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On Monday, March 4 thousands of teachers, parents, students and community members will be demonstrating across the state urging the governor and Legislature to Fund Our Future by making neighborhood public schools and public school students their top priority. The 2019 Legislative session convenes on March 5.
Florida has been shirking its responsibility to the children of this state for many years. In a state with the seventh largest economy in the nation, Florida ranks 42nd in total education spending per pupil.
This lack of funding for our public schools impacts every aspect of our education system including our ability to attract and retain qualified teachers. Florida ranks 45th in teacher salaries. Our average teacher’s salary remains $10,000 below the national average, $8,000 below Georgia’s average and even Alabama averages $3,000 more than Florida when paying their teachers.
Many school districts have been forced to ask their communities to vote to expand their local tax base to help fund their schools. Last year the Manatee County School Board followed that trend and with the support of our voters was able to add money to the school district’s general fund so it could be used to increase teacher salaries and pay for other needs state funding is not covering. This money has added an average of $5,500 to our teachers’ salaries helping us to compete with surrounding school districts.
The cost of the teacher shortage, the lack of funding and the fight to stay competitive has an impact on our classrooms every day. We began this school year with vacancies and have struggled to fill positions all year long.
The projection for Florida is that there will be 10,000 teacher vacancies at the end of this year.
It is time for our Legislators to Fund Our Future by allocating money for our public schools. Education is the key that unlocks every child’s future success and by not funding our public schools those elected to lead our state are sending a message that they don’t value the success of every child in Florida.
We need leadership this Legislative session. Please send a message to our Legislators that it is time to Fund our Schools, Fund our Students, Fund our Future!
Pat Barber, president
Manatee Education Association