ORLANDO, Fla. — As teachers in other states go on strike, teachers from unions all over Florida gathered in Orlando Friday to call for better teacher pay and investment in public education.
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“We need to pay teachers what they are worth!” shouted Florida Education Association president Frederick Ingram to the cheers of teachers outside the Rosen Center in Orlando.
Around 800 teachers met for the FEA's annual convention. The FEA is the state union all the local teacher unions are connected to.
Ingram says there’s a movement across Florida right now when it comes to teacher pay, especially after Gov. Ron DeSantis’ proposal to raise starting salaries.
“There’s a moment and a window of opportunity for teachers to enact change,” Ingram said.
But they want more. The "Fund Our Future" bus tour aims to rally support for a $2 billion investment in public education every year for the next 10 years, totaling more than $22 billion.
The tour will visit 30 counties across the state, including many in Central Florida.
“We’re taking back our schools, and we’re taking back our community!” Ingram said to cheers at the rally.
It will be a tough sell though. Republican state lawmakers have already shown hesitation with Governor DeSantis’ 600 million dollar proposal.
And an option teachers in Florida do not have, unlike other states, to try and get more pay — going on strike. According to Florida law, public employees, are not allowed to strike.
“It is actually illegal to call for a strike, or be there as a part of a strike,” Ingram said.
Osceola County Middle School teacher Laura Portorreal rallied Friday with her fellow teachers. But she says not being able to strike takes away one of their biggest weapons.
“I feel helpless, makes me feel like my hands are tied,” Portorreal said.
But she and hundreds other teachers hope this bus tour with rallies all over the Sunshine State will help.
“All we can do is fight, all we can do is keep fighting and keep trying,” she said.