THONOTOSASSA, Fla. - Florida teachers are getting ready to roll.
Thousands will be heading to Tallahassee on Monday to demand more money for schools – which means classrooms could temporarily be without their normal instructors.
Four busloads of teachers from Hillsborough County are making the trip. They are prepared to demand money for salaries as well as resources and funding for programs.
Chris Rusnak is an instructor at Nature's Classroom in Thonotosassa. Sixth graders from each school get three days a year with him, but he wishes he could spend more time with each.
"They love to be up front, talking to me, and because I walk a lot in the forest, they can tell me all the things they have seen," Rusnak said. "Sometimes that leads to class sizes larger than we'd like, and it would be great if we could expand to have more teachers to help them have an even better experience."
He and his colleagues want the state to add $2 billion a year to education budges. Districts also want power.
"The money really should go from Tallahassee to each of the districts to figure out - how is that money to be best spent," said Rob Kriete of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.
Teachers are lobbying a Republican-lead legislature, which is already considering the governor's $600 million proposal to increase salaries to $47,500 for all teachers, and give bonuses to new recruits.
"It is all about setting priorities, so this is going to be a priority for us," Gov. DeSantis said of the pay-raise proposal.
It's such a priority for teachers that some are missing school to lobby. Hillsborough will likely see several hundred go to Tallahassee. Polk is expecting 1,300 to go.
"I need our politicians to help out, to give our school all the funds that we need," said Rusak.
Because Polk County expects so many teachers to be out, they already have rosters of substitutes ready to go and will reassign some district staff to classrooms.
There could also be busing delays, so check with your child's school in the morning at https://polkschoolsfl.com/busdelays/.