ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Educators in nine Florida counties are still waiting for the pay increases they were promised last year.
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The lack of funds in educators’ pockets is now resulting in a planned walk out for teachers to protest pay. The St. Johns Education Association is coining it a ‘work to contract day.’ Next Wednesday, teachers at several schools plan to work the 7.5 hours they are paid—nothing more or less, according to a spokesperson with the association.
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At several St. Johns County School Board meetings, teachers and union members have showed up for public comment to voice their opinion on why pay raises are needed.
“Qualified teachers are leaving our profession,” Kate Dowdie said at a December 13, 2022 meeting. “How on earth can a high school chemistry class, pre-ivy, be taught in a band room? How does my student, my child, not have one lab during her high school chemistry experience? As a science teacher and mother, this absolutely blows my mind.”
Esther Byrd with the Florida Department of Education said the $800 million allocated for teachers last year has restrictions.
Read: St. Johns County hiring K-12 teachers for 2023-2024 school year
“They [the state] require that that money only be used for certain things. They were very specific that they wanted this to be handled outside of the other things that union might be negotiating, so that these dollars directly get into the teacher’s back accounts,” Byrd said. “That just simply hasn’t happened. What we have—right now—is seven months passed with no money going to teachers.”
The Board of Education met with the superintendents of nine Florida school districts, including St. Johns, regarding the lack of distribution of pay increases for teachers, on Wednesday.
“We’re not where we should and want to be with our teachers,” St. Johns Superintendent Tim Forson said at Wednesday’s meeting. “We are struggling to get to common ground on contracts.”
During the meeting, Forson explained he wants to move forward with teacher’s pay discussions, but the union wants to include other negotiations.
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“You hear a repeat story. The unions want to include other things in the negotiations. They want benefits and other moneys included in those negotiations, and that’s why it breaks down,” Byrd said.