What’s Up With Teacher Pay Cuts in Florida!

Guest blogger Kathleen Oropeza  is an activist education leader in the Florida grassroots organization “Fund Education Now!”  .   Activist moms started this organization in 2009 after Florida’s Orange County School Superintendent Ron Blocker warned that the cuts to schools would be both ” catastrophic and criminal.”   Florida and Texas seem to be the policy setters for bad ideas in education.  Since the effects of the Texas invention “No Child Left Behind” on K-12 are now trickling up to higher education,  we’d best keep a cautious watch on the new education policies and legislation being developed in these two states.  One can predict that Texas and Florida policies will go viral under the right political and economic conditions.

Florida Teacher Salaries Have Dropped

Thursday, Sept. 1

This week is bound to be rough.

This week teachers all over Florida will get their first paycheck of the school year.

Last session Florida legislators passed a law requiring every teacher to contribute 3% of their salary to the Florida Retirement System. Hearing about a 3% to 5% cut is very different than seeing what that cut looks like.

The other side of the story is that districts all over the state have cut teacher pay on new-hires by as much as 15%. $44,000 is the average teacher pay in the state of Florida, but some districts pay $30,000 per year. Georgia’s average teacher pay is $53,000.

It’s common knowledge that Florida teacher pay, among the lowest in the nation, was based on the promise of employer-funded retirement.  For decades, teachers have accepted changes in their employment conditions based on this promise.

A school district is often the largest employer in the county.  Cutting 3% from salaries in large districts like Orange, Hillsborough or Miami-Dade takes at least $50 Million dollars out of the local market. That’s a tangible loss to all of us.

On the most intimate level, teachers have been spending their personal money on classroom materials or more commonly, making sure their growing roster of homeless or at-risk students have what they need to thrive and learn.

Teaching in Florida has always meant a meager paycheck.  Since there have been no raises for years, that small paycheck now means supporting families at near-poverty levels.  Teacher pay stopped being the source of “extra” family income a long time ago.  Florida politicians often talk about getting paid for 9 months as an amazing freedom.  They dismiss teaching as a “choice.”

It certainly is a choice.  Things have become so difficult, that staying reflects a level of job commitment most of us will never know.

In Florida, the choice to teach after the 3% cut could mean the loss of home ownership and foreclosure.  Many of our best thinkers are being forced to choose between being able to pay the bills and the students they love.

Lawmakers told us that they had “no choice” when they cut public education by $1.3 Billion.  Florida politicians should know that “choice” can cut many ways.  After all, elections are also about choices.

The 3% teacher salary cut that the Florida Legislature eagerly imposed comes at a high price. Be honest. Does the level of teacher pay reflect the value we expect a dedicated teacher to bring to their students?

“Teacher Salaries a Victim of Budget Cuts”  (Lily Rockwell, News Service of Florida, wctv.tv- August 30, 2011)

Stephanie Rothman has done the math. On her roughly $48,000 a year salary, the 15-year high school English teacher in Broward County barely gets by.In the last year, Rothman has had to abandon a Boca Raton home she could no longer afford, moving into a room at a friend’s house and feels “cynical and hopeless” about her financial prospects.”I love teaching, I was born to teach,” Rothman said. “But I feel there is no way I can sustain a living with just teaching. So that is why I decided to become a certified personal trainer and get a part-time job.”

Rothman is one of hundreds of thousands of teachers in Florida that have gone years without a significant raise.  Read the full article here.

Permission to repost given by the author.

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