By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
June 26, 2018
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- The state’s largest teacher's union is calling on lawmakers to increase teacher salaries to meet the national average within the next four years.
Florida teachers make about $47,200 a year, on average.
“Florida teachers rank 45th in the nation," said Joanne McCall, President of the Florida Education Association.
FEA says since 2009, pay is down by 12.2 percent when adjusted for inflation.
“We have about 40 percent of our new teachers leave within the first five years and it's because they can't make ends meet," said McCall.
Florida’s average teacher salary is more than $12,000 below the national average, often requiring teachers to work a second job. In one extreme case, a teacher has resorted to selling plasma to pay the bills.
“If she donated plasma eight times in a month, she'll own $300 to supplement her income, which when you think about that, that's pretty sad," said McCall.
FEA is asking candidates and lawmakers to sign a pledge, vowing to vote down any budget that doesn't include a pay raise for teachers and educational staff.
The goal is to get Florida to the national average by 2023.
"The public believes in public schools," said McCall. "They believe in public school teachers and education staff professionals and we're going to rally the public and we're going to put the pressure on these politicians to do right. "
The increase is estimated to cost between $400 and $600 million.
FEA says cutting wasteful spending, along with redirecting money spent on private school vouchers, could cover the cost.
So far, 19 have signed on, including four Democratic candidates for governor.
State Senator and head of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents Bill Montford has yet to sign, but says not only does he think the goal is attainable, it should be set even higher.
“So is it possible? Absolutely. It is and we just got to push it," said Montford. "We've got to stay on top of it and all of us who really know about public education, we have to stand up and be vocal.”
While Democrats are likely to support the pledge, it will be harder to convince Republicans.
Teachers hope the prospect of a ‘blue wave’ this November could shift the balance of power making the goal more attainable.