Chicago teacher strike ends; why can’t Florida teachers strike?

Florida statewide teacher strike of 1968. Credit: State Library and Archives of Florida.

The teacher strike in Chicago has ended, with kids back at school Friday following two weeks of demonstrations and 11 missed school days for children.

The Chicago Teachers Union reached an agreement with Chicago Public Schools, over class sizes, school nurses and social workers and other issues.

“The strike and the subsequent deal comes on the heels of a nationwide pro-public education movement that has sparked walk-outs throughout the country, including West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Los Angeles, CA,” according to a CTU press release.

Florida isn’t in that group because Florida teachers aren’t allowed to go on strike.

Here’s some history on the topic from WFSU Public Media, in a May 4, 2018 story:

“Governor (Claude) Kirk convened a special session of the legislature on education. Nothing came of it. So, on February 19, 1968, 35,000 Florida teachers turned in their resignations all at once, and went on strike. It was the first teacher strike in U.S. History….

The strike went on for three weeks. But at the time, there were no immediate gains. Eventually, the teachers went back to work. Some lost their jobs…

In 1974 the state passed a collective bargaining law, allowing the union to negotiate on behalf of teachers with their employers. From there, teachers earned paid holidays, and an employer-backed retirement, today’s state pension. Yet those benefits came with a tradeoff…

While 1968 marked the first teacher strike in the nation—it was also the last for Florida. Today, public employees, including teachers are barred from striking under both the Florida constitution and state law. And if they do they face hefty penalties. Teachers could lose their teaching certificates, have their pay frozen, and employees at large risk their retirements.”

Now that the Florida Education Association can’t strike, it’s using a lengthy bus tour to get the message across that public schools need more funds, including bolstering embarrassingly low teacher salaries.

The “FEA Fund Our Future Bus Tour” is making more than 50 stops in more than 30 counties. The bus tour launched Oct. 18 and will end Nov. 23.

In the upcoming week, the bus tour will include stops in Manatee, Collier, DeSoto, Pinellas and Hillsborough, between Nov. 3 and Nov. 6.

In addition, the union plans to get thousands of people to the state Capitol on January 13, to show support for students and schools and let state lawmakers know they need to invest in public education.

Lawmakers have begun discussions on teacher pay, and Gov. Ron DeSantis is pushing for a starting salary of $47,500 for teachers in the 2020-21 academic year.

However, the FEA is pushing for across-the-board raises for new and veteran teachers, as well as school staff.

With a trillion-dollar economy and one of the largest student populations in the nation, Florida’s average salary for public school teachers is just $48,168. That ranks Florida as 46th among all states and the District of Columbia, based on 2017-18 statistics from the National Education Association.

FEA officials are irked following comments made by DeSantis, who discussed teacher pay and party politics earlier this week.