Thousands of educators in South Florida and across the state are heading to Tallahassee for a rally Monday afternoon, ahead of the start of the 2020 legislative session.
Florida Education Association president Fedrick Ingram has high hopes for the turnout.
“We're going to have the biggest, broadest, most comprehensive showing of force, of people who care about public schools, in Tallahassee that we've ever seen in the modern era,” said Ingram, who is the former president of the United Teachers of Dade, Miami-Dade’s teachers union.
The event in front of the state Capitol Monday afternoon is the culmination of a statewide bus tour and campaign dubbed “Fund Our Schools.” Union leaders are asking for a $2.4 billion infusion into public schools to cover salary increases for all school employees and additional support for arts programs, classroom equipment and infrastructure upgrades.
The crowd will also protest Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposals for a minimum teacher salary of $47,500 and performance-based bonuses. Unions have argued the salary is too low for some parts of the state and that the threshold prioritizes new teachers over veterans, while leaving out other school employees. They also oppose merit pay.
“We're riding the wave of what people have seen all across this country,” Ingram said, “and Florida cannot be silent, because teachers are fed up. They’ve had enough. They love kids. They love students. They love classrooms. And we love this profession. But we are going to demand that people respect it.”
DeSantis has made raising teacher pay one of his top priorities for the 2020 session, which begins Tuesday. He has proposed spending nearly $1 billion to support his plans, although he has faced pushback from GOP legislators who argue the state can’t afford them.
Miami-Dade teachers are holding their own rally 7 p.m. Sunday in Tropical Park, ahead of their trip to the Capitol.