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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Florida. – St. Johns County teachers protested over pay Wednesday.
Dozens of teachers got together before and after school and pledged to work only the hours they were paid for, nothing more.
The protest stems from a contractual dispute.
Contract talks between the district and the teachers’ union broke down in November over pay increases after the vast majority of teachers said the modest raise offered by the district was not enough.
FOLLOWING: In historic first, St. Johns County teachers vote against pay raise because it wasn’t enough
Dressed in red, groups of teachers gathered at RB Hunt Elementary, Osceola Elementary, Gamble Rodgers Middle School and dozens of other schools.
The teachers who participated got together and pledged to only work the 7.5 hours they are paid in their contract.
“The teachers have been silent long enough. We give and we give,” said associate teacher Bonny Furlong. “When I started, I was here until I was 6 and 7, when I had my own classroom. I actually took a step back and am now just an associate teacher because that was what was needed for me to put my family first and leave work at a decent time. Even staying here, well beyond my contractual hours. I’m so proud that my county and my teachers come together and say enough is enough.
The teachers entered together and they exited together at the same time. It was their form of protest. The strike in Florida is illegal for teachers.
Teachers’ union president Michelle Dillon said at least some teachers participated in the protest at all 48 schools in the district.
“I heard from administrators in our county saying well done Michelle, well done to the teachers. So I feel really good today. And I know our teachers have led this effort in a positive and professional manner,” said Dillon, president of the St. Johns Education Association.
The protest won the support of Chris Ellis, father of students at Osceola Elementary School.
“They are underpaid. Teachers are grossly underpaid. Not just in St. Johns County, but across the state of Florida. Especially with all they have to put up with,” Ellis said.
It will be back to business as usual on Thursday, but teachers plan to do the same for two more school days next week and increase the number of ‘contract work’ days each week thereafter.
Meanwhile, contract negotiations are progressing.
The district and union have agreed on a mediator to help with the negotiations and a hearing is scheduled for next month.
Earlier this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants an additional $200 million a year for teacher pay raises, bringing the annual total to $1 billion. But he has also proposed new laws that some say target teachers’ unions.
Dillon applauded DeSantis’ push to raise teachers’ salaries in the state, but also responded to two claims made by the governor of Florida.
At a press conference at a Jacksonville charter school on Monday, DeSantis proposed new legislation that would end automatic payroll deductions for teachers’ union dues, adding that teachers’ unions “don’t even tell you how much is deducted, you know, that’s not fair.”
“That’s wrong,” Dillon said. “Let’s get to the first thing, to say that teachers don’t know how much their dues are, can’t read a form and sign it correctly, is insulting. They know exactly the amount of the contributions, they can join if they wish, it is a voluntary membership.
DeSantis also touched on pay for teachers’ union leaders on Monday.
“I also believe that if you are someone who works for a school union, you should not earn more than the highest paid teacher earns. You have these people making huge amounts of money and the teachers making half that amount of money. How is that fair? said DeSantis.
Dillion said she earned her salary as a teacher.
“When it comes to the pay of union leaders, I can speak for myself, I earn exactly what a classroom teacher earns. I have the same negotiated salary, I have to get the same certifications and go through the same training,” Dillon said.
Dillion acknowledged that every union is different when it comes to pay, but those terms are voted on by union members.
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At least some teachers at every St. Johns County school participate in protest over pay, union says
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