By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- "More work, no money, year after year," teachers could be heard chanting from the sidewalk in front of the School Board building in Martin County on Oct. 15.
It was where hundreds of teachers, parents, students and concerned residents gathered to make their dissatisfaction known to Martin County School Board members.
They toted signs and waved banners along the street before going inside to voice their opinions and propose solutions to the board.
They are dissatisfied, fed up, even downright infuriated by the lack of raises they have received over the years including one they were promised by Governor Rick Scott.
The Governor dedicated $480 million to Florida teachers from this year's budget, of which every classroom teacher in the state was to receive $2,500. But he left it up to the districts to decide how to distribute the funds and the Martin County School Board isn't eager to give the teachers what they believe they deserve.
"Florida teachers deserve a salary increase, and they should have the benefit of knowing their new salary level as soon as possible so they can best plan for their futures," Governor Scott said in a letter to Florida Superintendents.
Surrounding counties have received their raises, but in Martin County those pay increases may come with strings attached.
Teachers can currently only claim the full amount of their pay increase by relinquishing their current contract, that provides them with job security, for an annual contract that doesn't. If they don't, the school board may give them little to nothing, which many find unacceptable.
"I haven't gotten a raise in 10 years," said Donna Jacobsen, a third grade teacher at Citrus Grove Elementary. "Some teachers in this district qualify for food stamps and government assistance."
Ms. Jacobson illustrated her point at the protest with a poster displaying the number 16,540 in big red type. That number, she said, was her take-home pay after taxes and premium health care.
Meanwhile, board members enjoyed a state-approved 3.8 percent raise.
Jill Hornstein, a kindergarten teacher at Citrus Grove, said that Florida ranks 47th in the country for teaching salaries but local board salaries are in the top two percent.
"We have to be able to support ourselves," Ms. Hornstein said.
Ms. Hornstein and Ms. Jacobson, together with other teachers at the rally, are devoted to their students and are thankful for outstanding school administrators. Their fight is with the school board as they ask for fair pay.
"We love our students, we love our jobs, we love what we're doing, but the board needs to know we've had enough," said Hidden Oaks Middle School teacher Dawne Hutchinson who helped organize the event via Facebook.
That was the objective of the estimated 250-300 people who attended the protest, which included students like Evalynn Strauss, Hunter Desantis and Anya Pickard, all 12, who came out to support their teachers.
The Martin County Education Association stands behind the teachers and several members, including President Pam Kessler, were present at the rally. The association will help the teachers present salary proposals at negotiations that were scheduled for Oct. 22.
"We just want them to treat us with respect," Ms. Hutchinson said.
She was thrilled with the turnout and hopes just as many people will come support the teachers at negotiations.