Standing beside a basket of colorful plastic Easter eggs, Florida Education Association President Andy Ford and Vice President Joanne McCall said the pension proposals would deprive teachers of their nest egg.
"Because of the actions of our political leaders, teachers have no expectation of continuing employment, no due process and a performance-based pay system that is not funded and based on bad or irrelevant data," McCall said. "Now they want changes to the pension system that guarantee retirement insecurity. These proposals make it more difficult to recruit and retain high-quality teachers."
The House is considering a proposal that would prohibit new hires from enrolling in the state pension plan; they would instead enroll in the defined-contribution system. The Senate bill would give employees a pension option, but would make the defined-contribution plan the default choice.
The teachers' union considers the Senate proposal "the more palatable plan," but doesn't see the logic in either.
Said Ford: "It's all about politics. Part of the ALEC legislative agenda is to change defined-benefit plans into defined-contribution plans."
Later in the morning, House Speaker Will Weatherford responded, saying the union was using "scare tactics."
"They have to ask themselves the questions: Should we keep spending $500 million a year to bail out a broken system? Or should we take that $500 million a year and invest it in things like teacher pay and investing in our education system and investing in our children?" Weatherford said. "I don’t think the unions want to have that conversation.”