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Florida teachers disappointed in Supreme Court decision

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The Florida Supreme Court upheld a law Thursday that requires public employees to contribute 3 percent of their salaries to the state pension system.

The 4-3 decision affirmed the law that went into effect July 1, 2011.

“They reached into the pockets of middle class workers around the state to balance the budget,” said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, “at the same time giving tax breaks to investors and corporations.”

Republican leadership in the Legislature and the governor supported this decision, Pudlow said. There’s nothing more the Florida Education Association can do legally except, he said, to elect different lawmakers in 2014.

“The biggest problem with this is that it’s really not a shared responsibility among everybody in Florida,” said Karen McCann, president of Alachua County Education Association. “It’s not a shared sacrifice.”

McCann has worked as a state employee of Florida for 29 years and is disappointed to find the conditions under which she and others were hired have changed. The Florida Retirement System is “a big pot of money,” one of the most sound in the entire nation, she said.

“How are we going to retain teachers in Florida? And how are we going to recruit?” she said. “We already have some of the lowest salaries in the entire nation.”

The law affirms the University of Florida’s position, said UF spokeswoman Paula Fussell, so not much will change for faculty and staff on campus. President Bernie Machen raised their salaries by 3 percent to offset the 3 percent contribution to their pensions, she said.

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