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Thousands to rally in state capital for teacher pay

File photo: Florida's new and old Capitol buildings reside in Tallahassee.
File photo: Florida's new and old Capitol buildings reside in Tallahassee. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Thousands of teachers from across Florida will be in the state capital Jan. 13, hoping to set the agenda for the annual legislative session that begins Jan. 14.

Their message: It’s time for not just a higher minimum salary, but much more.

“We can not continue to do what we do and the magic that happens between a teacher and a student when our lights are being cut off, when we can’t afford mortgages or rent,” said Fedrick Ingram, president of the Florida Education Association.

On top of bonuses, the governor is proposing raising teacher salaries to a minimum of $47,500.

“Which takes Florida from 26th to No. 2 in the nation,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The governor’s plan is being called, “A start, but it’s not a cure for where we are.”

The union believes everyone -- from the janitorial staff to cafeteria workers and bus drivers -- needs more money.

“This school year, we had 3,000 classrooms that did not have a certified teacher. The governor’s plan will not cure that. We still have over 2,000 vacancies that are teacher shortages. We have bus driver shortages,” Ingram said.

Under Florida law, it’s illegal for public employees, including teachers, to go on strike, but they point to actions by teachers in other states.

They want to put national pressure on lawmakers.

“And it is up to us to put pressure on lawmakers. To let them know we’re going to nationalize this issue, because if we want to be at the forefront of what’s right, we’ve got to recognize what’s wrong,” Ingram said.

Many Florida lawmakers are leery of mandating raises. That’s because teacher pay is the cornerstone of collective bargaining with local school boards.

So far, the governor’s raise plan has gotten a cold shoulder from some top lawmakers because of the cost and because salaries are set by local school boards.

As part of “Take on Tallahassee,” Florida parents and educators will march from the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center to Florida’s Old Capitol, where they will rally outside the building.