Governor Ron DeSantis reveled his education budget and legislative priorities and after looking at them I have come to the conclusion that if we want to save the teaching profession and public education, teachers MUST strike.
DeSantis received a lot of fanfare for his proposal to raise teacher starting salary to 47,500 but the idea has gotten little support in the legislature and he admits it leaves out 75 thousand veteran teachers who have seen their salaries actually go backwards over the last decade.
A teacher on the same step I am now (17) before the great recession had 7k more earning power than I do now when you factor in inflation. Some back of the napkin calculations reveals that veteran teachers, those with ten or more years’ experience, the backbone of the profession, have lost 1.5 billion since the recession ended in 2012. That’s 1.5 billion in houses, cars and investments in their communities that we have lost because Tallahassee has refused to do the right thing. We would have to increase the base student allocation by about a thousand dollars to get to 2007 levels, and this year, DeSantis proposed 50.
It’s worse because the Governor doesn’t even have the power to set salaries, something only districts can do and he has to know that which means his proposal was little more than smoke and mirrors meant to distract people.
The Governor also proposed a bonus plan that leaves out tens of thousands of teachers and most of the ones at our highest performing schools. It will also be the states sixth bonus plan in the last decade. It is beyond me why he thinks doing the same thing over and over will lead to different results, but it is also beyond me why he can’t do what teachers have been begging for and just say, every teacher gets “X” raise.
However, it’s not just because of teacher salaries that teachers should strike, not by a longshot, other reasons include the state’s punitive testing and accountability system, the fact many of the support staff in our schools don’t make a living wage, and the governors exponential push for the privatization of our schools.
While the governor was distracting us with terrible teacher pay ideas at the front door, he was pushing a massive expansion of privatization through vouchers, through the back.
It used to be that vouchers were funded by money diverted from the tax rolls, now however they are directly funded by our state taxes and DeSantis wants to greatly expand who is eligible.
Voucher schools, I remind you, can pick who they take and keep, teach whatever they want, many of whom teach junk science and history, their teachers don’t have to be certified let alone have degrees, and there is so little accountability that you might as well say there is none. This is what DeSantis plans to expanding exponentially, this is what he wants to invest public money in, rather than public schools.
It’s time Florida’s teachers, joined teachers all across the nation and said “no more”, it’s time for us to demand DeSantis and the GOP controlled legislature did what is right and if not we will see you on the picket line.
Some people might say we can’t strike, it’s against the state constitution, well friends the legislature ignores large swaths of the constitution with regularity, at this point it’s more like suggestions on a cocktail napkin than a hallowed document. Teachers all across the nation were also told it was illegal to strike including teachers in West Virginia, twice, and that didn’t stop them from doing what is right and good luck firing a hundred thousand of us.
Finally, I think many superintendents and boards would support a strike or work stoppage because they too have been on a decade long attack from Tallahassee and we would be fighting for their kids and schools as well.
Friends it’s time to fight while there is still something worth fighting for.