Advocates schedule 'walk-ins' to support increase in public school funding

Teachers from across the state are calling on legislators to take action by participating in a 'walk-in' Wednesday, protesting outside school buildings with signs demanding better pay and more funding for public education.

Teachers, parents, and student stood in solidarity Wednesday outside Bay Area schools. They dressed in red, with signs in-hand, chanting for change.

Pinellas Park High School was just one of many schools across the state participating in the coordinated effort Wednesday morning.

"We are hoping that they will see us. That they will see the students, the parents, the teachers together," teacher Nancy Velardi said. "Everyone is getting a little fed up with how we're cut to the bone."

According to the Florida Education Association, the Sunshine State ranks 46th in the nation in teacher pay.

"These are people that have a high degree of education. Our future depends on what they do yet there they are getting what professionally is considered minimum wage," Puerto Rico Connect President Eliseo Santana said.

They say teachers aren't the only ones suffering, adding that many para-professionals, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers earn a wage below the federal poverty line of $25,000 per year, for a family of four.

The FEA is now petitioning is the state House, Senate, and Governor Ron DeSantis to increase funding by $743 per student for the next school year.

Currently, the state spends an average of roughly $7,000 per student.

Governor DeSantis spoke about the issue Monday in Tampa and defended his plan to offer scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools.

"The amount of money they get in the scholarships is less than what it would take to put someone through the school district," Governor DeSantis said.

Some community members say that money should be spent on public schools instead.

"Fund our education. Give the teachers what they need in order for them to do the work they do," Santana said.

The FEA has started an online petition asking for specific funding increases to be made to next year's budget. They plan to send the petition to the Governor, the State House and the State Senate.