1886: The Florida Education Association was formed.
Teachers from around the state met at Chautauqua Hall in Defuniak Springs. Frustrated with their low pay and poor working conditions, they realized that they could improve conditions by working together and established the Florida Education Association.
1966: The all-white Florida Education Association merged with all-black American Teacher Association.
Following the Supreme Court Decision in Brown vs. Board of Education and the lead of the national merger between the National Education Association and the American Teacher Association, FEA became one of the first states in the South to merge its white and black teacher unions.
1967: Teacher strikes began to occur in several counties around the state including Pinellas and Broward.
Upset that the Governor vetoed a state budget which would had ensured a minimum teacher salary of $5,000, teachers in isolated areas around the state went out on strike. This would be a precursor of what was to come.
1968: Florida became the first state in the nation to have a state-wide teacher walkout.
Tens of thousands of teachers—around 40% of all teachers statewide—turned in their resignations causing schools in over two-thirds of Florida’s schools districts to close down. While the duration of the walkouts varied around the state, many teachers were out for weeks or even months. Quite a few teachers were never able to return to their job.
1974: Florida Education Association split into two organizations.
Disagreements over how to best move an agenda forward let to a statewide split with some locals choosing to affiliate with the National Education Association while others affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers.
Almost three decades after FEA split — realizing that there was strength in unity — the Florida Teaching Profession (NEA) and FEA-United (AFT) joined together to once again become the Florida Education Association. In so doing, FEA became the second statewide union to become a dual affiliate of the NEA and the AFT (there are now five “merged” states).
2006: The Florida Supreme Court rules taxpayer-funded vouchers are unconstitutional in the case of Bush vs. Holmes.
In a win for public schools and all of Florida’s students, the Supreme Court struck down the “Opportunity” Voucher which was signed into law by Jeb Bush in 2005. Former FEA President Ruth Holmes was the named defendant and ultimately prevailed in FEA’s mission to ensure taxpayer money was not diverted to unaccountable private and religious schools.
2018: Another big win in court.
Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) placed an amendment on the ballot which would have allowed entities other than public school districts to have oversight of public schools. Amendment 8 would have allowed political appointees or even for-profit corporations to control when and where charter schools would be established. A group of public-education allies, including FEA sued to keep the amendment off the ballot and Florida’s Supreme Court agreed that the amendment should not be on the ballot because it was misleading.
2019-now: Our work continues for students, educators and public schools.
In 2019, FEA launched Fund Our Future, a statewide campaign to advocate for and shine a light on the needs of Florida’s public school students. United, FEA’s members have pushed for improved funding for our public schools, which are still among the most poorly supported in the nation, and for fair, competitive salaries for teachers and education staff professionals, who remain on average among the nation’s most poorly paid.
In 2020, Covid struck and brought tremendous disruption to our public schools and to the lives of students and educators. Throughout the pandemic, teachers and support staff have done everything in their power to keep students safe and learning.
Always, we keep up our advocacy. Florida’s students deserve strong public schools, and the educators of the FEA are focused on ensuring that they get them.