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South Florida Teachers Rally For Higher Pay In Tallahassee

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) - A thousand Miami-Dade teachers and supporters are in Tallahassee to rally for higher pay.

Their demand comes as the 2020 legislative session is set to begin. During the session, lawmakers will arguably face tough questions about pay raises for teachers

"Miami always seems to always be at the bottom of the receiving end," said Miami-Dade teacher Valerie Johnson at a rally Sunday night in Tropical Park.

Miami-Dade's teachers do not support Governor Ron Desantis' proposal that gives a 4.5 percent bonus to first-time teachers without giving a pay increase to veterans.

"The state of Florida has abandoned public education in the state of Florida, starving us for funds to give them to charter schools who do not have the same restrictions as we do. It's time for them to stop," said Miami-Dade teacher Elizabeth Taylor Martinez.

"They're not making this not only lucrative career but they're also disrespectful by the way that they implement policies that are not good for public education," said United Teachers of Dade (UTD) President Karla Hernandez-Mats.

She said the governor's proposal would pit teachers against teachers creating a hostile work environment.

"You're saying that you're going to bring in everybody that's brand new to this level but you're not accounting for those that have stuck to this career, that have been here serving children for this many years, so we need something that's more holistic," said Hernandez-Mats.

Just before noon, the UTD made impromptu march to Florida Department Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran's building in solidarity with Polk County teachers.

Miami-Dade teachers are not the only group fired up for having to do more with less.

Broward Teachers Union President Anna Fusco has been fired up for weeks. Her teachers were denied a 3.5 to 5 percent pay increase from Broward's School Board in late December.

Fusco said teachers are not only working in schools feeling budget cuts for resources, but they're taking money out of their pockets to make sure they have the supplies for their students

"Pens, pencils, notebooks, papers, you know some of our students, they have to bring those and it is solely up to, it's supposed to be the school's responsibility to bring in those supplies guess who buys those supplies," said Fusco.

More than 500 teachers from Broward left the BB&T Center in Sunrise around 4 a.m. to be in Tallahassee for the rally.

Gabrielle Laperna, the daughter of one of those teachers, said it's important for her.

"I think it's just my civil duty to be out here protesting because it's unfair that they are making less money than they should be. Yet, they are giving us our jobs by teaching us the knowledge that we need to go further in life. It's not right at all," she said.

More than 13,000 teachers and supporters statewide are expected to rally Monday at the state's capitol. The teachers want DeSantis and the Legislature to more than double the nearly $1 billion the governor is proposing for teacher raises and bonuses.

DeSantis is asking lawmakers to approve $600 million to boost the minimum salary of public school teachers to $47,500, which would catapult starting salaries to among the highest in the country. Another $300 million would be distributed based on merit.

But the state's largest school union says the governor's proposal merely gives the illusion that he is addressing problems that have long plagued public schools, such as understaffing, crumbling facilities and low morale. The union said as many as 2,400 teaching jobs remain unfilled.

"I want to at least thank the governor for trying to understand that there is a problem" said Fedrick Ingram, the president of the 145,000-member Florida Education Association. "The unfortunate piece is that he has not taken the time to listen to practitioners, the people who are actually on the ground doing the work."

Miami-Dade is an A-rated district despite it being ranked 48th in funding and 46th in teacher pay.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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