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The Public needs to support our Pinellas County Teachers




Teaching is the core profession on which all other professions depend. Many of us have been inspired by teachers, many of us were motivated toward career choices that were sparked in a classroom. Teaching is a profession that contributes to the future of our society. Education helps develop understanding, rationality, and honesty. Effective teachers create our future, and an educated society owes a great deal to teachers.

Unfortunately, teaching is a profession that generally has not received the consideration it truly merits when decisions are made regarding compensation and working environments. According to a National Opinion Research Center survey, only 18% of Americans would encourage a young person to become a K-12 teacher, citing low pay, lack of resources, and a stressful work environment.

Alarmingly, the trends in teacher wages and compensation is getting worse. Over the last 18 years, the Economic Policy Institute has monitored teacher pay. In 1996 teachers were paid 6.1% less than their non-teacher college-educated counterparts, and by 2021 the gap had grown to 23.5%.

Teachers deserve to be paid as the professionals they are. In the recent negotiations between the Pinellas County School System and the teacher’s union (Pinellas County Teacher’s Association) the school system offered only a 3.25% increase in pay, which would mean approximately a 7% cut in real compensation in an environment with inflation over 10%. Even with a subsequent offer of 4%, this is totally inadequate. It’s certainly understandable why the PCTA walked out of the negotiations with the school district.

We have a massive teacher shortage across the state. The K-12 public school system is unable to either attract or retain teachers. This is particularly acute in Pinellas County compared to nearby counties like Pasco, where the cost of living is lower and the pay increase was 5.4% this year. The logical first step to handle this problem is with a pay raise that keeps up with the cost of living.

To be fair to our local school system and school board, we should note that the Florida governor and Florida legislature massively underfund K-12 public education. They also attack our teachers and make their working lives miserable by passing legislation such as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “Stop Woke” Act which make teachers fearful of even broaching topics in class that concern our country’s past racial discriminatory practices against racial minorities and others discriminated against on a gender or sexual basis.

Because of underfunding, the Pinellas County School System has a hard time paying teachers anything close to the salaries they deserve. But even within this context, it can do better: whatever money it has must be prioritized on paying teachers and their support professionals better.

We should all demand better state funding for K-12 education (48th of the nation’s 50 states), AND require the Pinellas School System to redirect its limited budget to maximize teacher compensation. Our well-being as a county and as a society demands nothing less.

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