(WCJB) - Thousands of teachers from across the state were in the State Capitol Monday, arguing that 20 years of disrespect and low funding for public schools has got to come to an end.
Teachers came by bus from every corner of the state.
Then marched to the Capitol in mass, taking up Governor Ron DeSantis on his call to make 2020 the year of the teacher.
The teachers say this is about a whole lot more than a pay raise.
“We’re losing PE. We’re losing programs that are meaningful to the students,” said retired Escambia teacher Mary Louise Winter.
The crowd, estimated at over 10,000, was far bigger than the Governor’s own inauguration last year.
"Teachers don’t do it for the salaries. Our support professions don’t do it for the salaries. They don’t even make a living wage, but that’s got to change,” said Hillsborough teacher Missy Keller.
On Friday, the state DOE sent an email to Polk County teachers, who with about 1,500 making the trip may have had the biggest turnout of any county, telling them their absence for the rally could be considered an illegal strike.
“And we are here with you today in Tallahassee,” said Polk Education Association President Stephanie Yocum.
Polk teachers who made the trip say the memo backfired.
“I think it rallied more people and I think it drew people closer together,” said Polk County teacher Samantha Joyner.
“Yes, absolutely. We had more from our school personally, we had more people rally together and come after that email was sent. So it did not do its job of scaring us away,” said Chelsea Clements, also a teacher from Polk County.
In the end the union is asking for a ten percent pay hike for everyone who works in a school.
“We’e those who are being crushed by student debt. We’re those who are being crushed by skyrocketing health care,” said Florida Education Association President Fedrick Ingram.
The cost would be right at $2.4 billion more this year alone.
Also Monday, Senate Democrats introduced their own pay raise plan.
It would increase the salaries for all school employees by 7.5 percent beginning next year and provide for a 4.5 percent cost of living increase each year for the next decade.