Teachers to rally in Tampa Bay and Tallahassee

Teachers protest $1.75-billion budget cuts

TAMPA - Sabrina Gates has been a social studies teacher most of her career. She's taught at Spoto, Durant, and East Bay High Schools and Turkey Creek Middle School. She has turned down other opportunities to be a public servant.

"This is my 22nd year teaching and although I'm going to be 45 in June, you start to think about where you would be if you did reach your retirement," said Gates.

But what's going on in Tallahassee -- $1.75-billion in education budget cuts and changes proposed to the state's pension plan -- Gates says she wonders if she made the right decision to be an educator.

"I make less money in a salary.  A decent living, that's important, but then there's the benefit that makes up the difference like those retirement perks," she said.

Governor Rick Scott wants state workers to contribute 5% of their pay to their retirement pension. He's also pushing cuts to take $108 million out of Hillsborough County's school budget.

"This is a Governor who's campaigned on 'Let's Get to Work' and yet what he's proposing will lay off thousands of public employees," according to Jean Clements with the Hillsborough Classroom Teacher's Association.

Tallahassee will be brimming with protests and counter-protests this week. "Awake the State" rallies are a union-backed movement that will start locally and move to the state capital on Wednesday.

"It's coming off the backs of Florida workers, the working class, the working families.  It's not fair," said Tim Heberlein, with Florida's Consumer Action Network.

That's what Gates thinks. Just a few years away from retiring, she wonders if she will be able.

"All of those things come into play when you start to wonder, you know, the commitment I gave, did I give in vain? Did I punish my own family by not doing something else?" she said.

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