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Teachers Union Leaders Advocate For More School Funding During Broward Bus Tour Stop

Teachers union members rallied outside the Sunrise Civic Center Friday as part of a statewide bus tour advocating for more education funding.

The Broward County stop was part of the five-week tour called "Fund Our Future." The Florida Education Association is asking for an investment of $2.4 billion dollars in public education: $1 billion to give teachers and other school employees a 10 percent raise and the rest for arts programs, classroom equipment and infrastructure upgrades.

FEA president Fedrick Ingram said the state could reallocate resources already being spent on private school vouchers and an unpopular bonus program that rewards teachers with high SAT scores.

"We have the money. This is not a poor state," Ingram said. "This is not a state that has to go back to its taxpayers and say we need more money. ... Let's redirect."

The tour comes as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has made raising teacher pay a chief priority for the 2020 legislative session. Unions aren't happy with his proposals, though, which include establishing a minimum teacher salary of $47,500 and implementing new bonuses for teachers and principals based on school grades.

"We can no longer afford to pay our educators on the cheap," said Ingram, former president of the United Teachers of Dade. "Mr. Governor, bonus programs do not work. … You need to compensate a salary that is commensurate with a professional job. And that is who we are: We are professionals who work with our future every day."

DeSantis has argued his plan would reward the most effective teachers while also creating new incentives for educators to work in schools with the poorest students.

DeSantis has estimated his proposals would cost nearly $1 billion. Republican leaders in both houses of the Legislature have questioned whether the state can afford the governor's education agenda.

Joining union leaders at Friday's event were Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, school board member Robin Bartleman and state Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat who is running for the state Senate.

The next stop on the bus tour is a public education forum Saturday morning in Key Largo. The event featuring Monroe County School District Superintendent Mark Porter and school board members will be held at 11 a.m. at Coral Shores High School Performing Arts Center in Tavernier.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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