Putting Education Reform To The Test

Pension Case Moves Directly To Florida Supreme Court


Teachers have been taking a 3 percent cut to their paychecks since July 2011.

Editor’s note: This post was written by WLRN reporter Tasnim Shamma.

The Florida Supreme Court accepted a public pension case last week that challenges a law passed in July that requires public employees to contribute 3 percent of their paychecks toward their retirement.

The Florida Education Association says this is unconstitutional and has been fighting this law since last year.

Since 1974, the state’s retirement system has been noncontributory, so employees were never expected to pay into the system. Though it seems logical for teachers to pitch in to pay for their own retirement, Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the FEA, says you need to look at the whole picture. Cutting 3 percent from a teacher’s salary is a big hit. In Florida, a teacher earns $10,000 less than the national average and retirement benefits are also lower.

“The salaries for every classification of public service workers are lower than the national average,” Pudlow said. “Anyone who’s employed as a teacher is affected – everyone – from the principal to the custodian. We believe that the lawmakers broke a contract.”

Pudlow said the Supreme Court’s decision to take up the case was good news for public employees who are looking to get their money back — from teachers to firefighters — because it would be skipping the appellate route and would allow for a faster decision. The first oral argument is scheduled for 9 a.m. on September 5 and a decision is expected in the weeks or months after the court session begins.

Are you a teacher who has three percent of your wages deducted from each paycheck? Tell us in the comments about how this state pension tax has been affecting you.


  • Bruce

    I am a 7th grade science teacher with 10 years experience and a doctorate. My wife is a stay-at-home mom to our two daughters, so things were been tight financially before the recent attacks on teachers. The 3% pay cut was the straw that broke the camel’s back for us. So, we finally applied to have our kids’ health insurance subsidized by the state. That actually saved us more than the 3% cut saved the state. We’re low-income enough that we qualify for some welfare programs.

    I can understand the view many have that says teachers should for part of their own retirement, just like most in the corporate world. But, people need to understand that when the retirement program has been in effect for more than 35 years, it becomes part of the benefit package considered when unions negotiate contracts. For decades, teachers unions across the country accepted lower salaries in exchange for decent benefits. Well, now the political atmosphere has changed so that benefits are considered pork for public employees. So, benefits are being taken away, leaving teachers with low pay and poor benefits.

    The lower court that ruled against the 3% pay cut declared the law “an unconstitutional taking of private property.” The legislature has stolen money from public employees. The legislature created the contract in 1974, and then the 2011 legislature simply decided they no longer liked the contract, so they voided it and unilaterally forced a new one on public employees.

  • Jen

    This is absolutely a disgrace,and what’s worse is now, effective July 1, the State is CUTTING THEIR contribution by 3%….isn’t it coincidental that here we (teachers) may be getting out 3% back that they have been taking from us? So in essence, they are “robbing Peter to pay Paul” by reducing what they already contibute to our checks just so they can pay us back what was ours TO BEGIN WITH!!!! Thieves!

  • Jose

    Although I am not a teacher, I think a contribution on behalf of the employee is completely sound policy. However, I would also like to add that teachers should be given a substantial raise (200-250% increase). The idea that taxpayers should be subsidizing a teacher’s 30 year retirement is ludicrous and was only tenable when it was the norm for private market employees 35 years ago. 

    Times have changes, states are cash-strapped, and the majority of our public funds have been divested away from our youth—the future of our country and economy—and reallocated to the elderly (e.g. pensions, etc.). Let’s give teacher’s a substantial raise, remove tenure, and allow those competitively-salaried teachers to finance their own retirement. This would bring some fresh blood into the fold that are willing to fight tooth and nail for results the public rightfully expects. 

    • Keith Folse

      Everyone, the question is not if teacher should or should not pay for their own retirement. If you want to tell teachers who are hired right now that their contract is their salary and nothing more, then do it. That is fair. But the 3% is part of a NEGOTIATED contract between the state of Florida and the teacher groups/”union”. Neither side can change that master agreement. I am a professor at a large university here in Florida. I was hired in 2000. I turned down jobs in other states because the package that Florida offered me included a VERY low salary comparatively but it had 3% pension. I don’t have the right to say mid-stream that I am going to teach fewer hours regardless of what my contract says, and the state of Florida does not have the right to change my compensation. It’s called a CONtract for a reason! By the way, I was hired in 2000 as a university professor at the whopping salary of $38,000. Yes, $38 for a PhD. I’d like to see how many people are willing to take themselves out of the job market for 5 years so they can one day make $38K. The state is in trouble? GET A STATE INCOME TAX!!!!! The reason our country is in trouble is that Americans want to have good roads, good schools, good everything, but these things cost money!!!! IF you want an American education system that is #1 in the world, you can’t pay people peanuts!

  • Mindy

    As a teacher with a master’s degree I fight on a monthly basis to make ends meet.  My county pays very little for having a masters.  My student loan payments are higher than my pay increase for having a masters.
    I agree that teacher pay should be raised, however the competitive salary suggestion is not the answer.  I work in a school with a high percentage of low income families.  Look at it this way. It takes a tripod in order to help a student succeed.  We need parents, teachers, and administrator (which includes government) in order to help a child reach their full potential.  If any of those legs are missing the whole thing falls apart.  We all hear about the blame on teachers, and, yes, there are bad teachers out there.  But many parents now are working two or more jobs just to make ends meet and their child’s education is not top priority.  They move from house to house and change phone numbers so we can’t reach them.  This is understandable, but it is a detriment to our kids.  I can’t tell you how many conferences I make with parents and no one shows up.  If education is not a priority at home then many students feel there is very little need to invest in their education. 
    I teach third graders and I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had discussing the need for education.  The response I continually get is “I don’t need to know this stuff, I won’t use it anyway for what I am going to do.”  When asked what they are going to do the responses I get vary from drug dealer to gang member.  Is it right that teachers are punished for putting their hearts into their students only for them not to pass the test?  Which in turn tells others I am a poor teacher and will not receive the competative salary.  All competative salaries do is force good teachers out of rough schools.

  • Ian

    5 years ago I never worried about money.  I’m a teacher, and my wife works for city government.  With inflation increasing (if you add gas and food, which the fed doesn’t), and my pay remaining stagnant, the 3% cut to both of our paychecks has had a huge impact.  We have had to use our home equity line of credit frequently just to pay the bills.  I voted for gov. Scott.  What a stab in the back.

    • Bruce

      Rick Scott campaigned on this. He told you exactly what he was going to do. It’s not a stab in the back. You just voted foolishly. For the first time ever, I left the governor box blank on my ballot. There was no one I could vote for, so I voted for other officers and ‘none of the above’ for governor.

      • Jeff Martin

        Then YOU’RE A TOTAL IDIOT, nothing less. A vote for NO ONE was a vote for Rick Scott.
        Since the last 50 years, Republican voting strategy has been one singular focus–to reduce the overall numbers of voters any way possible, because the statistics PROVE this GUARANTEES a Republican win. Thanks a lot, Captain Douche.

      • Keith Folse

        Alex Sink lost by a super slim margin (48.87% to 47.72) — just over 1%. HOW ON EARTH could you leave that one blank? This makes NO sense at all!

    • Jeff Martin

      We WARNED you against voting for the biggest Medicare/Medicaid FRAUD in American history, but NO, YOU HAD TO vote party line. Now YOU Republican/Tea Baggers are the ONLY ONES who got what they deserved. Meanwhile, Oil GIANT BP DESTROYS THE GULF AND GETS A TAX BREAK ON THE BACKS OF TEACHERS. What utter and disgusting fools you are for voting for this eff-ing REPTILE, as tourism and the Florida economy flounders?. Sick. The 3% affects me GREATLY, as a single father of a 10 yr old, we scrounge for change to buy milk–LITERALLY– the day before payday. 20 years ago I could hold a decent conversation, full of reasonable discussion, with a Republican. Now it is like talking to a mental patient, since they flit around without ever agreeing on the facts, and their crazy ideas of electing CRIMINALS like Rich Snott, after what BUSH did to the economy—It is simply unacceptable and impossible to converse with FoxNews idiots. Republicans have much to be ashamed about, and hold the blame for the destruction of America’s economy, as well as my personal economy. I have 16 years teaching and I dare you to find a stupid typo here.

  • I have taught for 24 years, for 10 of those years, I have gone without a raise. How do you think a 3% loss affects me? 

  • john vreeland

    People in the state of Florida forget that over 20 years ago, it was agreed to by both parties that the teachers would not have a union; instead, they would be part of an association and would not strike. In return for this agreement, the state agreed to pay 100% of the contributions to the pension fund.
    Now, the agreement is broken and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the state, the teachers should now be allowed to form a union and strike! Let’s see how the parents and politicians feel about that!
    The Republicans have been trying to bust unions for years now and they are coming close to doing it in almost every state that has a Rebublican governor. It is time to stand up and make some noise. I can’t believe so many people are not doing something about this!

  • ron

    100 years ago we had the best educational system, and it was the envy of the world! But that was until we started paying teachers, which was the beginning of the end. Now we spend the most on education, 22,000 per student and have the worst educational system in the developed world. The Swiss, by contrast, spend 16,000 per student, and are #1.

  • What is being so drastically missed are the forces behind the destruction of the middle class. Put Obama at the top of the list and just start working your way down. When the greates fraud in our history of our nation went unchallenged, and Obama had the gall to say what the banks did was legal, the dye was cast. With no furhter monies to steal from the middle-class, the banks immediatedly have turned to government pensions as their next great fraud. Obama has been lobbied forcably by Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, to convert all government, state, city, counties, teachers to 401(K)s. Why? The answer is simple. It puts billions of freash real cas flow into the hands of the very same bastards that stole the real estate wealth of America. With the banks no controlling all 401(k)s, every seven to ten years the banks will manipulate a financial melt-down – can you say will defraud, every 401(K) contributor, and will steal all the monies out of 401(K)s. Only to say, oops, but keep investing in your retirement future with your 401(K).
    Unitl Americans wake up, march on Washington DC, and rid out nation of the absolute tyranny and corruption of the elected official of this nation, our fate is cast. 3rd world nation. While you and your family live in poverty, Obama and his live in the highest levels of riches – you see, it pays to be corrupt. It no longer pays to be an honest hard working american. Those days are gone, and will not return until the corrupted are dealt with, and dealt with so harshly, that anyone acting with corruption, will be terrified beyond ever aking any corrupt actions against their fellow-man.

  • Saddened in FL

    First of all, teachers salaries in FL is below the poverty level already. Even with a master’s degree, I receive $18,000 less than I did in VA for the same job. Not to mention, we are required to take 300 hours of ESOL classes at night and on weekend, grade papers, do extensive lesson plans, track data, make rubrics for 5 lessons a day, attend meetings, and are being held responsible for our student’s state test scores. We live pay check to pay check, bearing making all the bills, and forget going places on what we make. I can only afford necessities at best. So now the news brags that teacher’s are getting a raise, REALLY???, first they cut our salaries by 2%, now 5%, now going on 8%, and how dare they cut our retirement benefits too! Govenor Scott should be ashamed!!!!!!!!!! And so should FL!!!!!!!!! Great teachers are walking out daily as I write this!!!!!!!!!!! I’m looking to change careers as I can’t take the disrespect any more. It is such a shame that the govenment could care less about us. Merit pay is a joke! Especially in a Title One school, as we work 3 times as hard as the gifted teacher and they want to pay us less…who will teach our future leaders if something isn’t done immediately. Half the teacher in our school are done at the end of this year!
    But look how much they pay government workers! Shame, shame, shame!!!! Come do our jobs and see what it’s like!!! Especially once we are gone!!!

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