Closer to home, the only county around Jacksonville that pays above the state average is Flagler -- at $59,657. Duval, St. Johns and Putnam counties come close to the Florida average. Teachers at other suburban districts earn thousands less.
Columbia County's average of $41,709 is among the lowest in Florida, but district officials said it's because most of their 700 teachers have less than five years experience.
Starting salaries for teachers in most Northeast Florida districts is about $38,000, below the statewide starting average of $41,000.
When future teachers learned about the average salaries in nearby areas where they may seek jobs, they were disappointed. But UNF education majors Thompson and Vogel say that despite low pay, they’re still passionate about becoming teachers.