At hundreds of public schools across Florida Wednesday morning teachers gathered before school started with students, staff and parents to draw attention to how the Florida Legislature is under-funding public education. It was organized by the Florida Education Association.
WMNF spoke with Mike Gandolfo, president of PCTA – the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association. He was at several “Walk-Ins” this morning.
“I personally was at three locations: a high school, an elementary and then a middle school. All the teachers came out, met at the flagpole in front of their schools, where the kids started to gather. … They, for the majority, were all wearing red. Because our slogan is ‘Wear Red for Public Ed.’
“They were holding signs saying, ‘Fund Our Future.’ And basically they were sending a message to our legislators that while they’re up there debating about how much money they should put towards education, we’re reminding them that public education has been neglected long enough. That we are ranked 41st in the total education spending per pupil.
“We’re $4,000 per student per year less than the average of the states. We rank 46th in teacher pay. Teacher pay has actually decreased by 11.9% since 2009 when you consider inflation.
“We may have as many as 10,000 vacancies beginning of next year. There’s a ‘silent strike’ going on. Teachers are handing in their keys and never coming back. And our colleges of education are producing less and less teachers. Nobody wants to go into the profession. Largely because of the way our legislature has been handling public education.
“And we have bus drivers, support professionals, cafeteria workers — we have a whole slew of our teammates, because takes thirteen years to educate a kid. It’s a team effort. It’s a collaboration unlike any other business. These are people that are making barely above poverty wages.
“So it’s time for them to increase. And our ask of our legislators is a 10% increase in funding, which would be $743 per student. That would just move us out of the bottom ten states in the nation. So, we just don’t want to be in the cellar anymore.”